petite anglaise

January 22, 2007

mirror mirror

Filed under: navel gazing, single life — bipolarinparis @ 8:20 pm

I frown at my face in the mirror. Make-up still looks good in the right light, but increasingly these days I find that foundation accentuates the fine lines around my eyes instead of concealing them. I prefer myself with my glasses on, because actually they hide a multitude of tell-tale signs. The days when I dreamt of laser surgery are long behind me.

Digging out a selection of eye-shadow colours, I proceed by a process of elimination. The dark brown one I should really throw away, it’s too severe, too ageing. The pearly pale colours are too “teenaged”. Which only leaves a nondescript matt beige and a dusky pink. I choose the former, applying it lightly with a brush. Less is more. The last thing I want is to look like I’m trying too hard. My lips, full and pouty, if slightly chapped, respond well to a coating of lip gloss.

I survey the finished product. Not bad, but not quite me either. My mother used to say she felt the same inside at forty as she did when she was eighteen. I don’t feel the same exactly, but whenever I look in the mirror I think I always half hope to see my eighteen-year-old self looking back at me, and can’t help but feel disappointed that she is never there.

Padding into Tadpole’s room in stockinged feet I open the wardrobe and deliberate about what to wear. I have always been what I would call “pear-shaped”, often with as much as two sizes difference between the top and bottom halves of my body. Despite my New Year’s resolutions and recent gym membership, there are few visible improvements as yet. Now, the party I am getting ready for called for “something red” in the invitation. Hmm… A raspberry-coloured dress bought years earlier, which drapes in a forgiving way around my curves is the only red item in the wardrobe which strikes me as appropriate for a party. I might feel a little overdressed, and if I get cold my nipples will definitely show, but I don’t have time to agonise further. The babysitter will be arriving any minute.

Tadpole looks up from her book and smiles. “Mummy looks like a princess,” she says. And means it. I give her a grateful hug. Thank god for unconditional love.

Later, at the party my friend and I joke about the fact that we are actually several years older than most of the other guests present (understandable, as the hosts are in their mid-twenties).

“You can tell we’re older, because all these younger girls are playing it cool, dressing down, and here we are with our grown-up dresses and our faint whiff of desperation,” comments my friend, wryly.

“Oh god, don’t, my confidence is hanging by a thread as it is,” I reply, and proceed to enlighten her as to the meaning of the wonderful British expression “mutton dressed as lamb”, before helping myself to another glass of red punch.

I’m thirty-four years old, and until now, most people didn’t believe me when I told them my age, or gasped when I told them I had a three-year-old daughter. But something – and I’m not sure what – seems to have dented my confidence lately. Perhaps it’s because there hasn’t been anyone who I could get excited about for a while, no-one’s admiration to bask in. Or maybe it’s the fact that my last boyfriend was significantly older than me, and these days I often run with a younger pack.

From experience I know that it’s impossible to be objective about what you see in the mirror. On a black cloud day I can’t help but hate my reflection. In the throes of a hormone peak I will feel big, regardless of what the scales might read.

I’m looking forward to the day when the mirror throws me back something I like. It will be a sign that whatever was faulty has been fixed, that the storm clouds have finally lifted.

And in the meantime, I’ll just keep on basking in the warm glow of Tadpole’s compliments.

102 Comments

  1. “Our faint whiff of desperation.”

    Yes, petite, I would agree that your confidence is dented. I’m glad that you understand that this is temporary!

    Comment by Babs — January 22, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

  2. There are moments when the reflection I see in the bathroom mirror has no resemblance to me…there are moments when my small inner voice claim me so old…sometimes too childish.
    And I am 25…

    Comment by Momo — January 22, 2007 @ 8:34 pm

  3. OMG, I can’t wait for your book to come out! I so enjoy your blog since I discoverd it last Summer. I can relate to the “pear-shape” ordeal. There was a time when I used to swap suits in the store to get the larger bottom with the smaller top.

    You just gave me a new reason to keep my glasses because at 39, I can see why that will be necessary.

    Comment by Kuukie — January 22, 2007 @ 8:38 pm

  4. Look on the brightside, at least you were beautiful to start with :)

    Kids have a habit of being frightfully honest about things like appearence, something I think you mentioned yourself a few months back. At least you know that when Tadpole says you look good, you know it must be true.

    Comment by Ignorminious — January 22, 2007 @ 8:39 pm

  5. At 28, and having recently returned to my glasses after over a decade in contacts, I frequently find myself in the same pickle. Maybe it’s just fashions right now, but everything feels too young (pigtails and lipgloss just don’t have quite the same shine they used to) or too old (I work in a library, but I don’t have to look it, do i?), but never that magical “just right”… good to know it’s not just me. ;)

    Comment by jen — January 22, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

  6. sorry I couldn’t make it to bridge the gap, so to speak… try heading to one of the make-up counters at Le Bon Marché to get some new colors to play with! I like YSL, nothing to make you feel you’ve earned your age than their shiny, oh-so-chic gold compacts…

    Comment by maitresse — January 22, 2007 @ 9:20 pm

  7. Hey Ignorminious….what do you mean by “were”? She still “is” in my book! Listen Petite, the world will always be filled with “young hot things” who know they are just that and we must all give them their due while they still have it.

