On being a babe….or not

Doris Lessing copyright Eamonn McCabe, with thanks

I see I am not the only one to find Pamela Stephenson’s comments on the ABC’s Q and A panel this week so fascinating. An actor, sex therapist, comedian and wife of Billy Connolly, I heard a long time ago — through a bizarre series of personal links — that she had chosen to have breast implants and I had also read about her choice to have plastic surgery, and to use Botox.

But the other night on Q and A, in answer to a question from a young woman in the audience about why someone would choose medical intervention rather than simply accept the ageing process (I’m paraphrasing here) she replied that it was because she “wanted to be a babe.”

The other members of the panel felt compelled to add the PC line that surgery/intervention is up to each individual woman, and that no woman (or man) should diss another woman for having it etc etc. But can I say here that actually there is a very real argument for supporting women so that they can make the choice NOT to have such surgery or intervention?

I know all the arguments: but you use lipstick don’t you? Hairdryers and skin lotions and face powder and all those other things that constitute artiface?  Humans — men and women — have been adorning, adding, subtracting, tatooing, extending their lips or their ears with rings or plates or whatever, ever since humans had bodies.

Well, yes. Each of us is probably engaged, to a greater or lesser extent, with presenting our best physical self to the world. And every woman — no matter how plain or how beautiful or how ugly – can tell you a story about how the way she looks has resulted in certain outcomes. When I was writing ON BEAUTY, I catalogued what happened to humans who are beautiful and the effects of beauty are often very real rather than symbolic. A beautiful woman — an exceptionally beautiful woman I mean, not just a pretty one — has to get around her own beauty, so to speak, and so does an ugly one.

Every one of us, too, has a rough idea of where we fall on the beauty scale. I have the kind of appearance that appeals to a certain kind of man, but another kind of man finds no appeal whatsoever in my face. I am still recovering from the wound of being told that I most resemble Rowan Atkinson in his Mr Bean persona.

And every one of us is vain, to a greater or lesser degree. For instance, when I was in my early 40s, I wrote a hot-hearted defence of grey hair and in a flame of self-righteousness I declared that I, Susan Johnson, would NEVER dye my hair. I listed all the women in the public eye who are still not grey –Susan Sarandon, Madonna, Hilary Clinton, Quentin Bryce, Hilary McPhee — and I could hardly name any who had eschewed the dye bottle (Emmy Lou Harris is the pin up silver haired girl).

But now I am 55 years old, and I had to return to the workforce recently. I am working with people not only ten years younger than me but twenty years and thirty years younger. So — in a typical slinking-out-the-back-door compromise — I use wash-out six-weekly rinses (NOT dye!! NOT dye) to colour my hair, trying to convince myself that since I am not DYEING my hair it is not artificially coloured. Yeah, right.

Look, no way around it: I am dying. I am on the train that is going in only one direction, and what dyeing your hair or Botoxing your face or getting a surgeon to pull up the skin of your sagging jaw is trying to do is pull the emergency stop cord.

But, hey, folks, the train aint going to stop! It’s going one way, and what the grey hair and the sagging and the wrinkles are telling you is that your time with dark hair and no sags and no wrinkles is over. Move over! Let the unlined youth climb aboard! Unclutch your hands! Let life pass over you, let the trajectory of birth to death continue on its way.

Mourn your unblemished, smooth skin. Mourn your glossy curls. Yes, it’s a grief, no way around it: it’s a grief because it’s about loss. Loss feels like all the other losses that have come before, all the losses like Russian dolls packed inside you.

But, sweetie, sweetie, you can’t be a babe at sixty. You just can’t, no matter how sexy you feel. For the record I feel sexier now, at 55, than I have felt in a long, long time, and possibly part of that is because I know my physical self is altering. I know my face is passing away, and that hurts.

Don’t think I haven’t noticed that Helen Garner is still dying her hair. Don’t think I haven’t noticed how bright, crazy-red the hair on Kate Grenville’s head is now, and how it keeps getting brighter and brighter. Don’t think I haven’t seen Lily Brett’s dark, curled head, the beautiful kohl-rimmed eyes.

We are all going on that necessary journey, as Colette once said. But let us travel like Doris Lessing, who said that when she finally understood that she had entered the terrain of the invisible older woman she felt grief, yes, but she also felt strangely free, as if she finally stood revealed, without her carapce, as if she was at last herself. I want that, too: I have a lot of fears  about how I am going to get there from here but I am not enough afraid to yearn, still, to be a babe.

