suzanne moore
Photo: Mumsnet

In a fantastic piece for the Guardian, journalist Suzanne Moore talks about the pressure to look a certain way and how this affects women and men of all ages and is ‘no longer confined to youth.’ Moore is a brilliant, no-bullshit, award-winning writer and she emphasizes the celebrity-driven focus on appearance rather than talent, ability or achievement – or information on the ageing process – on looking young rather than looking the age we are. The bit on menopause is ace:

‘We can’t know what’s best for us if we never talk about it. But the menopause remains embarrassing as it reveals the truth: we are ageing. Which is akin to dying, though is in fact the opposite of it. Where are the celebrity interviews that talk about medicating oestrogen depletion instead of the guff about good skincare regimes? Tell me, at what age can women look the age they are? Give me less advice on avoiding all that is pleasurable, from booze to sunlight, and more on how reading actually improves cognitive function. Tell middle-aged women that their rage is not an individual problem to be feared, it’s fuel for the fire of the next stage of their lives.’

This comes on the back of my flicking through a copy of Red magazine the other day, encouraged by the ‘Lessons in life and career’ cover line, only to find Jennifer Anniston’s was,’ I eat a lot of avocados.’ On a page entitled ‘The beauty secrets of Jennifer Anniston, aged 47,’ there was a cursory mention of ‘hair getting finer and changing as we get older’ but zero advice on what to do about it; and the most interesting pull-quote was one on Anniston’s avocado consumption. Really? In addition, a comment left on That’s Not My Age this week has given me the impetus to keep on creating honest, informative content and to really push what I’m doing with the site (hopefully with the wonderful words of Vicci Bentley and Elaine Kingett).

‘Thank you. The best of your posts communicate this, both a happy appreciation for our changing looks and a quiet (or not so quiet) f**k you to our culture’s ridiculous age-shaming.’

Just need to get this second book written, first. Read the full Suzanne Moore article HERE.


50 thoughts on “At what age can women look the age they are? Quote of the week from Suzanne Moore

  1. Thanks for this post – an excellent article. I especially love – “Tell middle-aged women that their rage is not an individual problem to be feared, it’s fuel for the fire of the next stage of their lives.”

  2. So so true which is why I never hold back on the mention I am in Menopause, even in front of men *gasp*.
    I’ve been lucky with symptoms & manage fine without medication although yes my hair thinning is a concern. There really is nothing on the market for this so I’m now looking at male baldness for help. Funny, there’s tons of stuff on the market for that.
    I certainly wouldn’t look to Red mag or indeed Jen Anniston for advice on anything let alone aging, I’d be more inclined to ask my peers or read your blog. Hollywood celebrities tend to live in rarefied air that prevents aging 😉
    I’m not sure how I should look for my age as I keep forgetting what that is…

    1. Try Regaine it worked for me. I have used it for 2 years and wouldn’t be without it. My hair started falling out when I hit the menopause at 53 and now it has grown back. It is finer than it was when I was in my twenties but it looks good for a coming up to 56 year old.

    2. I developed Alopecia when I was menopausal but didn’t know it. My primary physician didn’t know what caused the baldness. She did not check my FHS levels. Months later I had an annual visit with my OB/GYN I started HRT and after a year and a halfluckily the alopecia subsided . After suffering thru that time I am very sensitive about hair appearance, but I recently decided I am finished trying to hide my grey hair. I am 68 years old and proud of my longevity so I might as well let myself look my age. As long as I am comfortable with it I don’t give a rat’s ass what the world thinks .

      1. I’ve just had my blood tests back actually. My FSH is the issue, everything else (including thyroid) is perfect. I decided to go on HRT, not just for hair loss but to help with the lack of sleep & tinitis too.
        BTW As my G.P & I read the report we noticed a terse comment from the pathologist about “wasting nhs money on expensive & unnecessary tests. This woman is obviously in menopause.”
        It blew my (angry) mind!
        So so pleased to hear your hair grew back Jacquie x

  3. So bored with being told by celebrities how to look and live my life. I’m fit, healthy and have grey hair. I eat well, I exercise, I’m happy and I’m nearly 50. Nature intended it to be like this not for me to pour chemicals on my head every 4 weeks or take medication made from pregnant horse pee!

