Life

Sunday 21 September 2014

Doctor's Orders: Life really does begin at 40

'At 18 our bodies will never again be so close to perfect. Never as taut, as pert, as toned again. And yet our body confidence will never be as low.'

Dr. Ciara Kelly

Published 04/08/2014 | 02:30

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Stevie Nicks: An enduring anthem for older women in Landslide. Photo: Reuters

It's a cliché worth reiterating that youth is wasted on the young. Nowhere is that more obvious than in terms of their self-confidence. I was thinking this last week, when I saw an 18-year-old girl who was upset about her inverted nipple and was wondering would it 'right itself' anytime soon, as she was very embarrassed about it.

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As someone who's seen more than their fair share of bodies, I was able to reassure her that for a start, it's a normal variant and also it's extremely common. I then gave her a good dose of my own personal creed, that if anyone is lucky enough to get to see your nipples or your other bits, then they should be grateful for whatever they find there. But it got me thinking about the different stages of woman.

At 18 our bodies will never again be so close to perfect. Never as taut, as pert, as toned again. And yet our body confidence will never be as low. Inverted nipples, ragged labia, a snub nose and heavy thighs ­­­- these are all things that occupy and worry young women.

In many studies, the number one goal for adolescent girls is not conquering the world; it's being thin. The era of the selfie seems to have heightened the scrutiny and self-criticism of the already young and insecure. They've no idea how beautiful or attractive they are. They've little notion of their sexual allure or the messages they're conveying, with their clothes and appearance. They're often a bundle of neuroses and anxiety.

Contrast that with women in their 40s. Despite the ravages of childbearing, time and gravity they possess an innate self-assurance, an increased body confidence. Yes, they may have some issues but these have mellowed into self-acceptance that frees them from the angst of youth and allows them to enjoy and take ownership of their lives, their bodies and their sexuality. They're generally past the concern with other peoples' opinions that plagues and dominates youth.

They are no longer reluctant to offer an opinion, for fear that they won't be liked - or found attractive. They're no longer afraid to exhibit sexual desire, lest they be branded a 'slut'. Women in their forties come into their own. It's a great age. They're able to please themselves and not apologise for doing so. They know they're sexy. They understand why.

That, is the beauty of maturity: Too old to be self-conscious, too young to be past their best. I actually believe time is kind to them - like a flower at the peak of perfection before it fades - they're often more attractive than their younger selves, possibly in Mother Nature's last-ditch attempt to get them impregnated. Ageing is liberating. I wouldn't go back to being 18 or even 25 for anything - not unless I could know back then, what I know now.

When I was 30 I felt older than I do now. I used to listen to the Stevie Nicks song Landslide - which says; "Time makes you bolder, Children get older, I'm getting older too" - and feel it was about my life passing me by. I'd spent most of my early 30s either pregnant or raising small children. And despite loving my husband and young family, I felt my horizons had narrowed and possibly my heyday was behind me. I felt myself ageing. I felt my age.

I don't feel that way now. I was wrong. Landslide wasn't about my life then, it's about my life now. Time does make you bolder. Children do get older and you find yourself again.

@ciarakellydoc

Sunday Independent

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