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36 Responses to On being a babe….or not

  1. Sue Bond says:

    Thanks for this, Susan. I dye my hair with henna, and nearly every time I do it I think, ‘When will I stop doing this and just go silver?’ I’ve been doing it since I was in my late thirties, when the white first appeared. But it’s about the only concession I do make to camouflage, as I’ve never worn makeup, don’t go to the hairdresser, and don’t intend to have anything ‘enhanced’. I’ve always thought it strange that women are expected, by each other and by men, to look ‘perfect’ while men are not. I’m sure I won’t be happy when I hit menopause and things start to sag and wrinkle even more than they have already (!) but I’m also prepared to learn to accept it. I’m not prepared to accept my brain turning to porridge, however, and do try to work on that!!!

    • Susan says:

      Ah, henna. Yes, I remember it well — and Magic Silver White (even though I had dark hair and it turned your hair a lively stage of purple!) But you’ve hit the spot I think — in the end, it is the brain that is the critical thing, no? Now the brain can definitely be a babe, right up until the end (good fortune permitting…) Thanks for dropping in Sue!

  2. steve mcleod says:

    As sad and inevitable as life is, a brilliant piece SJ. Very worthy reading, and that word worthy has been abused of late. It was more than worth reading.
    One shouldn’t forget that Pamela Stephenson has always been a bit of a tart, never a babe. She tried everything to be a Page 3 girl in London years ago, for Chrissakes. I don’t believe the editors fancied her chances, ever.
    But once a tart, always a tart. I think a “babe” is a naturally sexy woman of any age. I have a sixty-five-year-old girlfriend in Sydney who is extremely sexy – problem is she cannot find a man to keep it up anymore. But she is a “babe.”
    She is certainly no “tart.” A tart will do and say and believe and surgically alter anything to have men believe they are a “babe.” It will never work. We can see the seams and scars, we can sense the private, desperate disappointments, we realise that fake tits can explode, implode, shift shape and utterly resist human touch.
    Now, of course, you have to be blessed to be an old “babe.” And you need to be sensible not to become an old “tart.”
    Those of us in-between must just accept our lot, and wait for other natural human beings who are interested in personalities.
    And, by the way, wasn’t Collette simply walking lipstick and kohl when she died?

    • Susan says:

      Thanks for the musings Steve….hhmmm, isn’t it interesting, this word stuff? I am hard pressed to think of male equivalents of “slapper” and “tart” and “slut”. All refer I think to a woman’s “loose morals”. I guess sometimes gay friends of mine refer to other another chap as a “tart” but it is sort of meant jovially, and lovingly, if you see what I mean. Whereas to refer to a woman as a “tart” definitely has a prejorative value…
      I like that you are using the word “babe” in an approving sense! Your definition sounds pretty good to me — it’s just that I think it sounds slightly weird to refer to oneself that way! OK for others to refer to someone as a “babe” but — blush — how vain does it sound to declare oneself one??? Interesting and wonderful and mysterious thing, language!

  3. Sarah says:

    Great post Susan, thinking about the gradations of body upkeep is always really interesting. I’m mid-30s and have stopped dyeing my hair – bit of laziness, but of feminist refusal. My poor mother is horrified, and some people find it confronting, but that just makes me more determined – I mean honestly, we are surrounded by women dyeing their hair, but rarely do we seem to actually ask why? I did feel myself being pulled back in earlier this year, but then I read a stat suggesting that in the postwar years less than 10% of all women dyed their hair – a stark contrast to today, obviously, and indicative of the historical specificity of this particular marker of youth….

    • Susan says:

      Thanks Sarah — “historical specificity” indeed! We forget that mid-30s was considered old, not so very long ago. The baby-boomers (of which I am one) have stretched middle-age out far, far into the distance — all this guff about 60 being the new 40, blah blah. I think the grey hair one is really significant actually — when I researched my story, some astounding stat revealed that 80 per cent of American women dye their hair or something, or possibly more. We still regard grey-haired men as distinguished — or at least we are supposed to regard them as distinguished. My mother started going grey in her early 30s too — unlike my dad, who I followed — but — man — you should see her now! Almost 80, with long, long, silver hair, which she wears coiled up on her head. She always looks 1000 per cent better than every dyed-haired older woman in the room!

