Dust off your crown

“Your crown has been bought and paid for. Put it on your head and wear it.” –Maya Angelou

I don’t know whether I want to shake them or hug them.

Lately, I’ve been bombarded on social media—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube—with images of women who look like they’re trying too hard to be supple and youthful. The forehead is too smooth, the lips unnaturally plumped, the cheeks those of a 20-something. Artfully done, it’s ok, I guess. Less than artfully done, it’s a bit scary. I’ll admit to my own bits of maintenance, but I try to keep it minimal. I’m a big fan of authenticity.

It feels off to me, these faces with nary a flaw. I joke with women I know who spend significantly on looking youthful—with every procedure they get, they age me 10 years. When really, we are the same age. (Author Jennifer Weiner put it well in her 2015 New York Times article, “The Pressure to Look Good.”)

Some try to hold onto husbands whose roving eyes alight far too long on the truly youthful—women in their 20s and early 30s who embody what their wife used to be. Others, divorced or single for a lifetime, try to attract what society tells them they should have to be worthy—a man who adores them. Many argue that it’s “self-care.” Hogwash. Self-care is exercise, eating right, a balanced lifestyle. If looking 35 at 55 is “self-care,” we’re all in trouble. Since when does self-care involve anesthesia and painful recuperation?

I recently posted a photo of myself on social media. I was wearing my new reading glasses and joked that the older I get, the bigger they get. Not many of those commenting mentioned the glasses. Instead, they wrote encouraging bits: “Beautiful!” or “Looking good!”. I so appreciated their kind words. But I also cringed to think I might appear to be one of those women who posts a selfie to garner comments that bolster her ego.

If I sound catty, I don’t mean to. I have just tired quickly of women who advertise themselves while trying so hard to appear not to do so. I appreciate substance. And anyone who over-indexes on plastic surgery, self-promotion and artifice, values the outer at the expense of the inner. She also supports a culture that tells us who we are—just as we are—is somehow not good enough.

I’ll admit that I briefly considered joining the fray. After my divorce, I found myself—at the urging of a few of the moms from school—in a plastic surgeon’s office. I was suffering from Nora Ephron’s malaise about her aging neck. As he talked to me about a “simple procedure” in which I’d have “minimal bruising,” at a cost that made me gulp, I checked myself. And realized I had bought into these moms’ fears about aging, rather than listening to my own internal wisdom. I walked out of his office knowing this was not a path I want to take. There are days it’s tempting, in the corporate world I swim in. But I’m trying to hold onto what’s important rather than joining women who fear becoming a certain age.

I don’t always succeed. I recently interviewed a woman easily 10 years my senior who looked glam and youthful in the most tasteful way. It brought up every insecurity I have about aging—and the comparison game is one we women know we’ll never win. There will always be someone with a tighter, prettier or more youthful something. I had to lean on a friend to help me regain perspective after that interview.

What I had to remember was what matters. Ms. Angelou’s quote about earning your crown? So true. I’ve earned it, baby. When you’ve sat in the wreckage of the life you thought you were going to live, post-divorce (or post-anything-major, for that matter), it should bring you up short. When you’ve had to dig deep to re-enter the workforce, to decide which bill can wait for a few more days, to watch your kids pay for mistakes they didn’t make—well, you get clear about what matters really quick, if you’re brave enough.

A close friend from my college days recently surprised me with a beautiful Tiffany & Co. silver key charm. We were having lunch when she placed that little blue box on the table, with a card that read: “Because you created your own key to success as a provider and mother . . . Love you my friend!” Years of “figuring it out,” reduced to one simple phrase. But a really satisfying simple phrase. One that began when I came home from the courthouse after my divorce became official. I was shaken to my core. I made myself a steak dinner with a dynamite sparkling rosé. And I tried to let the relief—and yes, a little joy—creep in. It was my way of showing myself I was going to be there for myself. A simple dinner but it meant so much more . . .

. . . just as my friend’s simple gift means so much more. She has witnessed my struggle. She saw me earn my deep inner knowing. She saw me realize that my worth has nothing to do with my neck or my forehead. And she acknowledged that worth. Man, friends like that are forever keepers.