    But some of the most beautiful people I’ve met in my life would not exactly make People’s 10 most beautiful people list. (Of course, I completely exclude my wife from this list because she is the beauty beyond compare through my rose-colored lenses. But I digress…)

    Petite – I don’t know what you look like except from the pictures you posted, but I don’t think I really need to see more. Glasses or no, skirt or pants, make up or plain face — who cares? You are beautiful. Don’t change a thing.

    Comment by Johnny — January 22, 2007 @ 9:23 pm

  8. Just stand next to me, it’ll take years off you!! Alternatively, let me be among the first to offer you a proof copy of my new soon-to-be bestseller “Graceful Ageing” … arf!

    Comment by rhino75 — January 22, 2007 @ 9:29 pm

  9. P.S. are you really reading “Fingersmith”?? We’ll have to discuss it.

    Comment by rhino75 — January 22, 2007 @ 9:31 pm

  10. You look pretty good to me, but then that is a grainy photo, and as I refuse to wear glasses, you should take my comment with a pincement de sel.

    Comment by Graham — January 22, 2007 @ 9:38 pm

  11. Have you ever thought Petite maybe it’s just a problem with how they make mirrors these days? Perhaps it’s not us after all!

    Now there’s a ‘reassuring thought’! (read ‘Hopeful thought’).

    Comment by SG — January 22, 2007 @ 9:55 pm

  12. Angel, you are, indeed, lovely. The daughter never lies.

    And it gets better; that is, when you are my age you are simply grateful if the mirror doesn’t actually crack. The one thing I did right was to have my children young, so that people are genuinely surprised when they find out that my daughter is … nearly your age.

    Comment by Z — January 22, 2007 @ 9:59 pm

  13. Are you kidding me!? You’re hot. Clearly. And not in a pervy kind of a way. :o)

    Comment by inspiredbycoffee — January 22, 2007 @ 10:06 pm

  14. Argh. I didn’t intend that smiley. I hate smileys. Consider that smiley not intended. Unintended. Deintended.

    Comment by inspiredbycoffee — January 22, 2007 @ 10:08 pm

  15. Hey Petite. I know what you mean about the fine lines etc, but as my mother always says, “People see the whole person, not the details”.

    But then again my mother also always says things like “tis poor bum won’t warm cold seat”, so I wouldn’t take her too seriously on anything.

    Anyway, I saw your pic in some Sunday supplement once and thought you looked pretty foxy.

    Comment by Annie Rhiannon — January 22, 2007 @ 10:45 pm

  16. Oh Petite,

    I believe that women in their thirties are really at their peak. Especially the early thirties…Think about it, you are old enough to a) be taken seriously professionally b) hold your own in a meaningful conversation on a wide variety of topics c) still look great in low-rise jeans and heels or a cute short skirt -and most importantly d) finally begin to be comfortable with your own self (make no mistake, confidence IS sexy for men and women). I know you’re not so sure on this last point, but there is a reason the women at the party were dressed so similar…get it? Don’t put yourself under the microscope like that & yes, DO listen to Tadpole.

    To your 20-something readers who will no doubt be irked by (b) I can only say…hold that thought and reply in 10 years, I’m certain you won’t have the same opinion then. Just think back to how much you thought you “knew” at 18, ha!

    Myself, I’m 40(ish) and it’s now my mother’s face I sometimes see first thing in mirror (and hear her voice too)…THAT is scary! I plan on living a very long time however, so I like to think I’m still on the young(er) side. ;)

    Comment by California Reader — January 22, 2007 @ 10:45 pm

  17. http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1995669,00.html

    Universal, me thinks

    Comment by H — January 22, 2007 @ 10:49 pm

  18. I think I might be the only person in your comment box who’s not trying to look like their inner youthful-self.

    I seem to have the opposite problem. I teach in a secondary school, and am regularly mistaken for one of the kids. (A remarkably well dressed kid, but still a kid).

    And buses – I hand over the right change to the driver who then issues me with two kids tickets. Obviously for me and my ‘invisible friend’.

    I’m 23 for goodness sake. Isn’t it a bit much to still be mistaking me for a 15 year old?

    Take heart, looking youthful isn’t all it’s made out to be …

    Comment by Une Fille — January 22, 2007 @ 11:07 pm

  19. Hmm, now before this goes any further, this wasn’t about me fishing for compliments. I was just parading my insecurity of the month so that lots of people could say “me too” and make me feel a little more normal. I think being single and in my thirties is unsettling me a little, ’tis all.

    Comment by petite — January 22, 2007 @ 11:24 pm

  20. its hormones! i feel exactly the same on some days (and others, i just dont care)…!

    Comment by E.A.L — January 22, 2007 @ 11:26 pm

  21. (and no i didnt read your comment before i posted..!)

    Comment by E.A.L — January 22, 2007 @ 11:26 pm

  22. I know that you are not fishing, but I do agree with number 16 Petite.

    In my (nearly, God forbid MID – aaargghhh) forties I now look back on photos taken ten years ago and think I would like to look like that now……… I definitely looked my best in my thirties. Well my best for me anyway!!!

    AND IGNORMINIOUS!!!! You can go off people you know. WERE BEAUTIFUL??????

    Women of all ages are beautiful. Some are older than others.

    And if you want to take a few years off, you can always adopt my
    SAY
    system.

