Cable television, twitter and political web sites are abuzz with the news that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has done the unthinkable: she went on a diplomatic visit to Bangladesh wearing casual hair and little makeup, looking every second of her 64 years.
I Googled this to see what all the fuss was about, and agree that Hillary appeared like she was going to a library trustee meeting instead of a summit with a head of state. But she still looks pretty damn good, and I’m sure she didn’t offend the Bangladeshi. You can see for yourself in the photo here. Contrast it with the other photo of Hillary as a senator in New York, where they’re less forgiving of unstylish people.
As I sit here, wearing fading lipgloss, smudged Maybelline and drugstore moisturizer, I was wondering whether it will ever be OK to give up on the endless pursuit of youth and glamour and just look our age. Thank God I’m a nobody so I won’t end up on YouTube if I forget to wear eye shadow, which I do often. In our New England town nobody talks about you if you show up at the local convenience store or coffee shop in sweats, or if you have two inches of grey roots when you take the microphone at a zoning meeting. In fact, the au naturel Hillary would be considered pretty smart-looking here; and even smarter when she starts talking and you realize she has a brain.
But culturally we middle-aged women – and men, too — are still held to an impossibly high standard. We spend billions to keep grey hair, wrinkles and stomach flab at bay. We spend hours covering up and camouflaging before we can make an appearance before polite company. We go back and forth over whether to fight old age with everything we got – weight training, no carbs, expensive plastic surgery and face creams – or enjoy life and gracefully accept that ultimately we will lose a few battles with Father Time. Unlike Hillary, we don’t have to wrestle with these questions in front of ubiquitous, unforgiving cameras waiting to surreptitiously capture every wrinkle and sag.
So is there a happy medium between looking as youthful as our kids and looking decrepid? Between looking like you’re trying to hard and looking like you pulled the ripcord?
I think that age can and should be worn with great élan, like a great scarf or a vintage Chanel jacket. It helps to have great genes (like Helen Mirren and Audrey Hepburn), but confidence, intelligence and a sense of insouciance goes a long way to make up for that. It also helps to have an attitude that you have bigger things to do than fuss over your looks. I think Hillary has nailed it.
What do you think? Is it worth the fuss to look your absolute best every single day? And for a hilariously funny point of view on the subject of Hillary’s fashion sense, visit one of my favorite blogs, Life In The Boomer Lane.