I want to tell these women showing up in my social media feeds, with their oversized lips and necks stretched taut, to stop. To put on their damn crown—a crown that has nothing to do with holding onto their long-lost 20s or 30s. And then to own their years. To spend more time developing and mining their substance than their collagen. Poor Nora died in 2012. To watch the video of her talking about aging is sad now. Because, did her neck really matter in the end? Do any of us sit around talking about it? No. But we still enjoy her substance—the movies and books she brought to the zeitgeist to enrich us.

Nora was 60 when she appeared in that video. I’m still years from that age, but I can fathom in our youth-obsessed society that 60 can be tough for a woman who is less than comfortable in her own skin. So, in the years between now and then, I will continue to try to be authentic. Just today, I updated my photo on my social sites. The old one was great, but I need to show people who I am as I age. Not who I was five or 10 years ago. I’m wearing aforementioned big ‘ole reading glasses and I still worry about my aging neck. But this is me. Now. And I earned this face, with all of its wisdom lines.

Yes, I’ll still spoon collagen peptides into my coffee every morning. I’ll exercise to combat the middle-aged middle. I’ll even get mild help with the thinker’s lines between my eyebrows.

But instead of succumbing to fears about aging, I will remember—my crown is bought and paid for. By me. Because I’ve earned my years and the different kind of beauty that comes with them. Perhaps more inner than outer.

Substance comes at a price having nothing to do with money. It beats bee-stung lips any day. Which do you want to sit next to at a dinner party?

Your answer tells me all I need to know. Show me what you’ve earned, not what you’ve bought. Because a vast chasm usually lies between the two.


51 Comments Add yours

  1. Joanne Sisco says:

    There’s really nothing for me to add because you said it all – perfectly.

    There are plenty of women who are younger, thinner, smarter, prettier, faster, etc than I am … but there is only one me. My plan is to ‘do’ me to the best of my ability for as long as I am able. The 20-something year old me is long gone, but the 60-something me is pretty amazing.

    1. candidkay says:

      And the current you is pretty amazing! I seem to recall recently seeing photographs of you ice skating and doing all sorts of other wonderful things😉

  2. Masha says:

    I look at the women you describe, they’re in my social feed also and I always wonder, show me how you really look. When I was younger I fell into the trap of wanting to have the perfect nose and lips and hair and thighs. And now that I know myself different and love myself just the way I am I’m thinking, it’s got to be exhausting to always keep yourself up that way. Thank you Kay, I love the way you write, you have a special gift of expressing life.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Masha! 🙏🏻 I think the same when I see those women and interact with them. It must be absolutely exhausting to keep up the pretense.

  3. George says:

    “Show me what you’ve earned, not what you bought.” That’s a great line! I understand the desire to feel and look young. I hesitate to say especially for women because that indicates a double standard. But it’s true. The double standard is there, whether we like to admit it or not, and I don’t think it will stop being an issue until women, like you, realize you are all beautiful just the way you are. We can do what we can to fend off time but it’s really only a bandaid on reality. Most men don’t think the same way because society doesn’t view them the same way. Harsh but true. I’ve lived with four women for a good part of my life and I understand but like you, I want them to wear the crown they earned, however it fits. Because at the end of the day, it’s not the gold crown that beautiful, but the mind it sits on.
    Once again….great post, Kristine.

    1. candidkay says:

      I am sure living with four women has helped you to understand, but I get the feeling that you would probably be a wise man even if not :-). I do think it will take more women being true to who they are and not buying into the unreasonable standards that our society is still sets. Thank you, as always, for your kind words. And your wise commentary.

  4. markbialczak says:

    Beauty really is a natural thing, starting inside and working its way out into the world. That’s my theory, Kay, and I’ll stick to it.

    1. candidkay says:

      Wise words, Mark! I agree.

  5. “Substance comes at a price having nothing to do with money.” This quote is fire. I love this. Always a brilliant writer and thinker.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you–those are very kind words. I’m glad this one struck you. I had a feeling it might:). Being a woman in a major metro area and dealing . . .