    I know that it’s the sort of thing that your granny used to say to you when you were little, but………..Personally I would just LOVE to be 34 right now.

    Young, beautiful and about to be a successful author.

    Comment by Sally Lomax — January 23, 2007 @ 12:57 am

  23. Welcome to the law of intended consequences. I know you weren’t fishing for a compliment. I simply felt like giving one.

    Comment by Johnny — January 23, 2007 @ 1:11 am

  24. Like the saying goes, “Youth is wasted on the young.”

    I went to a small party of 30+ year olds, mostly young mothers, on Friday night, and then to a 21st birthday party on the Saturday. I went to both as a stranger, as I only knew a couple of people at each of the parties.

    I could not help contrasting the two atmospheres. The 30+ Mums were so welcoming and open and honest, the 21 year olds were nice people, I think (and hope), but so ridden with insecurities that they were rude, loud, and clinging with desperation to their exclusive groups. I know who I would rather be.

    Comment by an9ie — January 23, 2007 @ 1:12 am

  25. I am the wonderful age of 45 and would not like to look like what I did in my teens, my twenties or thirties. If I looked like that, I’d be that age and I would still have to go through all of the hard times of those years and learn all of the lessons that had to teach you. I like my lines and my face and my figure. That’s the beauty of aging gracefully, you don’t really give a #hit what anyone else thinks, and that…is beautiful.

    Comment by Kimberly Edgell — January 23, 2007 @ 1:44 am

  26. All of this is natural especially when going out to a party. It’s easy to say, have dinner with friends cause they all know and love you. It’s different when your going to a party. You need to socialize and mingle.

    I haven’t been to a party since I was in my early 20s. I can’t imagine such a thing as I’m a 40 year old wife and mother. I would be quite out of my comfort zone at the mere suggestion of attending a party. I’m stressed just thinking of such a thing.

    Comment by Diane — January 23, 2007 @ 1:56 am

  27. I didn’t see it as a cry for help. It’s the normal turn of events. In my very very very late 30’s I’ve given away the youthful trip thing completely after about two or three angsty years. I’m now trying to get how to be in my forties and not look like a freak down.
    The clothes thing is diabolical. Nothing works like it used to. I find myself set adrift because I can’t rely on that my body ‘looks great’ to carry things off. Now I have to have a real ‘look’ – a real ‘style’ which always felt so confining to me. I liked to be able to throw things together.

    I think the turning point was when I saw my tall, elegant, 50 something neighbour crossing the street wearing a sort of Marni ensemble and realised there was a way forward. A way of looking good without looking too try hard. It’s a more ‘put together’ look but for me it represented a real future, rather than a diminished past.

    Comment by Lilyfer — January 23, 2007 @ 2:24 am

  28. Petite – what you’re feeling is all very normal I think. I still rarely like what I see in the mirror, wondering when the hell I got so old. There are moments though (when the makeup goes on just right, when I’ve had enough sleep and don’t look terminally exhausted, or my hair miraculously has some volume instead of lying there limply,) when I look in the mirror and like what I see. A confident, mature, woman whose life is going well and who doesn’t need to look young and beautiful to feel good about myself.

    Running with a younger crowd is not a bad thing though. I was a little older than you when I found my Mr Right – and he’s 7 years younger than me :-) For me, as for many of my friends, it happened once I had decided that my life was just fine as a single woman, and that what I really wanted was a good friends not a boyfriend.

    Comment by Susan — January 23, 2007 @ 2:41 am

  29. I worry over where the lines might end up…
    I’m also told that men don’t notice such things, not even if you’ve done your hair (a man told me this and no, he’s not mine).
    I also rememeber being highly critical of myself in my early twenties for different reasons, so perhaps we just change the subject?

    Comment by Fuff — January 23, 2007 @ 3:01 am

  30. Such brutal honesty is not good for the soul! I find that I am perfectly capable of lying to myself by simply not putting my contacts in or putting my glasses on… call that the real life equivalent of Photoshop!

    Comment by Ariel — January 23, 2007 @ 3:48 am

  31. Here’s something. Mutton is now all the rage cullinary-wise.

    Cook made a lovely lamb pie. Madame, producing it at our Sunday table decided in her hormone-fuelled amnesia to celebrate her recently-found TV-chef awareness with a laudation to mutton pie.

    So we all (well, nearly all) sat around the table singing the praise of lamb-dressed-as-mutton.

    Is this a first?

    Answers please, in a bottle, addressed to the Suffolk Madhouse, somewhere on the East coast.

    Comment by andrew — January 23, 2007 @ 4:29 am

  32. PA, I do know what you mean. I’ve been feeling much the same at the age of 33 (yikes, that’s my first time saying that online!)…

    If you do indeed head for Le Bon Marche, it’s a good idea to pick up powders sans titanium dioxide…it highlights the slightest lines, makes skin look older, and less dewey.

    Also, less powders and more sheers have worked for me…I don’t even use pressed powder anymore unless it’s on my t-zone. And even now, with the moisturizer I told you about earlier, I don’t need any powder on my t-zone. I’ve been shying away from powdered liners…and the concealer just settles into the tiny lines near my eyes. So I’ve stopped using that as well.

