I recently stumbled upon an article in T Magazine called Laws of Attraction. It’s about how a woman’s true beauty is uncovered with age, and how this is something that is done especially well by the French, who know how to honor what happens to women as they age. Though I’m only 26, I have always been especially interested in aging, especially why women tend to feel less beautiful as they grow wiser, and also why our culture seems to be uncomfortable with the female aging process.
The piece was so fascinating I read it several times, and wanted to share some of my favorite parts with you in order to have a bit of a discussion on the topic (my emphasis added)…
“Only with stupid men does a woman’s intelligence count against her. But maybe a hundred generations of stupid men have succeeded in convincing women that they’re only as good as the condition of their skin. There has probably never been a period so youth-obsessed as ours: we speak of unlined faces as we once spoke of noble minds, and a certain Fitzgeraldian gold lies in the shallow caverns of youth, from where our popular culture mines it to death. And yet, just as the best gold is hallmarked, so is the greatest beauty distinguished by knowledge, skill, spirit and longevity.”
“True beauty is not built to diminish, but to mature. Sexiness is not a stroke of luck but a movable feast. It manifests in different ways over time and under a variety of conditions.”
“Women everywhere should take heart. There is no sell-by date on the interestingness of a profile or the depth of someone’s eyes. Frenchwomen respect the natural adornments of time and are perhaps less in thrall to the fatal glow of false youth. What Frenchwomen often have is the confidence to inhabit themselves at all costs. They don’t want to be somebody else, or have somebody else’s breasts or lips or personality or legs. And this kind of confidence can make for a passionate, healthy self-possession.”
“The women I grew up with got lost in the years after their youth because they had no one to be once their looks changed. Instead, now perhaps we can look at a beautiful woman and know she will be beautiful to the end of her life. She will be different, of course. And yet, like a fine Proustian sentence, she will have gathered time and harvested memory, lived through a million bodily shocks and mental joys and arrived at the perfect embodiment of herself right now.“
I love the emphasis on the ripening of beauty with time, and also the acknowledgement that in our culture, our intelligence, skill and spirit are often less valued than our appearance—something that makes me so sad and, quite honestly, angry. I can’t help but think of Diane Keaton’s character in Something’s Gotta Give (confession: this is one of my favorite movies).
I won’t summarize the whole movie here, but I will say, I love the movie because it is a celebration of beauty that comes with age. At one point in the movie, Keaton’s character is called “a woman to love,” and that’s a phrase I have kept in my head ever since I heard it. Intelligence, personal accomplishments, pursuing our passions, raising a family, and of course, personality are all part of our beauty—right now, and especially with time, as we develop more and more into the truest forms of ourselves.
Did you read the article? What are your favorite parts/takeaways from it? Let’s discuss…
P.S. Beauty that grows.