  4. Sandra Hogan says:

    I have also been intrigued by that image of Doris Lessing on her later books. From being a proud beauty there she was, suddenly, or so it seemed, an old woman. But not just an old woman, a woman who was uncompromisingly not beautiful — her hair not only grey but pulled back tightly and not a lick of lipstick. It looked like defiance to me
    — Don’t you dare call me a babe! — so her quote about freedom without the carapace is an interesting interpretation.

    A carapace is the shell a tortoise carries isn’t it? I should look it up. Yes, that’s what it is. And of course, we identify tortoises by their shells. If I saw a tortoise without its shell, I don’t think I would know it was a tortoise. Is a tortoise free-er, more itself without the shell? Or is it simply more vulnerable to predators?

    Surely, Doris Lessing is not simply herself, without the loveliness of her youth? She is much more than that. She is a Woman with a Past, a Daring Political Activist and, most capitalised of all, a Famous Author. When she looks out, so formidably, from her cover picture, she is still not something that an ordinary woman can aspire to. She has many fine carapaces.

    Of course, an ordinary woman who has left beauty behind still has her carapaces. She can be Respectable, Athletic, Intellectual, Elegant, for example. But not, as you say, a Babe. Not most days, anyway. A beautiful woman of 18, of 25, even 30, is lovely and desirable all the time, whether the light is good and whatever she wears. After that, she is lovely under certain conditions. She wields the paint pots and hair dyes and, in her good moments, she can be a babe until … well, until the day she can’t.

    And how sad that is. No doubt about it. All of us, including those of us who were never quite beautiful, miss the glances, the flirtations, the little attentions that youth so democratically brings our way. Age brings many losses that are more serious but it doesn’t make this loss less painful.

    I agree with you that it’s not much use trying to postpone it indefinitely, especially with increasingly expensive and desperate operations. But there’s no shame in dimming the lights, lengthening our skirts, tinting our hair. Is there? And if we win an admiring look on a good day, we haven’t stolen it from a young girl. They will have plenty of that — too much at times.

    It surprises me a little that someone who is such a sublime and accomplished artist as you are should despise these little matters of artifice. Of art. The kohl around Colette’s eyes, when she was old, didn’t tell us she was hanging on to her youth. It told us she was herself, Colette, just as strongly as Lessing defined herself with the arrogance of that naked face.

    When we are young we can be just beautiful and nothing more, if we choose. When we are old, we can’t avoid being ourselves. That is what we express, whether we intend to or not. I am interested in Lessing’s stand on beauty, but Colette’s way seems more fun. As I age, I don’t want to obliterate my identity with botox, but to express it with whatever delightful and painless artefacts the cosmetics industry offers. Except, of course, on the days when I can’t be bothered.

    • Susan says:

      Oh, God no, where did you get the notion that I ‘despise’ these little matters of artiface? Not at all! I am all for lipstick and kohl and pretty dresses and prettying up in general — I thought you would know that about me! I LOVE the kohl around Colette’s eyes and hope to be wearing some myself at her age….no, what I am objecting to is the knife, the poison that is Botox, the denial. But I am a product of this denial as much as anyone — hence my dyeing of my hair. I gave it a good long shot, going grey, and then I panicked, and scuttled for cover (which may or may not be to do with getting divorced, and — using capitalism’s charming terms — “back on the market”!!) It may be nothing more edifying than that!!
      No shame at all in flattering lights, flattering haircuts, flattering looks. I got honked the other day and I stood up a little straighter in my skirt. Oh, and the other thing I am definitely not giving up — and which I will write another post about — is MUSIC. As in, contemporary music, and turning it up loud, in the car….shaking it like Madonna (who after all is the same age as me) except in the privacy of my own car or loungeroom. I will be 87 and dancing as fast as I can….

      • Sandra Hogan says:

        Oh yes, I know, and I love your pretty ways. I just meant your views on hair dye. To me the issue of whether or not to dye is an aesthetic one — some women look better when they do and some don’t. Either way, it’s nice to have fun with our hair, as well as playing loud music in the car.

        • Susan says:

          Thank you, my dear. I think there is an unreconstructed teenager lurking quite near the surface….ahem….and sometimes I feed it LOUD music!! And I still think that covering up grey hair is a different thing to lipstick — make-up and clothes etc are adornments, yes to to with aesthetics, but covering up grey hair is not merely aesthetics….grey hair is a definite marker of age in the way that lips are not, if you see what I mean. Covering up grey hair is akin to face surgery — it is act of camouflage, not of adornment, in the humble opinion of SJ !!