    Wow, obviously j’adore le maquillage!! :0)

    Comment by Mlle Smith — January 23, 2007 @ 5:34 am

  33. take it from me:- I think women get better with age. ( and I have no reason to butter you up!).. but its true….

    Comment by simon — January 23, 2007 @ 5:46 am

  34. There is also the expression “fishing for compliments” !

    Comment by Kate — January 23, 2007 @ 8:16 am

  35. Petite, I’m 34, too, and after trying to find out whether I am good- or at least acceptably-looking or not for quite some time, I decided it didn’t matter. I settled with a few “facts” instead:
    my husband once said women look their best after 30. I simply decided to “believe” him and haven’t bothered with doubts ever since.
    Since I feel really great after a good workout, I try to do it as often as possible. I have no idea whatsoever whether huffing and puffing on a small fitness device in my living room really does anything for my looks, but as I said: it doesn’t matter.
    I’ve had my share of troubles, too, and I am sure they leave traces somewhere. Maybe my face will show traces of bitterness or hard work ot tiredness or something, at occasions when there is no reason for such betrayals, but so what: it is normal to have experience at this age. I wouldn’t want to be a beautiful blank sheet anymore… Not at 34.

    Comment by alcessa — January 23, 2007 @ 9:28 am

  36. Take it from a thirtysixteen Latina who grew up with a mother who,at sixty five (and thanks to great genes,)is still considered a major beauty amoungst friends and relatives,many of whom swear she’s “had work done”:pressure to look a certain way (usually beginning in adolescence)does violence to our self image.

    Consequently,the cycle of comparing ourselves to others begins its vicous dance with our self esteem. What we see reflected in the mirror is often the state of our hearts,whether we admit it or not.
    The only way to alter that image is by loving ourselves;no amount of powder or lipstick is a substitute.

    True beauty is the grace by which you accept yourself – at any age. The time will come when the one who is meant for you,your equal,arrives.
    You have proven,under difficult circumstances,that you are worthy of no less. When that time comes, it will be interesting to know what you see in the mirror then.

    Comment by Belle — January 23, 2007 @ 10:15 am

  37. Beauty isn’t skin deep, its whats inside that counts!

    Trust me, as a 20 year old, there is not one of my peers who has a hang up about what they look like, what other people think of them etc. Whoever said ‘youth is wasted on the young’ was right. This generation, who have the ‘pleasure’ of looking in celebrity magazines and seeing all these skinny people, probably have more insecurities than people of my grandmothers age. So thank you for opening my eyes to this!

    Comment by gerbil — January 23, 2007 @ 10:24 am

  38. Er, rely on the best mirror you have up now: your Tadpole’s eyes. Other mirrors are liars.
    Don’t fade to grey…

    Comment by Mardo — January 23, 2007 @ 10:44 am

  39. You’re a damn fine looking woman, Petite. A few lines around the eyes makes a woman much more interesting than the blank unlived in slates of young women.

    Comment by AussieGil — January 23, 2007 @ 11:13 am

  40. I thought I’d add a word of praise for pear-shaped girls. I’m a typical ectomorph – long and gangly – and have always found gently curved, round-bottomed girls the most feminine.

    Comment by alan — January 23, 2007 @ 11:39 am

  41. I may have said “whiff,” but it surely was not followed by “desperation.”

    Comment by Le Meg — January 23, 2007 @ 12:17 pm

  42. Makeup tip from a 40-something: do away with liquid foundation and creme concealers, they DO only accentuate the fine lines. For the past few years I’ve been using a brand of mineral powder makeup and I just LOVE it. I get compliments on my skin all the time; people say I have a “glow” about me. At 45 I’d say that’s a fair accomplishment. Check it out at http://www.bareminerals.com and I think Sephora sells some of the makeup if you want to try before you buy. Some of the other makeup companies are jumping on the bandwagon too, so they’re not the only mineral powder makeup out there; they’re just the ones who have been doing it the longest.

    Comment by The Bold Soul — January 23, 2007 @ 12:42 pm

  43. Count your blessings, girl. You’ve got more than your fair share of natural advantages. Apparently they include a shapely rear, a quality much appreciated by discerning gents!

    Comment by Parkin Pig — January 23, 2007 @ 1:49 pm

  44. For me it was the day, 3 years ago now (I’m 32) when I was standing in front of the mirror clipping the front part of my hair back, the way I had done every day for the previous… 14 years at least… and looked over at my boyfriend and said “This just doesn’t suit me any more, does it?”.

    And I haven’t known what to do with the damn stuff since. He likes it long, so it just hangs. And flops. And drives me crazy because it’s in my eyes all the time.

    However, I love my white hairs (not grey- really white). I’m getting a streak of them in front, and I admire it almost every morning in the bathroom (not narcissistic- only light it really shows up under!). Not least because I often end up managing teams of people older than me- and with this, maybe they’ll stop resenting being bossed around by “a youngster”!

    Comment by little_bounce — January 23, 2007 @ 2:01 pm

  45. Don’t you think all those girls might actually feel not so comfortable and envy this glamourous 34-year-old chit ?
    All I can say now I’m 38 and a mother of 2 kids, is I prefer myself now rather than when I was 23. I was feeling envious of those self confident and successful thirty something young women.
    You might just feel anxious about all your recent changes in life, and the prospect of being an edited writer soon.

