Thursday 18 January 2018

I come unstuck over the age-old question of ageing

John Masterson

YOU just cannot be too careful. You think you are doing something uplifting and you end up in hot water.

It began with me doing what you are doing now. So do be cautious. I was reading the Sunday Independent during the hot spell, so I was in a very contented mood. On the front of this section was a photo of Diane Keaton who was looking magnificent, as always. I passed the paper to a companion.

"Who does that picture of Diane Keaton remind you of?" I asked.

Quick as a flash, she replied that there was a real look of a mutual friend, Kathy. That was exactly what I had been thinking.

Always one to share good tidings, I texted the self-same Kathy to point out the resemblance. Mistake. I received a very curt reply, which pointed out that she was giving me the benefit of the doubt and assuming I meant it as a compliment but that it seemed to have escaped my notice that Diane was 15 years older than she was. Ouch!

Women ageing seemed to be on my agenda that weekend. I was playing an Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell CD in the car when I began properly listening to the words of a Matraca Berg song that they have covered beautifully. I had always thought of it as a pleasant, reflective song, and then the words jumped out... 'I hate it when they say, I'm ageing gracefully... I fight it every day ... I guess they never see, I don't like this at all, what's happening to me'. And Emmylou, to me, was the poster girl for growing older very gracefully indeed. It seems like she hates it as much as the rest of us.

Apparently, in some circles, WAGS are no longer the females that accessorise footballers. They are that band of Women Ageing Gracefully. They are the Helen Mirrens, Joanna Lumleys and Twiggys of the world. I have a photo of myself and Twiggy in my office, and the one who is looking very youthful indeed is, sadly, not me. There is a charming woman in the Deep South who writes about SWAGS – that is, Southern WAGS. And there are myriad people giving advice to women as to how to grow old gracefully.

The first little gem I came across was from someone who decreed that women should not wear mini skirts once they have passed 40. Now I am not sure what length of skirt they are thinking of. I take their point if they are referring to the 'belts' you see coming out of night clubs. But if they are talking about the non-obscene mini skirts, I would be giving any shapely leg a few more decades of exposure.

It is important to keep the pulses racing in whatever men are in the vicinity. They are probably ageing less gracefully, but still have a bit of life in them.

Then came the diktat that no women over 40 should wear leather trousers. This is nonsense. I can think of one sixtysomething who came to dinner in leather trousers last year and looked nothing short of stunning. Anyone who looks well in a pair of jeans and a white T-shirt looks even better if the jeans are made of leather. On a motorbike would be a further plus.

I live in dread of the next time I have lunch with Kathy. Where I see a smile she will feel lines. Where I see a shapely knee she is apparently fearing arthritis. I tried to tell her that as far as I was concerned Diane Keaton is a timeless ageless wonderful woman, but I don't think I got away with it.

In future, I will keep my compliments to myself.

Irish Independent

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