Embracing life with enthusiasm is the real secret to that glow from within.
There’s a popular bumper sticker being seen in many trendy neighborhoods that reads, “Don’t I Look Too Young To Be A Grandmother?” It makes us wonder whether the driver is making an affirmation of her grandmother status or looking for reassurance.
The secret of many a gorgeous grandmother these days is no longer that she’s a grandmother, but that she cares about her looks-two ends of a spectrum that, in previous generations, were never expected to meet, and certainly not to be acknowledged out loud.
In a case of art well exceeding life, Goldie Hawn played an aging starlet obsessed with plastic surgery in the movie The First Wives’ Club. Unlike her character, who refused to admit her age, Ms. Hawn herself does not hide her age-she will be 60 in November-nor the fact that she became a grandmother within the past year.
Where once the publicists for actresses urged them to hide the fact of motherhood, much less grandmotherhood, many celebrities these days are not only open about their age but proud to acknowledge their grandchildren. It’s a new kind of bravery, since it leaves them open to heightened scrutiny for any sign of surgical intervention.
In an essay published the day after the Academy Awards, newspaper columnist Maureen Dowd decried the need of so many middle-aged actresses to avail themselves of every modern advance to stave off aging. She reminded us that of Cleopatra, “the ultimate glamour girl,” Shakespeare said, “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.” Dowd suggested, “Women have become so fixated on not withering, they’ve forgotten that there are infinite ways to be beautiful.”
Throughout this issue are many examples of those infinite ways. In some cases, resistance to visible aging seems to be simply genetic. Sally Field, once known for her roles as Gidget and the novice Flying Nun, is only now, as a 58-year-old grandmother, starting to be believable in roles as the mother of grown children. Another “pixie” who has never outgrown her youthful persona is former gymnast Cathy Rigby, a 52-year-old grandmother who is entirely believable as Peter Pan.
Good health and exercise also clearly have anti-aging benefits. Philippa Raschka, 57, who has 24 gold medals in track and field, is just one of the many athletes participating in the Senior Olympics who would put many a younger woman to shame. In the book Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge (see box p. 34), the authors identify two main ways to “live like you’re 50 until you’re 80 and beyond”-take charge of your body, and take charge of your life.
Model Dayle Haddon, twice voted by Harper’s Bazaar as “One of the Most Beautiful Women in America,” has been a supermodel for over 30 years. A proud grandmother of two, she is the author of The 5 Principles of Ageless Living. Haddon says that the first time she was told she was “over the hill,” she was 38 years old. She proved them wrong: Now in her 50s, she is currently the beauty and wellness contributor to CBS-TV’s The Early Show, and the spokesperson for L’Oreal’s Age-Perfect line of cosmetic and treatment products.
Haddon says, “A few lines and wrinkles are a small tradeoff for the knowledge, experience, and confidence that comes only with age. Being a woman at midlife means that we are at a crossroads where we can look back and draw from the past, yet have a future to create ahead of us. By discovering the value in the age we are right now, we can take full advantage of the opportunities that await us.”
While one of her five principles is “Look Your Best,” she explains, “Beauty is not so much about ‘tricks of the trade’ as it is about harmony, health, energy, enthusiasm and strong sense of self. By taking the time to care for our external selves, we honor our internal life and present who we truly are to the world.” The other principles are:
■ Honor your body-turn bad habits around, start eating well, exercise regularly and get enough rest, in order to “improve our overall quality of life and have the energy to face new, exciting challenges.”
■ Nurture your spirit-develop spiritual practices that examine our inner lives; “by enhancing our own sense of self, we have more to offer others and ourselves.”
■ Discover your wisdom-learn who you are and create your future.
■ Stay connected-maintain a sense of belonging with family, friends and community because they are a safe haven, offering “a chance to give of ourselves and to be ourselves.”
Freeing yourself from the limitations of age, says Haddon, is the key to transforming the later years into the “richest and most rewarding of our lives.”
The real secret of all gorgeous grandmothers, whether their beauty is the type that graces magazine covers or that glows from within in the company of grandchildren, is that they embrace who they are, with energy.
In The Bodacious Book of Succulence, by SARK (Susan Kennedy, who describes herself as “full of faults and still succulent”), the author writes, “When considering choices in your life, the ‘most alive choice’ feels like a bit of risk, makes you giggle, or makes the hairs at the back of your neck stand up. It can be a simple and tiny shift, such as taking a new route, or as large as moving your whole life somewhere you haven’t lived before … I think as adults we become rigidified, encrusted with grudges, wounds, and protective devices that don’t work anyway. We’ve stopped counting fireflies at dusk, standing naked in the rain, fingerpainting…We deserve to be the caretakers for our spirits and dreams, and this means truly sensing and listening for our most alive route. It may not be a common path, or a popular one, yet it will be clearly ours.”