    Comment by Sophie — January 23, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

  46. The only way to get anywhere close to your 18-year-old self (on the outside at least) is botox. That outside/inside thing doesn’t change by the way, my mother-in-law (now over 70) says she still feels 18 inside and sometimes sees her image as she passes a shop window and thinks “who’s that old dear?”

    Comment by Helena Frith Powell — January 23, 2007 @ 2:24 pm

  47. You need to spend some time with me and Flighty, both of us 5 years your senior. That’ll make you feel young again.

    Comment by Mancunian Lass — January 23, 2007 @ 2:27 pm

  48. I think my daughter (also celibataire and 35 this year) would empathise with you.
    Unfortunately she doesn’t have a Tadpole to boost her confidence. Try to picture yourself as ‘her Princess’ when you’re out and you’ll sparkle with warm happiness which should be enough to attract that Prince Charming.

    Comment by sablonneuse — January 23, 2007 @ 2:47 pm

  49. Hey Petite,
    I feel compelled to reply to this post you sound like your confidence has been knocked! Look, you’re a stunner just look back at the picture on your post with the devil eyes, I cant remember where it is now! That’s not that long ago is it? And as for the age thing….I turned 34 in December and am still wearing black nail varnish and totally dark eye shadow and eye-liner, not in a goth way you understand :O) or a way of trying to grasp onto my youth but because it make me feels good and confident. I too had my confidence knocked by a guy last summer and I am picking myself up now with the help of some seriously funky eye-shadow colours from MAC. Go for it, experiment, you’ll be surprised at the reaction. I certainly was! It’s the winter blues thats all…. when the summer comes and we can wear flip flops again you will forget this feeling of despair.

    Comment by Maz from Manchester — January 23, 2007 @ 2:51 pm

  50. this should snap you out of it:
    Woman with tormentors

    Comment by parkin pig — January 23, 2007 @ 3:45 pm

  51. I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Whenever I go to a party, after a few drinks all the women look fantastic! ;-)

    Comment by Alastair — January 23, 2007 @ 4:04 pm

  52. i for one can say “me too”. at least your daughter is only three… mine is going on ten. my beloved husband likes to remind me that i am not yet thirty, but when all my daughter’s friends moms are more like fourty five, it is hard not to put myself in the pot with them and feel old.

    i like the idea that maybe it is the mirrors these days instead of us. the cold grey winter doesn’t help either… so, here’s to spring and warm days in the sun. because i for one feel better when the days are bright and beautiful instead of snowy and grey.

    i’ll keep my chin up until spring and not scrutinize the insignificant details i see if you’ll promise to do the same!

    Comment by prettysparrow — January 23, 2007 @ 4:25 pm

  53. I keep seeing people walk around with their face glowing, and my foundation just sinks into my “smile lines”. Smile lines, my arse. (sorry) What are they using???

    I often run with a younger pack too and I think I’ve done it consciously to keep ‘young’, scared of getting old, ‘cept now when age comes up they almost die of shock when they hear mine and that makes me feel bad instead of good.

    We have to stick together us oldies. At least we’re better in bed…..

    Comment by Kirsty — January 23, 2007 @ 5:05 pm

  54. …yeah because “Ugly heiffer” was my first impression.

    NOT!

    Hopefully you’ll snap back to reality soon and realise that you’re gorgeous.

    Comment by Damian — January 23, 2007 @ 6:21 pm

  55. wow, petite, how did you get into my head?

    33. Célibataire. Suddenly realizing that I wasted my 20s stressing about jean size when in actual fact I should have been nipping, tucking, botoxing, mosturizing my skin to Nicole Kidman tightness.

    Heh. Kidding about that last part. But I, too have been noticing the odd fine lines, the make-up that doesn’t illuminate as well as I thought it did, a slight creeping feeling of uncertainty.

    Is it men? magazines? the beauty industry? that makes us so hard on ourselves? Or just *us*?

    Thank you for making me feel more “soulagée” and “bof” about the whole age thing. Your blog is always fun & thought-provoking. I love checking in every two days or so.

    Comment by Claire — January 23, 2007 @ 6:43 pm

  56. nice post

    Comment by fauzab — January 23, 2007 @ 6:46 pm

  57. Petite, I know the exact feeling. At a party last month, in my wrap dress and heels, I was overwhelmed with dismay as I found myself surrnounded by women in their early 20’s wearing jeans and flat shoes. Only ten years older than them, I felt old and silly.

    And THEN I remembered – When I was in my early 20’s I would look at the woman who was 10 years older than me and think, “Why can’t I be that together? Why can’t I figure out how to walk in heels that high? My purse NEVER matches my outfit!” and I thought that the woman confident and sophisticated enough to own dresses to wear to parties was far superior to me. I envied that woman.

    So it’s not so bad, really, in that light. Now I AM one of those women I thought so sophisticated. Just because our own insecurities make us fear the appearance of age or desparation does not mean that is what others see when they look at us. You are beautiful. And still quite young. And I imagine you looked lovely as one of the few women chic enough to show up at the party in a dress.