  6. “Show me what you’ve earned, not what you’ve bought.” I hear you loud and clear. I find the sexiest things about a person to be their confidence and when their face lights up with happiness. Our society loves to worship youth. The older I get, the more I value wisdom.

    1. candidkay says:

      Isn’t it funny (and wonderful) how our definition of sexy changes as we age?

  7. mydangblog says:

    The neck thing–sigh. It just started a few months ago, but there’s nothing I can really do about it except to accept that it’s from all those years of looking up optimistically:-)

    1. candidkay says:

      Lol. Mine is most definitely from not listening to my mother yell out the door as I sunbathed in the backyard: “Put on some sunscreen. Trust me. In about 30 years, you’ll thank me.” 🙂

  8. modestly says:

    I love how my looks are not what define me! I embraced my greying hair and its longer now than at any time before. What worries me more is my mind!

    1. candidkay says:

      You are not alone in embracing that gray. I know several women who have stopped coloring their hair–and they look stunning. And comfortable in their own skin. Good for you!

  9. This isn’t something I see much of in the flesh here, but it really saddens me when I see actresses and the like have had things done and I just wish they would let nature take its course! I can understand why they don’t but I wonder where it will all end.

    1. candidkay says:

      I understand. I have been noticing it more and more as I see snippets of stars on video. It just doesn’t look natural to have a woman who is of a certain age looking like she is trying so hard to be 25 again.

    2. nimslake says:

      Aging – scary and the neck…*sigh* yeah just another piece that I noticed recently.
      But I’ve always loved the mind, it’s sexy. Knowledge is beauty and a crown? That just makes my day!
      Thank you for putting this out there. I do challenges but the body race is not one of them. The hair.well let’s just say that for now I’m digging the purple that I just tried 😉 No fear here! Hair, it grows and it’s funny where the tinsel shows!! (Lol!)

      Thanks for a great post. Keep those “Keepers” for they are priceless 😘

      1. Hi Nims, looks like you’ve replied to my comment rather than to Kristine’s post.

      2. nimslake says:

        Hi Andrea!
        I did, sorry about that. Tablet was freezing when I posted…grrr.

      3. candidkay says:

        Purple? Wow! Well, at least people won’t probably focus on the neck! Maybe I should try that:).

  10. Roy McCarthy says:

    A post which will have women (and men too) everywhere cheering Kristine. We that are fortunate enough to live in the first world have every opportunity to look after ourselves via diet, exercise & healthcare and to make the best of what we have. And these days women in particular can be stunning into older age when years ago most had given up by age 40. I’ve a good friend of 60+ who is more beautiful now than when she was 20. I must say that, here in Jersey, C.I. there seems to be little talk of, or desire for, bodily enhancements.

    1. candidkay says:

      Maybe I should move to Jersey :-). Roy, I am sure your friend looks great at 60. But I also think it says something about you that you can appreciate a woman’s changing beauty as she ages. What stymies me is that so many of the women who perform these rather extreme and expensive enhancements do not realize that they are participating in their own objectification. I am all for looking good, but it should come from your soul. Not from someone else’s Version of female beauty. We are worth more as people than as decorative objects. Thank you, as always, for your kind comments. I hope all is well in your life!

  11. Su Leslie says:

    Such a thoughtful, honest post. I am now closer to sixty than fifty, and more contented in my very imperfect body than I have ever been. I exercise now to help me cope with arthritis and wear make up when I remember to. I applaud all women who consciously choose who they will be, no matter how difficult that choice is. The more of us who do that, the better things will be for our daughters, nieces, and granddaughters.

    1. candidkay says:

      I believe the same. The more of us who are truly authentic, the more the antiquated sculpted and painted version of a woman appears. And I do believe that version belongs in the dark ages. I am all for self-improvement and looking good, but not when it is due to an unrealistic ideal that is foisted upon us.

      1. Su Leslie says:

        So much of the vision of “beauty” we’re force-fed is really about selling products and procedures — whatever the cost to individuals ☹️

      2. candidkay says:

        So true. And about a patriarchy that likes pretty versus real.

  12. Wonderful post. There is so much truth here. You definitely deserve your 👑 crown!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! Kind words. I hope yours is sparkling atop your head at this very moment.

