Wednesday 8th February 2023
You know who you are.
Follow Me

Check out this piece I wrote

Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 9.55.10 AM

It’s about aging and vanity.

Posted on April 4th, 2018 71 Comments

71 Responses

  1. Achariya says:

    That was good and rings incredibly true for me, with one caveat: my aging accelerated at 39 after two years of chemotherapy. The worst part was the havoc that all those chemicals wreaked on my energy level, and therefore any kind of exercise routine. My body is still recovering, years later.

    Now I’m nearly 45 and just poured a ton of money onto my head to get rid of the grey, and found myself googling “makeup for aging skin” the other day (I found out that light colors on the eyelid is the way to go?).

    It’s vanity; it’s also seeing the road in front of me shorten, and it’s a very interesting place to be.

  2. Caroline says:

    Great piece Kim! Beautifully put.
    I’m so right there with you.

  3. Zoe Arcidiacono says:

    Love your honesty. And how to reconcile being a feminist and not wanting to care with the reality of it all?!

  4. Dana says:

    Amen, sister. I am right there with you.

  5. Sarah says:

    Have you ever thought about doing a podcast? Because I would listen and I bet I’m not alone!

  6. Kathi says:

    A couple of comments on The Cut called your piece a pity party. I disagree. I think you are calling a spade a spade for the majority of us out there. I watch my 84 year old stepmother who continues to put on a full face of makeup and do her hair even though she may not leave the house or have any visitors that day. What’s the harm? I agree the alternative to aging is not appealing and I will use what potions and hair color I can. Your essays and GOACA help me manage my 50s glowingly as possible by embracing who I am and where I am in life.

    • Mamavalveeta03 says:

      Kathi, I suspect that the ones that don’t get it aren’t there yet. I, for one, don’t want to give up on the regimens and miracle elixirs that I find fun and that allow me to feel my very best. Call it vanity, if you want. I call it maintenance. And I, too, embrace it!

  7. Tricia says:

    Do what makes you happy and who gives a rat’s ass about what anyone else thinks.

    My husband lost his mom to cancer at age 49. At 44 I think about this all the time. It’s a privilege to be here, regardless as to what stage my bag of bones might be in.

  8. Diane says:

    Wow, you’ve captured my experience perfectly. I never realized how vain I am until I reached my late 40s/early 50s (now 58). I’ve struggled with and resented the feeling of being invisible in such a youth obsessed culture but that has recently shifted as I’ve embraced the resulting freedom and ability to say shit like I see it.

    Also, I too vote for a podcast!

  9. scone says:

    I’ve always been homely, tbh, and never had any confidence in “beauty rituals,” ha! But now that I’m undergoing chemotherapy for the third time, I can see the point of putting on the mask, drawing on an identity, flying the flag of “still here, not dead yet!”

  10. C.Michol says:

    Apologies if this is off-topic, Kim, but I just got my Zero Maria Cornejo pieces from the sample sale and I LOVE them. Thank you for the encouragement to take the plunge.

  11. Michele says:

    I’m 45 and fascinated by the aging process. I’m also newly divorced and having sex again, which helps me feel HAWT. AS. FUUUCK.
    All of our experiences are real and true and seemingly contradictory – and I’m so appreciative that we can share them with one another, in a world seemingly run by 25 year olds.
    Thanks for sharing this, Kim and all y’all. Let’s keep crushing it.

  12. c.w. says:

    I went through much of what many of you are going through in my fifties. When I hit sixty all the anxiety I had about my aging appearance disappeared––due in part, I believe, because we discovered I had cancer when I was fifty-nine and fortunately made a full recovery at sixty––so appreciation for life in general was, and still is, larger than any anxiety brought on by chin wattle or multiple neck wrinkles. Now, at age sixty-six the products I use on my face or body, the make-up, the hair styling and the fashions I choose to wear is all for me––not because any of those things make me appear younger, but simply because I want to use them or wear them. I say enjoy the process of enhancing your looks in whatever way makes you feel good and hold on to the dignity you deserve.

  13. c.w. says:

    AND I thought the article brilliant. You are such a good writer!!!

  14. Tami says:

    Wow! I’m nearly 49 and thought I was going mildly crazy when I thought I was looking and feeling less feminine over the past year. Wearing more makeup, girlier clothes, and less clunky shoes have been my priority/obsession lately. Glad to know I’m not alone. Thank you for this piece.