    Comment by Marisa — January 23, 2007 @ 7:12 pm

  58. Oh Petite! At age 49, with the big five-oh speeding down the track at me, I would gladly trade some of my hard-earned confidence for my 34-year old face and bod. Actually, when I look in the mirror and see my Grannie, I would trade all of it, or make a deal with the devil, or enter an extreme makeover contest… You get the picture.
    The confidence will grow, the youth will diminish – that’s just the way. You are right where you should be!
    Voyager.

    Comment by Voyager — January 23, 2007 @ 7:40 pm

  59. Hey, you’re stealing my lines!

    Tinted moisturiser is the way to go.

    I think you look great, and yes, I was (and still am) intimidated at parties by people who can wear dresses.

    Comment by Paola from mirrormirror — January 23, 2007 @ 7:45 pm

  60. By the way, it’s a great photo.

    Comment by Damian — January 23, 2007 @ 9:12 pm

  61. Hello Petite,

    I am an avid reader of your blog, but don’t write. However this has inspired me, because I can relate. I am 3 months shy of being 34. Still single and searching. And know quite well the ups and downs of feeling insecure albeit all the confident moments we have otherwise. I agree very much with California Reader’s comments, though and we should listen to her wisdom. Like you I have entered an exercise regimen and am seeing slight results, but I keep reminding myself that I choose to be healthy now and my right choices now are leading me to a better me tomorrow (or better yet, in the next moment). It must feel nice, though to have the love from tadpole. I am greeted by Daisy and Zoe (my two felines) and accept their love.

    I read your column because I can relate to you as a 30 something. Thank you for continuing to do this, I am sure you are affecting in positive ways many women’s lives! I look forward to your book. Best Wishes.

    Comment by travelingpixie — January 23, 2007 @ 10:16 pm

  62. I think I might be the only person in your comment box who’s not trying to look like their inner youthful-self.

    Comment by Diseño de paginas web — January 23, 2007 @ 10:36 pm

  63. As a 19 year old with a 50 year old mum, all I can say is that she is the most beautiful woman I know. And, she always said that her 40s were her favorite years… She kicked them off with the birth of my little brother. I don’t think you can ever be too old to look good.

    Comment by Alessandra — January 23, 2007 @ 11:37 pm

  64. Have you seen this clip? While not about aging, it says a great deal about beauty, I found it to be really powerful, and yes, comforting.

    If the link doesn’t work the way I’ve pasted it in here, you can search for it as “dove video clip.”

    I will agree that sometimes our makeup does quit doing us a favor, and we have to switch to something else. I quit eye shadow when it started getting stuck in the eyelid crack, and have changed foundations over the years for changes in the smoothness, moisture, etc., of my skin.

    The clothing thing is perhaps the hardest. I know exactly how you felt at the party (whiff of desperation, or not). I am beyond “sophisticated, chic” dressing, so when I can’t use my jeans wardrobe, I resort to tailored slacks and long skirts.

    And listen up! The nipple problem is no better at 56 than at 34. So enjoy what you have.

    Pam

    Comment by PJ Carz — January 23, 2007 @ 11:46 pm

  65. Ahhh, honesty.
    My favorite child, my best friend’s 6-yr-old daughter, sat on my lap playing with my face as usual the other day, and exclaimed, “You look so oooold!” Great. If I wasn’t single and 40 (for the last 5 years) I probably would’ve laughed. **sigh**

    Comment by eric — January 24, 2007 @ 12:12 am

  66. When I look in the mirror, I see gray hair. And then a toddler who make kisses at herself right behind me.

    Comment by creative-type dad — January 24, 2007 @ 1:24 am

  67. If in your own eyes you were all the things you might wish you were you’d probably never write another word. At least, not one worth reading. And you’d be pretty damn boring to boot, so, no friends either.
    So self-excoriate away. You’ll be a better person and maybe write all the better for it.
    Well, up to a point. We all need days off…

    Comment by andrew — January 24, 2007 @ 2:19 am

  68. words of wisdom from the famous http://www.desiderata.com poem.

    …If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself…

    …Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrender the things of youth…

    Comment by David Giorgi | Click here for Expat France — January 24, 2007 @ 3:42 am

  69. Hi Petite,
    Here is my take on things. Hope it doesn’t come across as too opinionated.
    Men have the same problem – from super fit in their youth to two stone overweight in their late 30s. Of course, it just gets worse.
    The solution: good clothes. That’s the key difference. costly materials, style and expert tailoring proclaim you a new person from the one in your twenties – your charisma comes from the money you are obviously earning and your ability to put it to work in a tasteful way.
    There’s absolutely no mileage to be gained in trying to stay young.Being young is totally overrated anyway.
    You clearly have become an intensely charismatic through your blog, Tadpole, Mr Frog, etc etc and clearly have nothing at all to worry about!

    Comment by Dan — January 24, 2007 @ 3:50 am

  70. Me too, Petite, me too.

    But they say 50 is the new 30. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    Comment by Dawn — January 24, 2007 @ 5:56 am

  71. Do you recall that BBC comedy series Coupling ? Perhaps you should watch it ?

    On another Blog Anonymous (he is everywhere) probably afraid of his extant wife declared a man should marry a woman half his own age plus 7 which puts your target audience around 50+ as the younger woman…don’t forget..drink and tobacco age

    Comment by Voyager — January 24, 2007 @ 8:57 am

  72. Hey, you are good looking. I haven’t seen your picture before. (I know, the other kids have probably seen you before by researching the links.)
    Don’t panic possum, you have lots to work with from now until…well, whenever.