      1. It certainly is! Thank you…

  13. Karen Lang says:

    It would be easier if society embraced the wise old crone, rather than the young the firm and the flighty! But if I decide each day to embrace her and all that’s sagging in between, then together, we will all start to accept and feel more comfortable in our crowns! 💕✨

    1. candidkay says:

      She is an archetype, right? I mean, it seems like we should at least have respect for our archetypes :-).

      1. Karen Lang says:

        Indeed! I’m looking forward to becoming her ✨👏

  14. fritzdenis says:

    I’ve always found women who are trying very hard to look glam a bit scary. My wife wore a bit of make-up when we first dated, but gave it up after I asked her why she bothered. She looked great without it. I liked seeing the real her, not the false display…Like the reading glasses photo, by the way.

    1. candidkay says:

      I love that you were able to help boost her confidence to just let her unpainted face shine through. I have male friends who’ve had really rude awakenings the first time they’ve seen a glam beau sans makeup. Thanks for the props on the reading glasses photo. This is the me that takes care of business. Soooo . . . he –whoever he ends up to be–will have to love it:)> She appears far more often than her glam counterpart.

  15. Well, as someone (shriek) past the post of 60, it is what it is! I have friends who’ve done Botox but CHOOSING a needle that’s not medically necessary ain’t for me.

    I also wear a lot of scarves and turtlenecks, stylishly, so I don’t have to stress about my neck — which still looks OK anyway.

    I won’t admit to my age on social media because I compete professionally with people half my age. I don’t want or need to look like them, but I do need to compete with and beat them! I do admit to avoiding more professional situations now where the majority are likely to be in their 20s or 30s. I don’t want to be read as someone’s “mom”.

    1. candidkay says:

      I understand that. It is odd to be just entering an era where I am the elder stateswoman. I keep thinking that our attitude will become more enlightened and we will worship wisdom rather than youth-particularly in the workplace. But not yet, I guess.

      1. I agree!

        My industry is hopelessly focused on young/cheap and dismisses anyone over 40 as a “digital immigrant” even when I use social media better and with higher engagement than many younger than I. Very frustrating.

        I don’t see this improving any time soon. I wish. But capitalism, ageism and discrimination with NO consequences mitigate against this.

      2. candidkay says:

        The digital piece is a big divide. I agree. But it something we will all hopefully figure out. There’s too large a brain trust at the upper levels of working ages to just let it slide.

      3. That would be lovely.

  16. Yes, couldn’t agree more. Wear your crown with pride. Recently, when travelling, I stopped wearing makeup and found it liberating. Now home, I wear makeup when I’m out and about. For me, a smile gives the world beauty and it is, of course, about inner beauty too. A xxx

    1. candidkay says:

      I often wonder, if aliens landed on earth, what they would think about our crazy culture. Only the women paint their faces. And undergo painful procedures To look like they are not aging, even though common sense tells us they are aging. Just bizarre.

  17. Dale says:

    Oh darlin’… you tell me you love how I “can still put your essence on the table, unabashedly, and make us feel” – well, my friend, the exact same thing applies to you.
    And I shall smile my big-ass smile that makes my crinkles show and I’ll keep on buying pretty sexy bras so those 38-longs are picked up to give a nice cleavage but the truth will come out eventually – coz, like you, I did go to get some information and came back deciding to learn to love when they had become…and even if I could afford it (or choose to spend it) I wouldn’t…

    You are beautiful. Wear that crown with pride. I’m wearing mine.

    1. candidkay says:

      Amen. Let’s show them real, shall we? A refreshing change from what fills the airwaves.

  18. Well written Kristine. A crown of truth glows more beautiful than any other treasure dear lady. Yours has a most wonderful glow…exactly as you are ❤

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, sweet sir. Kind words!

  19. Love who you are. And it’s worth celebrating, as your friend showed you. Wear that crown proudly. And the glasses. As for me, I’m falling in love with turtlenecks — and just in time. Hail to the Queen!

    1. candidkay says:

      Loving who you are sure beats the alternative, right? Oh, turtlenecks are a fave of mine. But I’ve been wearing them since my 20s. I guess they were wasted on my young neck then, right?!

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