As I edge my way toward 50 — with curiosity, no fear and only a few regrets — vanity is on my mind.
But I’m not fretting over wrinkles and the general softening of my flesh. I’m curating my look — as I always have, at every age. But what’s different now? I never think about my age in doing so. And, I won’t lie, I fucking love that beautiful irony.
When I was much (much) younger and in leadership positions at a precociously young age, I felt compelled to dress for the respect I wanted to command from the businessmen (yes, mostly men) I did business with, which translated into bright-colored suit jackets with black skirts and pants, mostly, while keeping my youngish hairstyle. Once, I met a friend for dinner after a business meeting, and she greeted me with “God, take that thing off,” referring to my apple-green jacket with its teensy shoulder pads. But the bright armor and nude pumps did what they were supposed to — project that I was playing their game, and that I knew the rules.
The best thing about being almost 50? I don’t care about anyone’s rules anymore. Business rules, fashion rules, what-am-I-supposed-to-look-like rules. For decades, I worked in the cat-eat-cat world of women’s magazines, where what I wore to work each day felt like it had real weight and meaning, so I was dressing for others as much as for myself. (It was super fun, though; don’t get me wrong!) But at 47? Oh, hell no. It’s all for me.
Right now, I’m working on getting blonder and blonder, trying to achieve a bold white-blonde that is firmly in my mind’s eye. After my last hair coloring, I posted a shot of the almost-white blonde I am on Facebook, and a friend commented that she, too, was going more blonde because it made it easier to hide the grays.
First off, I’m not going white-blonde in a linked-arm march of women who morph from brunette or black or natural red to blonde as they age. Oh, hell no. I’m going white blonde because my vision for myself at 47 is subtle, sophisticated rock-star: all deep bangs (as soon as my hair gets long enough), leather leggings (check) and fuck-you attitude (check-check).
Second, I have absolutely no idea whether I have silver or gray hair. I’ve been dying my hair since I was, oh, 15 — well, except for a few au naturel years while I attended college in the mountains of Virginia, when my look was hippie-chick–goes-to-the-horse-races with down-my-back naturally blonde hair.
As a wildly visual person — and also, potentially, a megalomaniac — I have curated my look quite intentionally my entire life. And, frankly, the looks I expect to create for 50s/60s and god willing beyond are probably the best of all, unburdened as I now am by needing to broadcast maturity, capability, beautifulness, thinness or any of the other –nesses that we women find ourselves somewhat unintentionally measuring ourselves against. At my age, I’m not looking for any of the following: a career, a husband, a boyfriend, acceptance, status, approval. I have established enough of a career (even in wildly shifting circumstances), one ex-husband, a fantastic boyfriend, plenty of self-acceptance and zero interest in either status or approval. So now I dress one hundred percent for myself. And I dye my hair one hundred percent for myself. And I wear magenta matte lipstick one hundred percent for myself.
I also sometimes go three days without taking a shower. You know, the work-from-home thing.
Does that seem wrong to you? Doesn’t matter to me.
What matters is that I amuse myself, really. And also feel that I am presenting myself with the right amount of energy, passion and creativity in order to express my sense of who I am right now. (Which is — you guessed it! — energetic, passionate and creative.)
I can do what I want. And so I damn well intend to dress that way, too.
The secret is, of course, that it isn’t and has never been what we wear that makes us attractive. It’s more about how our own personal energy attracts people and opportunities toward us. I find me attractive in the most literal sense of the word: Things come my way. It turns out that nurturing decades of business contacts and friendships creates a flow in my life. It turns out that really knowing what I’m really good at, as well as knowing my weaknesses, means that I am better able to choose how to spend my time in my work. And it also means that you’ll never catch me dead in pants that are looser than leggings, in a skirt that is A-line or in a button-down, man-style shirt no matter how fashionable those things may be. They do not suit me. And they never will. So I always feel one hundred percent like myself.
And for now, myself is a white-blonde, magenta-lipsticked ball of energy in dark, heavy glasses, leather leggings, tall boots and a black sweater. I could be an art-world denizen. A famous author. A Scandinavian beauty entrepreneur.
But nope. I’m just me. Blonde, badass and brilliant. And facing down fifty in a way that is completely, one hundred percent me.