    Comment by PeterG — January 24, 2007 @ 8:58 am

  73. Correction: I’m only 4 years older than you, not 5. (As if anyone reading the blog actually cares, but never mind).
    Anyway, 34 still seems a really nice age to me, as I sit here most definitely in my late 30’s.
    I agree that it is slightly depressing that we will never again have the taut smooth skin of our early 20’s. I sometimes wonder if there would be much difference in how I look if I had never:
    exposed my face to the sun
    smoked cigarettes
    drunk alcohol
    had children
    had late nights.
    But then again, my life would have been a lot less fun if I’d never done any of those things.
    I also feel that it is very unfair that my chalky freckly skin ages and gets damaged so much more easily than that of my olive skinned girlfriends of the same age, who are still without crows’ feet (sorry, laughter lines).

    Comment by Mancunian Lass — January 24, 2007 @ 9:16 am

  74. Tadpole is wonderful! Too bad for us that they grow up, although I am sure that one day you will want a break from child-raising.

    As to mirrors, I love the days when I don’t even think of looking in one — the days when I don’t give a damn about what others think.

    Comment by Lost in France — January 24, 2007 @ 10:24 am

  75. i am young,but i hope to be older always.And i donot see myself in the mirror, only a part of my face such as chin sometimes. It is not comfortable, just like you are looking another man. But your picture is good looking. You look like “犹抱琵琶半遮面” in chinese.

    chinese reader

    Comment by sin31 — January 24, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

  76. When I look at pictures of myself and of my friends in our 20s (we’re all now early 30s), I just think, god, we all look so much better now. We’re more groomed (finally free from student debt and earning decent money), more confident, and wear the clothes, makeup and hairstyles that suit us rather than being slaves to the latest trends (no skinny jeans!). I did a straw poll of a few male friends who’ve known us over this period, and they’d all agree – one even said, if a few of us had looked as hot back then as we do now, he might never have ended up with his wife.

    I realise this comment probably sounds terribly big-headed.it’s not meant to be – none of us are model material, we just try to make the best of what we’ve got and stop worrying about not being Giselle Budchen. I have the same insecurities about being pear-shaped, seeing fine lines appear as Petite describes …but when they rear their ugly head, I just keep on trying to remind myself that true attractiveness comes from a mixture of inner confidence and finding a style that suits you.

    Comment by nikki — January 24, 2007 @ 12:38 pm

  77. LOL petite! At least Tadpole tells you you’re a princess…when I asked my five year old, during his litany of “Joanne’s beautiful, Victoire’s beautiful, Granny’s beautiful, Chloë’s beautiful…”, whether Mummy was beautiful, he giggled and said “Mais nooooooon!” Bah! So much for Oedipus.

    Comment by suziboo — January 24, 2007 @ 12:47 pm

  78. Comparing yourself to others will only make you vain or bitter.

    I think we all read your blog, Petite, thinking you lovely inside and out, else we wouldn’t keep coming back.

    Comment by kristenv — January 24, 2007 @ 12:47 pm

  79. Did you consider that maybe changing the groups that you hang out with might be an answer. Your body will continue to change and it is necessary to find a way to be comfortable with that because it won’t stop. I find that when I am around good people who are not focussed on such surface things as our surface, I do not give it a thought. It is only when I am around people who are so focussed on the look that I begin to have to fight that kind of thinking. Just a thought from an almost 45 year old.

    Comment by Colleen — January 24, 2007 @ 1:32 pm

  80. I’m 34 and since New Year have been increasingly disatisfied with my own reflection until I recently stumbled across a photograph of myself aged 26.

    After surveying the naive fool in the picture I realised that I actually prefer the more wrinkly but wiser version!

    Comment by Bob — January 24, 2007 @ 1:39 pm

  81. Hey, here’s my theory: if you were nothing much to start with in the looks department, you get better and better looking as you get older ‘cos you kind of grow into yourself (and you have had more practice in doing yourself up). But if you have always been gorgeous, it’s all down hill from here as you try desperately to cling on to your youthful beauty.

    Comment by Tonic — January 24, 2007 @ 1:46 pm

  82. LOL, that Dove thing from YouTube was excellent.

    BTW, isn’t Catherine Deneuve consistently voted everybody’s favourite and most beautiful Frenchwoman? And she’s in her 60s.

    60 = The New 40.

    Therefore 34 = The New 14.

    Comment by Claire — January 24, 2007 @ 1:59 pm

  83. Mancunian Lass
    It is actually 5 years
    AND as the Irish proverb goes, you’re s young as you feel and the one you’re feeling
    Rhino, you belie your years and are SO graceful
    Johnny – are you really married?

    Comment by Flighty — January 24, 2007 @ 2:57 pm

  84. Vanity, vanity, it’s all vanity! I sympathise, petite. At the tender age of 35 I’ve not been enjoying my reflection in the mirror either. Although I’m probably one of the least photogenic people I know, there used to be the odd occasion when I could find a decent photograph of myself. Nowadays, it’s practically impossible. I think this can only mean one thing: I really am as ugly as I feel…

    P.S. Since you’re not fishing for compliments I won’t tell you that you actually are devastatingly beautiful :-p

    Comment by Marcos — January 24, 2007 @ 4:27 pm

  85. It’s possible to remain childlike in the best sense without looking permanently pubescent. We carry our mortality in our face. Coming to terms with that is a large part of growing up imo.

