UN-MASKED: What Women Around-the-World Can Teach US About Beauty

By Arden Edelcup

“Beautiful Young People are accidents by nature, but Beautiful Old People are works of art” — Eleanor Roosevelt

Every single morning begins with the same masochistic ritual that I now believe is shared to some degree by every woman over 35 throughout America. It begins with the stripped down hop-on-the-scale (occasionally admonishing myself for “losing the battle” with that seductive, creamy éclair that beckoned me the night before).

Blurry eyed, I drag myself over to my arch-nemesis, the 7x lighted magnifying mirror for a quick bitch slap of reality.

Armed with my pointy tweezer and laser-sharp focus, I begin yanking and cursing each new blossoming mustache and chin hair.  After years of tweezing, waxing, electrolysis and pricey laser hair removal, I am annoyed and mystified that the hair follicles on my chin are indestructible.  HOWEVER, their upstairs neighbor — my eyebrows — never fucking grow.  I mean it is the black comedy of aging isn’t it?  Hair defiantly grows everywhere that makes us disgusting and falls off sadly on the places that reflect youth and beauty.

I know this for a fact, because I sell eyebrow pencils.  They are my best-selling item at my store.  The second most popular item, not surprisingly is the Tweezerman Tweezers. Oh, the fun doesn’t stop there. Now is the “bubbe flubby check”. I rub my hand over my neck just to see if there is any loose skin that I yank and pull back behind my ears.

I polish off this tortuous ritual with morning “wrinkle review”.  This takes concentration and focus of a surgeon.

I systematically review each millimeter of my face in search of a new uninvited dark blotch or wicked wrinkle that invaded my face during the night.  Any rational person (aka: my husband) would be bewildered by my compulsion to welcome each day with this wonderfully uplifting start.  But my defiant reply is quite simple: This is what we are supposed to do.

Aren’t we brainwashed into believing that we can “fight” the signs of aging?  Didn’t I read that 60 is the new 40 and 40 is the new 20?  What about those celebrities who gallop playfully on the beach in their bikinis only a few days after giving birth. The magazines love to include flippant little quotes about their brutal “post-baby” exercise schedule that includes various agonizing “boot camps.”

We are a little envious, yet weirdly in awe of those who have the fortitude and commitment to literally fight for their beauty.

Don’t we all sort of feel a little “defeated” when our scale tips a few pounds in the upward direction?  Don’t we owe it to ourselves and to our daughters to try and find a kinder and gentler approach?  I found some sound advice from our sisters from around the globe who take a more LOVING approach to beauty and aging. Here is some of that wisdom I believe can really serve us well:

“Think French” & Take Pleasure in Your Beauty Routine – French girls are taught by their mothers that taking care of their skin is a pleasure, not a chore.  Most French women take joy in stocking their daughters’ bathrooms with delicious gels and lotions. “It is part of our culture,” says Valerie Gallais, MD, a renowned French dermatologist.  According to Dr. Gallais, once you start to think like the French, you will begin to notice that even the simplest beauty ministrations have a calming effect.  Taking the “just-for-me moment” isn’t just about applying lotions, it is stress relieving. And perhaps that is the true benefit here.  Stress raises cortisol levels, and cortisol accelerates aging.  So stressing about our looks is actually making us age faster.

  1. “Keep Thinking French” and Own Your Sensuality at Any Age –– In France, older actresses like Juliette Binoche, 49, and Catherine Deneuve, 69, still nab leading lady roles in French cinema that portray them as sensual love interests, not the comic sidekick or the matronly neighbor next door.  In an American movie industry oversaturated with bland “coming-of-age love stories” — it was so satisfying to see, “Enough Said” with Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and the late hunky James Gandolfini. Both in their 50’s, it was a classic and sexy middle-aged love story that met with rave reviews, including mine.  The mid-life complications brought a depth to their relationship and, made for an incredibly sexy and layered love story.
  2. “One Last Thing from the French” — Sex Keeps You Young-Studies show that 90% of French women over the age of 50 remain sexually active, compared to (gulp) only a meager 60% of American women.  I actually had to read that statistic twice. Studies show that people who get busy in the sheets look anywhere from five to seven years younger than those who don’t. Sexual pleasure has proven to be a crucial factor in preserving youth for the following reasons. First, sex releases a human growth hormone which helps keep the skin elastic and thus less likely to wrinkle. Secondly, sex releases endorphins which are the body’s feel-good chemical and natural painkillers that ease anxiety and make it easier to sleep. Lastly, sex burns fat (yahoo!) and releases other chemicals that bolster the immune system.  So next time, you reach for the miracle anti-aging lotion, consider reaching for your man instead.  Sex is cheaper than Botox and forever more enjoyable then needles in the face!
  3. “Israeli’s Embrace a Keep in Simple Mantra”  — The words to best describe Israeli women’s approach to aging, is “less IS more”.  While they adopt a no-nonsense approach to their fashion and beauty routines, women over 50 are still described as having an “earthy sexiness” to them.  Simple, unfussy styles designed more for comfort than trends, light makeup that wears well in the blistering heat and hair that is often wrapped in a head scarf rather than being blow dried into submission.  The Israeli women I spoke with are devotees to the power of Dead Sea salts to exfoliate their skin and a little olive oil to moisturize.  Their beauty regime sounds good enough to eat and emphasizes their priorities in life which is: Don’t sweat the small stuff and keep in simple.
  4. “Cycle Around Denmark to Keep your body Rockin’” — In Denmark, (also just named the “Happiest Place in the World”), over 50% of their citizens cycle to work.  Those Smiling Danish forego the expensive gym membership and grueling “spin class” for the practical, yet healthy endeavor of peddling to work.  Just 30 minutes of daily biking adds an average of one to two years to the life expectancy of Copenhagen’s cyclists.  Not to obsess about the French women, but they too tend to incorporate walking into their daily routines.  They tend to reject our notion of “no pain, no gain”, and embrace this more sane and sustained exercise plan. So next time I am fighting for the closest parking spot at my insanely overpriced exercise club, I am going to tap into my inner Dane and hoof it a few more feet.

So after some rare self-reflection, I decided that I am going to embrace the wisdom of women from around the globe.  While I am not quite ready to surrender my tweezers any time soon, or enthusiastically embrace those wiry white hairs dancing on my head, or triumphantly toss my scale outside the window — I am eager to take my first few “baby steps” toward graceful aging enlightenment.

So tomorrow morning I am going to start my day by “smiling” at my 49-year-old reflection in that brightly magnified mirror.

Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: I LOVE THIS PIECE — honest, beautiful and embraces the best of what women offer … Arden Edelcup is a Mom of three “Indiana Hoosiers” and owner, with her hubby Earl Edelcup, of Ross’s in Highland Park, Illinois. Check out her website: www.rosscosmetic.com.



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