  15. Dana D says:

    Yes…I love your writing.

    Lord help me, but I NEVER want to be a woman who looks like she’s trying too hard. I agree that it is truly very hard to reconcile feminism with vanity.

    I just always return to the quotes from a few famous beautiful people who said that they weren’t going to erase the living of a good life that showed up in the wrinkles on their faces.

    (but does anyone know of a non-surgical way to address nasolabial folds?)

    • y.k. says:

      exactly dana D.
      i agree w/ every line of your article kimfrance.
      i’ve thought the same about elderly women –
      so sad! but now i think of it differently.

      & i didn’t know about the serotonin fact –
      it makes sense.
      thanks kim- it makes me feel better to know i’m not the only one feeling like this.

    • Mamavalveeta03 says:

      As to your last question, Dana, my solution is to remove my glasses. VOILA! What folds?

  16. Gables girl says:

    Here are my contradictions. I love dressing up and full make up for work–border line trying to hard at 52+. Wearing fitted clothes and heels. love my serums, oils, cleansers. Addicted to body lotion. I also love nights and weekends with a blank face with just SPF. I want nothing to do with lipstick, foundation, eye brow filler when I’m off duty. And only baggy sweatpants or shorts. Sigh. Loved this article.

  17. Tara says:

    So spot on! I’ll be 52 in a couple of weeks and find myself doing a double take when I catch my reflection because it’s so much older looking than what’s in my head.

    I work from home and have always had a somewhat rocker/tomboy style. I find myself dithering about not giving any f’s and wearing what I want and feeling I’m dressing too young. I don’t dye my hair and don’t really care about looking younger, but I want to look good. I want to be one of those amazing older woman, a la Linda Rodin, but not sure I can pull it off.

    • Tara says:

      I’d like to add that I think we’re lied to about aging. It’s a lot like pregnancy—the things everyone talks about aren’t that bad and a lot is left out. I feel like all we ever hear about are wrinkles. I don’t really give an f about wrinkles. Why didn’t anyone tell me what was going to happen to my jawline?

      • Tiffany says:

        You’re so right! I could care less about my not-especially-deep crows’ feet, but goddamn it I hate the saggy jawline and neck business.

        • Mamavalveeta03 says:

          My mom used to say, “You’re either a wrinkler or a sagger.” I’m a sagger. I’m starting to look more and more like my grandma and my mom, neither of which is a bad thing.

      • Kathi says:

        And my jiggling arms and skin not springing back no matter how much water you drink or lotions you use.

      • Mimi says:

        And my hair! I always had at least shoulder length hair that was pretty and easy. In my 60s I unhappily discovered that long hair dragged my face down, just as the conventional wisdom always said it would. And it’s so much thinner! I’ve found a flattering, workable style I like, but I still often miss the hair I had when I was younger. And funny thing, when I see Goldie Hawn or a GOACA with long Real Housewives hair I mutter to myself, “She needs a haircut.”

  18. Tiffany says:

    Oh gosh, this was spot-on, all except for the fact that I’ve grown out my grey and love it. Walking past a mirror gives me a shock every time … And reconciling my vanity with my feminism is a real challenge. No matter how much effort I put in, I can no longer make myself look like how I feel, if that makes sense …

  19. Lisa says:

    I appreciate, as always, your writing and your persona. However I’ve had a very different reaction to aging.

    I’m 61. I was a pretty woman too. Now my hair is gray, my jowls incipient. I am still fairly slender, but with my clothes off the dimples show.

    So why do I enjoy having given up much if not most of my attractiveness? I’ve thought about it a lot, and come to the conclusion that it’s because my looks never brought me power. I worked in tech. The attention took away from my intelligence and authority, in that space.

    I’m not saying I want to lose it all, I like having full hair, I wear matte liquid lipstick, I stay in reasonable shape. But for me, who I present as now is such a truer reflection of who I actually am, abrupt, analytical, non-conventional, and a believer in magic all the same. It’s liberating to finally look more like a witch than like Hayley Mills.

    But my feelings are not better or worse than yours, it’s just another way to experience the same, um, experience.

  20. Rebecca says:

    I relate, completely.