  4. Trying to get some idea of what to expect is not impossible but does take a bit of research.

    I’ve not found the NHS that helpful, thought my GP is great.

    The book I have found most useful is Your Hormone Doctor by Leah Hardy and Susie Rogers with Dr. Daniel Sister. My other favourite reference point for all things hormone/women’s health related is Dr. Marilyn Glenville PhD. I’ve been an advocate of her for over 10 years and swear by her advice. Both have a positive stance on the changes and it makes me feel better prepared for what lies ahead and how good it can be.

    As I’m currently on medication for acne in my late 40s, I’m still feeling like a teenager . Praise be for retinoids and good genes

  5. If the aim is to look attractive at any age, then finding reasons to smile needs to become as strong a drive as quenching thirst. Hunting joy is an essential component of a happy old(er) age.

  6. Thank you for another great article suggestion. Us usual, great food for thought. Most of us are struggling, simultaneously, with the physical changes and the social pressures of looking young and desirable. And although is a double challenge, the strength to deal with it must come from within, choosing everything that makes one feels better (to read, to travel, to eat nice food, to dress as you like). But I’m the proverbial positive girl who looks at every hot flush as a visit to a tropical place (just miss the ice cold coconut water!).
    Note for Retrochicmama about hair: I had the same problem and for two years now have been doing a 3 month treatment from Inneov (pills with vitamins and minerals, specifically for women) and my hair has the strength and the density of my twenties. Strongly advise for it.

  7. I agree with Kiki’s quote re. finding reasons to smile. It reminds me how much I’m noticing that women of all ages often appear to make a big effort to look their best but then walk around with a frown or hostile expression on their faces. We need to remind ourselves to find a way to make the most of things and accept the stage we are at and then smile!

  8. Not smoking and not going in the sun too much are factors for smooth elastic skin at any age. I have gray hair and arthritis, but when I compare photos of my smoking, suntanned mother at my age and myself, I’m glad I stayed smoke and sun (mostly) free!
    I’m unable to take hormones–they don’t always talk about this, but a brief stint on them late in perimenopause led to a stroke precursor for me (bizarre and sudden visual migraines which ended when I stopped the hormones). Luckily I don’t have menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, but I do think that estrogen would have protected me more against the gray hair and arthritis. Oh well, such is life! I like my gray hair (I don’t like my arthritis).

  9. Widowed at 50, I started on HRT because my hair was falling out, I was returning to work in the fashion business and paranoid about my appearance.. I continued to take it for 10 more years because I was intimated by all the negative comments such as, ‘Oh look at her, all red in the face,’ ‘They have to strip the bed every night, I wouldn’t like that,’ ‘I hope you don’t all sweaty and grumpy in bed and go off sex, darling’ from partner-of-the-time. Yeah, I know. I stopped at 60, had a heart attack and last year, breast cancer. Did my foolish vanity and insecurity cause either of them? I don’t know. Would I have taken HRT if my husband had survived? I don’t know. What I do know is, that I do see more media discussion of the menopause, more respect for older women as sensual, intelligent and stylish and STRONG. What I will not embrace is ‘being a crone.’ Thank you Alyson, for inviting me on to your page. It’s a treat to write for you.

  10. I am 68. I want to be smarter than ever…..I want to be kinder than ever…..I want to laugh more than ever…..I want to look physically good. I want all. I do not feel one of these negates the other. Women and men should take care of all these aspects.