    Comment by andrew — January 24, 2007 @ 6:21 pm

  86. Dear Petite,

    Your weblog was visited at random. This post has been archived at the BlogBiting Archives.

    Yours truly,
    Blogbiter

    Comment by blogbiter — January 24, 2007 @ 6:44 pm

  87. Yes, but it’s not how you look.

    It’s how you write that counts.

    Comment by roadsofstone — January 24, 2007 @ 7:10 pm

  88. oy vey, i thought that was a man in the photo up top

    Comment by chupa — January 24, 2007 @ 8:14 pm

  89. Thank God for unconditional love. I wonder whether this is why we miss them so desperately in times of trouble.

    Comment by fjl — January 24, 2007 @ 8:52 pm

  90. Baume Beauté Eclair – Eclat de Jeunesse (Clarins). Works every time for me. And fills the lines so the makeup cant get in. Miracle in a tube!

    Comment by EP — January 24, 2007 @ 9:04 pm

  91. Ahh all these lovely comments from your readers. Everyone feels like that sometimes, put more glitter on I say…:) and that shiny face cream stuff from revlon. You look fine to me.

    Comment by heather — January 24, 2007 @ 10:38 pm

  92. tadpole knows best

    Comment by mad muthas — January 25, 2007 @ 12:55 am

  93. I think we all have those insecurities as we get older. I am now in my mid-forties, and as I look at a picture of myself when I was 30, I can now see the subtle changes that are starting to channel their way through my face. This was bugging me a few weeks back, but then a co-worker, when finding out how old I was, exclaimed that she didn’t believe me when I told her my age. I needed to show her my drivers license to prove to her that I was 47. (She thought I was 34 or 35.) The fact that I have no gray in my hair yet is also a comfort.

    Then again, when I think back to 10 years ago, when I was in a hospital room, dying and hoping for a liver transplant, 47 isn’t that bad at all…I get to wake up every morning, plant my feet on the floor, stand upright, and am able to breathe. This makes everything just fine…….

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — January 25, 2007 @ 4:46 am

  94. I think “Dave of the Lake” has said it all as far as getting things into perspective is concerned. I work in a hospital and in my job I meet a lot of people with a degenerative condition called ankylosing spondylitis. It’s a cruel disease which affects the spine and in many cases means that the person has trouble lifting their head so that they are forced to walk along looking at the ground. It always amazes me that when they get to where I’m sitting they invariably make what is obviously an effort to lift their head and smile at me.

    I often feel very humbled and filled with wonder at the capacity of the human spirit. The last thing I notice is whether they have lines on their faces.

    Comment by Sue — January 25, 2007 @ 10:50 am

  95. Hmmm… this reminds me of the time when I said I had never gone through a serious relationship trauma and two weeks later got dumped… so I’m not going to tell you that I’ve never really felt the angoisse of aging… not deeply anyways…. but we all know it’s an inevitability.

    anyways, I already yacked it up with meg and rhino but I’m playing a show this Saturday at Point FMR. Do come. Flyer is posted on my site. Promise lots of cute boys since it’s the party of the start of Men’s Fashion Week… whether they’ll be straight is another matter.

    Comment by nardac — January 25, 2007 @ 10:56 am

  96. Hi Petite,

    may I recommend Chanel Vitalumiere foundation, amazing stuff. Gives your skin a glow that hides late nights and other sins. To get the best effect apply with a foundation brush (news to me a year ago that you can put it on with anything other than a sponge). I splashed out on one from Armani after trying my sisters, I can’t emphasize enough how great you look after using it. If all else fails, ditch the mirror!

    Susie

    Comment by Susie — January 25, 2007 @ 1:27 pm

  97. I just turned 30 the other week and the feelings you describe are just starting to creep in for me. In some ways though, I’m relieved to be out of the race, if you know what I mean.

    Comment by Julia Buckley — January 25, 2007 @ 1:49 pm

  98. Thanks Sue. I was a paramedic for many years, and came across a few of those patients with the condition you describe…..

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — January 25, 2007 @ 2:41 pm

  99. I can relate, being closer to forty than thirty now. I was always the baby in the group, and now often a good 9 or more years older. So far so good, I´m still passing for 28!

    Comment by Holly — January 25, 2007 @ 3:46 pm

  100. Petite, I think we all go through days like this.
    Take a deep breath and I’m sure you’ll feel better soon!

    I think you look like Nicky Hambleton-Jones (this is menat as a compliment!) who is 35 but looks 25! I don’t suppose you are related, are you? You both look great anyway and I wish I look as good as you in 5 years time when I’m 34!

    Comment by Pepette — January 25, 2007 @ 5:39 pm

  101. Just don’t use the comb or eat the apple…

    Comment by Voyager — January 25, 2007 @ 5:41 pm

  102. Turning 30 was an eye-opening experience. I’ve always looked in the mirror and seen someone in her 20s. I guess it took me a while to accept that I’m getting older and must look it to those who are ten years younger.

    Comment by Run Around Paris — January 25, 2007 @ 9:57 pm


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