  21. Tamara says:

    And so….in my workplace I’m 20+ years older than everyone else. Big hashtag: THE FITNESS INDUSTRY. yikes. At the same time…Elle macphereson. Cindy Crawford. Do i DELUDE myself that I look like them? (No). But you should see me do a suspended side plank, and the other day I ran 10+ miles… Do my co-workers look at me like m their mom? (Yes) and yet…most of them can’t run 10 miles…
    My client book is strong. My pilates classes pack the house. And people tell me I inspire them. And I have a fabulous dermatologist. And I’m not afraid to use her. Let’s keep fighting the good fight. Aging is a PRIVILEGE people. #imnotdeadyet

  22. Hick from Styx says:

    The worst thing about aging is being talked down to. FGS, I still have half a brain, peeps!

    • Susanna says:

      May I just say, the most upsetting iteration of aging for me so far–and it’s happened multiple times– is when I am purchasing adult beverages and am told “I’m going to see your ID, young lady” (wink wink). This just drives home the reality of aging even more, since I was routinely carded for real into my early 30s (now 55). And being called “young lady” just smacks of the indignities to come in the decades ahead. I have never understood the infantilizing condescension rained down on older/elderly women (and have not seen an older man treated in the same way), nor how the recipient of such patronizing comments can possibly construe them as complimentary.

      In fact, the more I think about it, I’d say this is the older-age version of the street harassment women routinely experience in their earlier years. We have to endure it from cradle to grave, apparently.

      End of rant!

      • Mamavalveeta03 says:

        You’re SO right, Susanna! My husband is a minister and visits church members in the nursing home. He came home laughing one day around Christmas after a visit to one of our feistier elderly members. “Isabelle was asked by an aide ‘Don’t you want to go see the carolers, dear?’ and she said no, but she turned to me after the aide left the room and said, “If I hear one more goddamn group of carolers or have someone try to give me another damned teddy bear, I’m going to puke!”

        Smile and grit our teeth?

  23. Nicole says:

    I loved this piece. Resonates so much.

    A few things from me, on this. I’m a late bloomer, so my 40s are so much better than anything I can remember. My face is different, but I’m a lot healthier, and in better shape than I have been before. And I prioritize myself in a way I couldn’t or didn’t before, and I like that, too.

    However, I work in the fitness industry, same as Tamara. I’m a marathon runner, a track coach, Pilates instructor, and I own a small business. (Boston 2018, here I come!). I am, pretty much, twice the age of (really fast) guys I coach. I wanted to basically crawl into a hole when I started. I wanted to apologize a lot for being myself. You know -older, female, slower than them.

    For me, there’s been such a struggle with this, but so much learning, too. They challenge me a lot. Last night, someone mansplained something for about 4 mins before I shut him up. There are times I internalize things. But I’m stronger for it. I can hang, and compete. And I have a whole lifetime of stories to tell already. Aging is a privilege, absolutely.

  24. Lynne says:

    I was a very attractive young woman, though I didn’t think I was pretty (family issues, sibling who was the “pretty” one etc.) but I recently found some old pictures (I’m 56) from 25-30 years ago and I looked good. I wish I had loved myself more back then. I have always worn makeup, got my hair highlighted, bought lots of clothes and shoes and I used to be in great shape, but life, surgeries and menopause caught up with me, plus being mostly 🙂 happily married to someone who loves me the way I am, I could stand to lose a few. The feeling of being invisible is really hard, I enjoy male attention, and I’m not looking now, but I do miss being flirted with which really doesn’t happen anymore. I probably come off less approachable as well. Finally, I work at a university surrounded by youth. While I envy the firm bodies and flawless skin, I wouldn’t want to be in my 20’s again for anything.

  25. Sharon says:

    Thanks so much for this article, Kim. You hit the nail on the head. I know aging is better than the alternative, blah blah blah. I still hate it. There is almost nothing about it that I like. My friends echo the oft-heard platitudes about how aging frees you not to give a f**k. I never did give any f**ks. That’s not something different now that I’ve passed the 50 mark. What’s good about seeing your body deteriorate, losing your looks, becoming invisible, and knowing the road ahead is much shorter than the one behind? Ya, I know, I need therapy. I’m glad to hear others feel at least somewhat the way that I do. I don’t want to settle in and embrace this, although I know eventually I will become exhausted by the fight.