    I am not ashamed to want to look cool, chic or whatever my style is for that day…as long as I’m working on the other aforementioned
    things. I’m not ashamed to read about Jennifer’s beauty secrets as long as I’m reading the New York Times, the Atlantic Monthly,
    The Great War of Our Time.
    Women be good to yourselves..Take care of yourself in all of the above. So neglect any of them.
    And always have a project or two you are working on…

    1. Hear, hear! Find a way to be confident and happy any way you want to be. Surely that’s the main message we’re trying to get out? If that means reading celebrity articles all day and regular trips to cover the grey…good for you. Likewise, if you couldn’t give a fig about chic and would rather muck out a pig pen. What is always stylish though, is kindness and lack of judgement… do be good to yourselves women…but whilst you’re doing that, don’t forget to also be good to each other…

  11. More from Theresa:

    2nd sentence to the last: Of course I meant “So don’t neglect any of them.”
    I always do my best proofreading after I press the “send” button.

  12. It is a fact that we women of a certain age will have to get used to, women in all walks of professional and domestic life are constantly looked at. History shows that ‘good looks’ certainly help smooth the passage through life. Recently, watching the excellent documentary on Peggy Guggenheim, we see that this rather sad woman was conscious of her looks and was desperate for love throughout her life.
    Most of my own anxieties in teenage years, were the results of competitive scrutiny by my female peers. This has not changed, now 60, old school friends are keen to meet up to compare and contrast. One, in the fashion business, has already had a facelift and there may be others in the future? Intelligent women in the media are given not so subtle makeovers to suit the persisting trend.
    I myself, love seeing hair peppered with grey and a few characterful laughter lines. All we need to do, as women, is feel comfortable in our skins.

  13. Oh, Elaine! I fully embrace my inner – and outer – crone. Traditionally, a crone is a wise woman who celebrates her life knowledge and experience, warts and all. And isn’t that just the beauty of age? You finally have the confidence to stop compensating for what you no longer have and begin to value your full potential. I have a theory that life divides women into two very different mindsets: the ‘before and after’ menopause heads. When hormones are still holding you to ransom, there’s more of a fear of not matching up to your peers. Undoubtedly, the menopause has seismic effects both physically and psychologically – the rug’s pulled from under your confidence so to speak. But on the other side, you touch down on more solid ground and become more of the individual you always wanted to be. I always hated that Jenny Joseph poem about wearing purple when she gets old, but the essence is all there. Pity many of us have to wait – and pity all those twenty-somethings who selfie themselves stupid for fear they won’t be noticed. (And we’re supposed to be the invisible ones!) Well, if fear’s all any of us have to lose, bring cronehood on! And thank you, dear Alyson, for giving us feisty old crones so many elegant fashion moments. I’m right with Elaine here – it’s a huge pleasure to write for you. xxx

  14. I think the created myths such as everyone needs to be beautiful, youthful and slim & therefore perfect do women no favours. The reality is most women aren’t beautiful & will never feel thin enough and as for youth, well we all know it is wasted on the young. The truth is that none of these things really matter. The really important things are health, harnessing the strength that comes from experience to do what makes you happy, whether you are a good person. In other words work on the internal life and worry less about the external visage. We all like to look our best but it it is the person that matters not the package they come in.

  15. Excellent post , thank you .
    I just look at appearance only people and think they are another species .
    I’d like to play the piano better, read fewere Scandi noir thrillers and get through all of Trollope and learn to throw away junk that clogging up my life.
    Menopause /ageing is not a disease , there are people our age fighting for their lives so I feel thankful for what I have in terms of physical attributes, and they come with dry hair and crepey skin, too bad.

  16. Elaine and Vicci, thank you so much for your lovely comments. I feel honoured to have you both writing for TNMA you are brilliant, talented women and I love the breadth and insight you bring. x

  17. I just finished watching the documentary on Iris Apfel. That’s a good example of living life well… well beyond menopause!

