Saturday 23 March 2019

Grace Jones reminds me age is just a number

OAPs like Grace Jones and Jane Fonda empower women to be fearless, writes Victoria Mary Clarke

Singer Grace Jones (68). Photo: Getty
Singer Grace Jones (68). Photo: Getty

Victoria Mary Clarke

Grace Jones is crawling around the stage of the Olympia in a Jasper Conran corset, and a gold headdress. She turns to wiggle her tail at us and arches her spine like a panther, throwing shapes that revel in her physicality, in her sleek, toned, muscular body.

She eats oysters before she goes on stage, she likes her fish raw and her meat blue. She tells us that she gets so turned on sometimes that she forgets things, and then says she hopes the kids in the audience will stuff their ears. Grace Jones is 68, a pensioner, and a grandmother.

I am in the audience, wearing comfy jeans and flat shoes and a top that covers my upper arms and doesn't cling around the middle, because I am not toned like Grace Jones.

I am knackered because I have been up all day, and the muscles in my arse are sore from a Pilates class I did on Tuesday.

I wouldn't normally be at a gig, of an evening, I would usually be lying on the sofa watching Netflix, but I felt a compulsion to get this ticket and to drag myself down here. Like the Pentecostal preachers in her family, Grace Jones is putting out a call to redemption and I am compelled to answer that call.

As I sit here, a tremendously confusing concoction of conclusions is whirling around my brain.

Spirit is coming through the form and the voice of Grace Jones and into me. She has a message and that message is: 'Look at me. I am a lot older than you. But I am vibrant, I am sexy, I am strong, I am loud and passionate, I am not afraid that people will see me or see how old I am. I am not hiding my body, not staying home on the sofa. I am not apologising for my age. I kick ass.'

Grace Jones is not the only one. Last weekend, Jane Fonda stared at me defiantly from the cover of a Sunday magazine, which informed me that, at 78, Jane is finding love and success yet again, with the headline 'I'm just beginning'.

Jane wore skin-tight sequin trousers, a black polo neck and very uncomfortable-looking, pointy-toed heels. Sequin trousers! Never in my whole life have I had the nerve to wear sequin trousers! And isn't there some kind of rule about not wearing black near an ageing face, we must only wear pastels to disguise the wrinkles?

On the one hand, this is inspiring stuff. It can make a person very optimistic about ageing. Jane and Grace are not merely redefining, but actively revolutionising what it means to be an older woman.

Unlike Helen Mirren, who has taught us that as an older woman you can be 'attractive' while ageing gracefully, (but you must wear nice dresses that cover your arms and your knees) they are saying you can dress the way you did in your 20s, if you want to.

You can wear fishnets, and a corset, you can even be naked apart from some body paint, like Grace Jones often is.

Everyone that I have spoken to so far has agreed that this is a good thing. The women feel empowered and inspired. The men worship Grace Jones, or want to be her.

But is all of this entirely good? Does this put pressure on anyone who has been just gradually sliding onto the sofa and into comfy shoes and stretchy waistbands?

Is it even realistic?

We might be telling ourselves that we are now totally fine with hitting our 60s and 70s because when we do, we will be awesome, confident, vibrant, muscular goddesses.

Is that going to happen all by itself? Or would there be some effort involved? Would we not have to have started out with incredible bone structure to suddenly have it in our 60s?

Would we not need to have started out with endless energy, charisma, drive and talent?

What Grace Jones and Jane Fonda have in common goes far beyond the physical. They are constantly evolving, constantly moving, constantly challenging themselves.

Fonda went from sex kitten in St Tropez to anti-war campaigner, to exercise guru, and then back to campaigning for her second husband Tom Hayden, while also being a two-time Academy Award-winning actress and hugely successful business woman, who now has an enormously popular Netflix series.

By the time Grace Jones started modelling in New York aged 18, she had already been making her living as a go-go dancer and studying acting, by the time she had her first major hit with Nightclubbing she had been making albums for six years, she has made 19 films, and has a constantly evolving career.

These women never rest on their laurels. They keep moving on. Like Grace says: "Never stop the action, you've got to keep it up."

They may or may not be fearless (Grace Jones has been known to brandish a gun or two, and knows how to kill a chicken Jamaican-style) but they certainly don't let fear stop them, whether it be from marrying yet another husband or making a bold career move or appearing on stage almost naked.

As I sit here, I know that the reason Grace Jones is calling to me is because like a lot of people, I use the excuse of getting older as a way to stop challenging myself, and to not bother to try and do certain things (like maybe dancing all night in heels) even if I feel nostalgic about them. I tell myself that it is no longer an option.

But people like Grace and Jane annihilate that excuse.

One of my biggest challenges seems to be throwing off any hang-ups about what other people might think of me if I were more daring.

But I remind myself that Grace Jones would eat those people, with some oysters and a good Grand Cru.

Sunday Independent

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