  26. I’m in this same 50s club…wondering how much to do to control aging; how much to accept. Living in L.A. there are so many tactics and treatments to try…and yet as I try to eat more cleanly and increasingly turn to more organic and chemical-free products, I’m still tempted to try anything to reverse the wrinkles, and I’m certainly happy to report to my colorist every 5 weeks for a root touch up with suspect ingredients! One big back and forth here…

  27. Viajera says:

    I too liked the piece very much, Kim. I am especially glad that you don’t feel a need to apologize for any of it. If anything, maybe we all need to move to Europe? I don’t think *we* are the problem … to the extent that there is one of a human making. (You know, versus biology and mortality, that is.) Though otoh, our popular culture is very very bleeped up … and I suppose that might be changed, a bit. But I don’t know that sexism is ever going away, really.

    Still, while I am sorry to be one of thoooose people … the truth is, a part of me objected when it seemed that you were conflating youth and beauty. I can’t quite agree with you there. (Of course it’s subjective anyway.) I really don’t think one has to be young to be beautiful. Maybe I’m un-American. But I hope I don’t sound condescending or PC or whatever. (I agree that older women are probably less likely to be whistled at on the street though. Maybe it is just the B word that is my issue.)

  28. sc says:

    Good piece.

    A little insight: my mom worked for plastic surgeons for 30 years before she retired. I learned some stuff –

    RetinA is the only scientifically proven wrinkle fighter. Sunscreen is preventative. Moisturizer keeps skin soft. Everything else is just kinda “for fun” if you like it –

    I like putting my money into things that give me legit results –

    Filler and surgery. I find when I get a touch of botox (the 11 lines) or restalyne around my mouth – I forget about it for a year. So I’m less of a prisoner. I got double-chinny after my kids – so I got a tiny chin implant/ neck lipo –everyone just thought I lost weight. It gave me my younger jawline back.

    And then there are people who get so much non stop filler (late 50s, early 60s) bc they don’t want a face lift that it A) it starts to look weird. And B) a facelift would actually be cheaper and more lasting –

    Do nothing if that’s your jam. Totally cool.

    But if you are into fighting the tide somewhat (I am, I don’t want to look 20, but I want to look good) — be strategic about how you spend your money. Pouring 10K/ year into cream that barely changes your look when you could just get filler/ facelift/ necklift (whatever your prob area is) with bigger results -do that!

    And the irony is that all the people who are like “Oh my god I would NEVER do that creepy stuff” are the first to say “You look amazing, did you change your hair?” when I get a little filler. Every damn time 😉

    Or as my mom used to say when I’d cringe at all the bad plastic surgery walking around – “Yes. But what you don’t see is all the good plastic surgery b/c you don’t even notice it – it’s that good.”

    Go science. And Yoga. And getting outside and playing. And still going to see live music. Do it all.

  29. Michele says:

    I’ve been lurking here for ages, MUST read every day, and in fact try to save the blog updates as a treat for when I get home at night. You have inspired much shopping 🙂

    Anyway. I love this post, and I love all the comments. I’m just a couple of sneezes older than you & yep, I experience so much of this. But even if my jawline is saggy & my belly rounder, and my eyes … well, you know what the eyes do. Even if all of that, I’m still me, and me wears red lipstick & boots, likes to dress sexy. And although “dress sexy” means something a little bit different these days I think Fabulous is still within grasp in my 50s. And, I intend to be a damned fabulous old lady, too!

  30. Teresa says:

    You’re a lovely writer and I really appreciate your perspective on this.

    I remember seeing a picture of Elizabeth Taylor late in life, and thinking, none of us get out alive — and looking the way we looked when we were young and fly. But at the same time, I’ve seen amazingly beautiful women who are well into their 80s. As a woman of color and a former dancer, I adore Carmen de Lavallade,
    who is still rocking it at 87. Grace personified.

    I also really miss More magazine, because I find that I need to see images of women my age who are looking great–not younger, just great at the age they happen to be–and who are doing amazing things in the world.

    I’m sure you’ve got no desire to return to the magazine world, Kim, but I wish there were a version of Lucky out there for we girls of a certain age.

    • Mamavalveeta03 says:

      Hell, yeah! I missed Mirabella, and now More. Of course, all mags are struggling, but it was nice to have a platform for US! (Which, thankfully, we have here!)

  31. moi says:

    I turn 54 in three weeks myself, and you NAILED exactly how I feel. Thank you. (Virtual high five.)

  32. Alexa says:

    So much of this hit home. Thank you.

  33. Christine says:

    I’m a little more than ten years younger than you, but my big splurge this year is seeing a great endocrinologist who is willing to discuss my concerns about aging (mainly declining hair density and difficulty getting a full seven hours sleep) and prescribe some supplements and hormones and seeing if those might help. My primary care physician’s attitude towards menopause when I asked her to test for estradiol and progesterone levels was basically, “You’ll know when it happens. Don’t worry about it until then. LOL.”