    Incidentally some people are very sensual and that is their nature… forever. I’m not that type (oh dear), but my eldest aunt remains very vivacious, flirtatious, earthy. Wrinkles or not, that energy bubbles up. Incidentally, she is a former actress with the persona of someone like Melina Mercouri or Simone Signoret.

  18. 9 years ago I started a group called Fabulous at50. The idea was to inspire, educate and empower mid age women. It was never to preach anti aging. I am so with you and Suzanne on this topic. I am 58, I do look younger, not because I do anything special, it is genetics and a healthy lifestyle. Thank you for taking this topic of women and aging and talking about it. Women need to embrace who they really are, and stop trying to be what the media and celebrity culture tells us to be.

  19. I’ve just spent a week away, in a town where 60-something women are still wearing tight jeans and minis, still have long unkempt hair and big earrings and slouch around showing some skin and looking like they’ve given up very little of their inherant sexiness.
    They have wrinkles, little make up, some have gray hair, some don’t, but it’s like no big deal. They had a lovely, relaxed confidence that was powerful and sometimes outshined the younger women they were with.
    Not that it’s a competition, but how often, at a table full of everyday women, is the attention on the 60 year olds?

    I’ll say this, for the most part these women were in shape—most were probably not too much heavier than they ever were (but not gym-body shape–those guys look different).
    I think that’s a big part of what made the difference in their attitudes and the life force/eros that they exuded, and that so many of us, and I’m talking about myself here, lose or sublimate as time passes. Maybe we feel we have to. It changes how we live. These women clearly did not feel that way, and it looked great.

  20. Just adding a note to my previous post–These women were definitely not trying too hard and they looked very comfortable in their skin–that was the essence of the appeal. (I can’t imagine that anybody wants to be a ‘crone’)
    For an uncomfortable exchange about looks, that points out there are biases in all directions—try veiwing the 92nd St Y interview of Nigella Lawson by another famous chef/cook.

  21. Thank you for your no-nonsense blog. Thank you for posting photos of beautiful older women who live marvelous lives and have great stories to tell. I’m 69 1/2 now and have already navigated menopause. I gave up coloring my hair when I was about 56. Now approaching 70 I’ve had to take yet another tour of my wardrobe and weed out clingy tops and dresses, jackets now too small etc. I have to wear glasses and hearing aids and hope that they look like stylish accessories (ha!)! Frankly I turn to you and other fashion conscious aging bloggers to help direct me on my way as most of my friends are actually younger! Thank you again. I look forward to your blog every day.

  22. For Retrochicmama, I have the same problem as you do with thinning hair. I didn’t even realize it was happening until I was nearly bald at the crown. I couldn’t sleep for two weeks after I saw a photo of what I looked like from above. The previously mentioned Inneov doesn’t seem to work for everyone, but I googled what other women found effective, which seemed to be mainly soy (for the plant estrogen) and biotin, so started drinking non-GMO soy milk (some women swear by tofu) and I started taking 10,000 mcgs. of biotin every day with a whopper of a multi-vitamin.

    I’m no longer nearly bald on top, although I don’t have the same amount of hair that I did 10 years ago, but at least I’m not embarrassed to leave the house! The biotin turns out to be an absolute must for me. I tried reducing the dose to 5,000 mcgs., but my hair started to fall out again, so it’s back to 10,000 mcgs. Take it during the day, not at night, since it seems to boost energy and may prevent you from sleeping if you take it late in the day.

    If you don’t already eat soy, start slowly because your body can develop an allergy to unfamiliar foods, or foods that were previously scarce in your diet and you suddenly eat a lot of. It happened to my sister with broccoli and with coconut oil (she has no sense of moderation and goes overboard on new food ideas).

    Keep men away from the soy; the plant estrogen is extremely potent for some people, and many people react to it like a hormone supplement. This is not good for men, as I’m sure know.

    1. Am wondering if you’ve asked your doctor what the maximum daily dose of biotin should be. I am struggling with thinning hair myself…have been taking biotin for years, but in a smaller dose. Rogaine does not seem to help. Looking for any and all suggestions! I am dealing ok with the crepey skin (not that I like it) but the hair thing is really getting to me.

  23. I genuinely do not give a stuff about expectations. Perfectly happy with how I look which is: nothing spectacular. Not too fat, not too thin. Not particularly lined or wrinkled. Grey hair. I would describe me as mid-century typical. So far, I appear to be pretty healthy and my osteoporosis isn’t causing me any great problems at the moment. Menopause is just a stage, not an illness or a condition. I don’t suffer. I don’t need treatment. I don’t have symptoms because I’m not sick. All the hot/cold/achy stuff will pass. What I need is to be left alone to get on with living the last third of my life the best I can. The only thing that irritates me is that my eyesight is worsening and I can’t always read for as long as I like. New glasses, then. If you are over 50 and reading this, then you are part of the luckiest generation of women ever born, certainly the first generation to look forward to a long life with a degree of expectation, independence and good health. Don’t fuck it up by worrying about irrelevances.

  24. I turned 60 this year. I still feel youthful, I still work full time and I still keep physically active by swimming freestyle in the fast lane three times a week and walking whenever I can. I’ve happily adapted my make up to suit the changes that have taken place in my skin tone and general complexion. It’s been fun! Yes, I dye my hair because I think the colour suits me, not because I feel I should. I struggle a little with what to wear with confidence but I’ve always been like this. Your blog and articles are refreshing and reassure me that I am definitely on the right track! Many thanks!

  25. This is great! I will read her entire article too. Thanks for the link. I’m trying to talk about aging in a different manner on my blog too,, by talking about living healthy to the end and what that looks like for us. For me, I read constantly and write everyday, whether my journal, on my novel, on health or other related matters. This definitely helps the brain stay active. I’ve let my hair be natural for six years now and I love the grey. As a certified health coach I talk a lot about eating healthy and staying active. My hope is to see society get past the idea that aging means taking a back seat to life and slowing down, and instead see aging as staying in the driver’s seat and saying “what’s next?” Thanks for continuing to share. I really enjoy your work!

  26. I loved the article and am glad you picked it up Alyson. I really like the rage point. Instantly brought to mind old Dylan Thomas and the passionate invocation to ” rage, rage against the dying of the light” not that menopause is anything to do with dying! I hate the word menopause by the way, and the implications of its use in describing a person ,but that’s a whole different subject on which I shouldn’t get started here!

  27. Blimey what is this obsession in the comments with women smiling?? Bad enough to be told by random strangers in the street (thankfully another mode of harassment that age allows one to escape) but I didn’t expect to read it here in comments on Alyson’s thoughtful blog post addressing age. My mood is inside me for the benefit of myself, it is not decoration for the pleasure of others. If there’s a smile on my gob it’s an organic expression of the feelings inside and not some ornamental or placatory mask.

    Ms Moore is right about rage. Our rage needs to be out there in the world – visible – and not turned inside, denied or disguised with a goofy simper.

  28. I also eat a lot of avos, look in the mirror every morning no younger looking results. Love this blog of you Alyson.

  29. I sometimes think we women are our own worse enemies. Why don’t we start a movement wherein women stop referring to other woman by how they look or what age they are i.e. drop the words beautiful, sexy, hot, pretty, young, middle-aged, old, and so on. Instead we can use the words intelligent, charming, elegant, splendid, amusing, refined, inspirational, fascinating, dignified, talented, creative, poised, etc. etc. The latter indicates something we have personally achieved which is much more satisfying than being judged on our looks or age.