    I haven’t gone under the knife yet, but Tazorac has been very effective for me so far.

  34. Karin says:

    I’m 55 and thank you for writing this. I feel exactly the same way–torn between not giving a F* and wanting to still look “pretty.” Like others, who cares about wrinkles–it’s the jowls, the sagging, the shape and expression of my face changing that bugs me. Not to mention menopausal weight gain. (Ever noticed that all the *cool gray haired ladies* in style blogs are also SKINNY?)

    My friends and I are obsessed w/ the idea that menopause is like adolescence all over again: Your body is changing, it’s out of your control, and you want to fight it, but there’s only so much you can do.

    • moi says:

      Funny you mention the change in face shape and expression. What’s that about? I never used to be bugged by the camera—I have tons of photos my husband and friends and family have taken over the years while on vacation or otherwise just enjoying myself. And I look like . . . myself.

      But something has happened in the past decade or so. A loss of structure or fat or whatever, but I cringe when someone points a camera at me. My discomfort shows on my face, because I know I’m just going to look weird, LOL. A friend from years ago recently wanted to Skype and I was horrified. And I don’t do selfies, ever.

    • Mamavalveeta03 says:

      And, indignity upon indignity…I have ACNE again!

  35. Maggie says:

    This resonates with me on so many levels. I have always been the girl that makes the effort … makeup, cute outfit. Always. I love it. Vain? Maybe. I just know I feel better when I look good. And I won’t apologize for it. I see so many women who seem to become “invisible” at my age, running around makeup free, in sweat pants, appearing to have given up. Have they? I don’t know. I just know what works for me. But I also appreciate the comment in the thread “do nothing if that’s your jam”.

    Loved this article.

  36. Mimi says:

    Kim, I applaud your honesty. I had a full $35k face lift at 58 (with a chin implant) and it definitely bought me some time. More than 10 years later my incipient jowls haven’t returned, but I see other changes. There are pluses and minuses, looks-wise. I’ve always loved clothes, and about 5 years ago I dropped the last 12 pounds that I didn’t know I needed to lose, going from a 6 to a 4 or 2. I credit eating cleaner than ever and having the time to x-country ski and hike regularly. So I still have a small waist, I’ve lost my hips and can now look good in clothes I wouldn’t have gone near before. My arms are cut, but my cleavage isn’t pretty anymore and is best covered up. Sigh. A half a step forward, one step back, but I’m not whining too much and am trying to enjoy the blessings of my life at this age. I often wonder when my vanity will retire. Will I not care when I’m 85?

  37. You nailed it for me with your article. At 47, I touch up my white roots religiously. I need to do my makeup again on a more consistent basis. I haven’t gone the medical procedure route yet, but I’m keeping an eye on my chin/jawline (I wonder how much is actual tech neck though, lol) and my heavy eyelids (more pronounced for Asians). Thankfully, I don’t have wrinkles–yet.

  38. Kathy O says:

    I think it is hard to be in city where it is important to look young. I have retired to a college town where the slogan is, “come as you are.” It is easy here to have grey hair. The focus is on staying in shape, having an interesting life, and not on hair color or looking young. I am spending all the money I save on hair color on clothes and a very cute 22 year old personal trainer. So much more fun, Kathy

  39. Amy says:

    I loved this article for many reasons, but mostly because the writing is so on-point. Your comments remind me of the speech David Foster Wallace gave to students at Kenyon College, the one in which he wrote, “Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you.” I think of that speech every single time I sit at a dermatologist’s office and look at all the ads for fillers and lasers and creams. We’ll see how long I hold out. 🙂

  40. Meg says:

    Aging reminds me of Dolly Parton’s line in Steel Magnolias: “honey, time marches on…and one day you realize it’s marching across your face.”

    My hair is grey and my brows are transitioning. I take the time each morning to put on brow powder and lipstick, even though I’ll finish my makeup once I get to the office (5 minutes makes a big difference on my commute). I even do my brows on weekends. I do all of this for me. I like feeling good about my appearance.

    A few of my best pals and I have a pact about what to do if any of us is hospitalized and unconscious. We’ve agreed to visit with a pair of tweezers (or a mobile aesthetician), and a bit of makeup.