  30. I agree with Caroline regarding how we refer to women according to how they look rather than the person they are. Personally I think that we need to stop doing this from a very young age. Instead of telling little girls how pretty, beautiful or fashionable they are we should be telling them how clever or talented they are and encouraging them to ask questions, hold views and talk about things that interest them. Secondly, I’m not sure whether today’s obsession with retiring early is altogether a healthy thing either. I appreciate that it is very much a personal choice but I do wonder whether actually it is better to keep on working, stay involved, keep mentally active etc. Fascinating topic!

    1. Hi Wendy. I don’t necessarily think the obsession that comes with early retirement is a choice. Here in the States, ageism runs rampant. I know this. It took me two years to become recently hired back in the office environment. Oh the stories I could tell about past job interviews would have you both laughing and make your skin crawl!

  31. Menopause is not s disease but it IS horrible and I think it affects everybody in a different way. For me, the panic attacks and anxiety and thoughts about death were worse than any hot flush, so I am much happier and feel myself again with a joy for life on hrt. I am sure it comes with risks but then so does drinking, and I continue to do that when I want to. By the way, I don’t think hrt stops hair thinning or crepey skin, both of which is creeping up on me 😉

  32. I LOVE this post. And I ABHOR all articles celebrity. Jennifer Aniston eats avacados. She is so full of shit–she says she eats them because, like her contracts with Aveeno, and Emerites (spelling bad. I know) Airlines and that water she shills, she gets paid to say nice things. In addition, she has “people” to help her look good. And this is one of the reasons I despise Anna Wintour and her whorish love for celebs–but that’s another story….
    I’m 61. Do I look my age? Yeah. Some days I do. Some days when I feel like crap, I usually look older. Then other days, I’ll look younger. It all depends on how I feel and how I want to look. I don’t necessarily want to look YOUNGER, I want to look MY BEST. That’s basically what it comes down to. I’ve written about hair loss on my blog. I’ve written about that middle-aged spread and am now beginning to write about my weight loss journey. I’ve written about the awful “ism” knows as ageism. And yet, these topics still remain swept under the carpet. This was a fantastic post. Thank you! And thank you for validating my hatred of celebrities-as-experts-on-everything!

  33. I’m someone who LOVES magazines and looks forward to getting the new issues but they do contain a lot of nonsense and ‘Celebrity’ interviews are the worst. Last year, I read an interview with Aerin Lauder where the interviewer breathily said Ms Lauder wasn’t wearing a scrap of make-up. Eh hem. Really? The heir and senior corporate boss of a cosmetics empire who was dressed up to the nines – would she really greet a journalist bare-faced? I guessing she had at least a little make-up perfectly applied and good for her, it made her look good.

    Like Ms Anniston, it’s not Ms Lauders fault that magazines write such daft sentences. I’d rather some honesty though. Both women probably work incredibly hard to look how they do because it is an intrinsic part of their jobs and lifestyle. I’d prefer to see that acknowledged rather than holding them up as examples to us and pretending they haven’t really bothered with their appearance at all.

  34. Thoughts on getting into my seventies if anyone would care to hear are for me very positive. Past pain balanced by becoming proactive, discovering a need for a thr and having courage to get a titanium left hip gave me back my life in 2006. What I had thought was me having to accept a cane for the rest of my life, improved totally. I had to admit what I needed to embrace as much as I hated the idea. So I got it done and on with the joys of living. As of 2013, the other one done as well. I feel so good, walk 45 minutes several times a week and love life, every day of it. Confidence boosts beauty too I’ll say.

  35. I love this post and I thank you!!! But at nearly 55; I’ve learned nearly a decade ago to give a rat’s ass about how others perceive my looks–sagging breasts, grey hair and love handles included. As far as celebrities are concerned–they have a barrage of individuals who cater to their every whim from cooking their meals to kissing their ass! I love magazines too– but all these celebrity interviews– well let’s just say God gave me fingerd to ‘turn the page.’ And although I’m celebrsting 4.5 years in the perimenopausal stage– I openly speak about it! To encourage others– It’s an unavoidable stage of life denied by too many others who left us to soon…

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