  5. Pingback: On wrinkles, grey hair, ‘pertness’, beauty and death: and the privatisation of the body as capital | BethSpencer.com

  6. Don Lopez says:

    Proud of the fact a Thai acquaintance on seeing me, proudly announced she was off to Thailand the next week…”To get a boob job” I told her how beautiful she was and the possible complications, which I am sure the plastic butcher would have neglected to tell her.
    Well she returned, having had a better/cheaper holiday and no bloody boob job.

    • Susan says:

      Phew, and double phew! I have to say I have heard some ghastly Thai plastic surgery stories…..boob jobs are fantastic for masectomy reconstructions and other necessary surgeries but can’t say I approve otherwise! Thanks for the comment…

      • Don Lopez says:

        Pardon me for being so bold… I think it is artifice & not artiface, however
        the latter might be more appropriate regarding the subject we are touching on.

        • Susan says:

          Yes, you are right! Dashed off I’m afraid and no spell check! (And I am SUCH a good speller :) ) actually, normally not bad: only two words I can never remember —- ‘correspondence/ correspondance’ and ‘practice/practise’ thanks!

  7. Jenny says:

    Hi Susan

    Interesting post. I am 49 in a couple of months and about three years ago decided to stop dyeing my hair. I had been going grey since my mid twenties and after twenty years of colouring (cost, hassle, regrowth) let it go. I am lucky to have white hair pretty much all over the crown and grey underneath and at the back. I get my hairdresser to put some funky black Elvira strips into for some contrast it but it’s such a relief to not have to worry about block-colouring. I’ve had strangers tell me how fabulous my hair is. It would be great if more women let themselves go grey – and I am seeing it a little more in Melbourne – but to be honest, most people are too … something. I want to say gutless. To me it feels like a type of defiance.

    • Susan says:

      Thanks Jenny…yes, that is a great way of describing it — defiance. It IS defiant to stand against everything society holds dear — that is, that to be a woman is to be judged first and foremost on appearance. It just doesn’t hold true in the same way for chaps..
      And, yes, I would call it gutless too, this great fear of appearing unadorned. I would never, ever leave the house without make-up on, for example, and I recall that Germaine Greer once declared that as an example of mental illness — a woman not being able to leave her own house without her warpaint. But that’s me, and many, many other women — interesting point that Sarah made about “historical specificity’ because there’s also “cultural specificity” — I’ve had lots of debates with my older French women friends about face-lifts. Some of them think it is just something one does when one reaches a certain age — no issues about it whatsoever. Many, many interesting discussions to be had on this! Thanks!

  8. Jane Sawyer says:

    great commentary SJ – on the nail. I cringed when I heard her say it….more for the young girl (and all the other young girls who might have been watching) because what sort of a message does it send to them? Doris Lessing, yes! I posted on my FB today: “I wanna be Louise Bourgeois!”

    • Susan says:

      Oh yes I LOVE LOVE LOVE Louise Bourgeoise! She is one of my absolute heroines. When I saw her retrospective at Tate Modern a couple of years ago, I was weeping by the time I came out. Such beauty. Such emotion. Such POWER.

  9. Debbie Mengem says:

    What an excellent post! So funny same age as you, just had my hair cut super short and all of a sudden all the silver bits are really showing through. Ran to get the rinse I’ve had sitting in the cupboard for 10 months, waiting for the 20 minutes to be up before I rinse it out and opened to your piece! It is definitely confronting entering into the age when you watch yourself morph into an older version of what you don’t feel inside your head (more so when you still have young teenagers to remind you of glowy skin and glossy hair) but the ironic part of watching Pamela Stephenson was with her long hair and all the work she had done it actually made her look older. I would have thought being married to Billy Connolly she would have spent so much time laughing lines would be the last thing on her mind. I wonder if she feels weird when she is with people her own age who are ‘unaltered’

    • Susan says:

      Yes, interesting to know how that works (relationship with Connolly I mean) but surely living in LA would be the worst place in the whole world for a woman to live? It prizes only youth and beauty in a woman and only very, very occasionally allows talented women to slip through the net — Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon etc….but Hollywood is there!! Where beautiful young girls are produced as in a sausage machine — it would make any woman neurotic!!
      I am not at all saying that growing old isn’t confronting — it is. I remember my (very beautiful) grandmother, Molly, getting her veins ‘done’ when she was about 80. It was purely cosmetic, nothing medical, just that she didn’t want ‘ugly’ broken veins on her legs –I recall thinking ‘Who on earth is even LOOKING at an 80 year old’s legs?’ But, you know what? Her vanity, her care about how she looked, was a version of vitality, a sign of life. She DID care, and men cared too — she was married three times — the longest for fifty years to my grandfather, and then he died, and she remarried within the year, and then he died, and she married again! Count it, people — three! Remember all those statistics about the chances of a single heterosexual woman getting married was lower than getting shot by a terrorist? Well, there are about 3 men to every thousand woman once you get to my grandmother’s age — but, reader, she found ‘em and married ‘me. Men LOVED her….
      So, I guess this little parable is about the key to old age not being how one looks but how vital how one is, how engaged and interested and aware one is not only of oneself — be it one’s surface veins or one’s novel! — but of other people, and your engagement with them. Everyone who knows me knows that my lovely, lovely much mourned Molly was my role-model.
      It’s not necessarily the multiple husbands I want — er, no thanks — it’s the vitality, the willingness to get one’s veins done.

  10. Jean Bedford says:

    I don’t dye, in the forlorn hope that my hair will one day turn a lovely shade of pewter (eg Wendy Bacon and Susan Wyndham) but at 66 I think I have to accept it’s going to stay salt and pepper. Mostly I find ageing very interesting: the sight of my sags and wrinkles in the mirror is both startling and fascinating; I stopped wearing eyeliner some years ago when I noticed it was starting to follow the crows’ feet. I don’t like the physical degeneration that comes with age, though. Wearing glasses, arthritis, other things beyond your control. But it is interesting to see how differently you are perceived as you grow well beyond child-bearing age, as if you’ve also grown beyond the contemporary world. And it’s amusing how surprised some people are when they find out you are still intellectually engaged and even on social media (the receptionist at my doctor’s recently said to me ‘I don’t suppose you use email, do you?’ I’d been scrolling through Twitter as I waited for my appointment, in fact). At the same time, many of my friends are much younger than me and I still seem able to communicate effectively with my daughters, who I don’t think yet regard me as ‘old’.

    My 7-year-old grandson hates it when the gelato guy calls me ‘young lady’; he thinks it’s cheeky and inaccurate. I tell him the guy’s trying to be nice, that he thinks he’s flattering me, but of course the 7-year-old is right – it’s belittling and not many years ago I would have called him on it. I don’t mind people giving up their seats in buses, though.

    Staying a babe? Well I don’t think I’ve ever been one, and unless you’re prepared to surgically remodel yourself like Cher or you’re lucky enough to have amazing bone structure and enduring beauty like Tina Turner it probably isn’t a realistic proposition for the older woman. But I’d like to age gracefully, at least until I turn into the mad old crone with too many cats in a shack on a remote beach somewhere, shaking a stout stick at anyone who ventures near, that I’ve always half hankered after being. This is not to say that I wouldn’t have a face-lift if I could afford one …

    • Susan says:

      Oh, yes, I forgot about Susan Wyndham’s lovely grey hair (Susan is Books Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald for readers who don’t know her — and a great beauty). But would you really have a face lift if you had the money? I wonder if you could bring yourself to really do it — but, as I said, none of my French friends think it is even a subject to discuss! Simone (aged almost 86 and to whom MY HUNDRED LOVERS is dedicated) has had three, and talks quite openly about each one lasting ten years — first in her sixties I think.
      I quite enjoy the idea of being a mad old bat, too, Jean. If I was taller I would wear a big black cloak and where my hair long and silver down my back, but I fear I will shrink with time, like all the other Johnson-Bell-McAllister gene-carrying older folk before me. I am not looking forward to the arthritis, sore feet, sore backs etc etc that comes with age — having experienced a little of what it is like to not be able to move quickly enough to cross a street, following all my surgery post-childbirth. The realm of the sick and the old is not the realm of the young and the healthy, that’s for sure.
      Still, I think of people like Quentin Crisp and Louise Bourgeoise and Colette and Lucien Freud — I saw him with a young woman at dinner not many months before he died — it was in London and I was with someone who had known him as a girl, so we went over for a gush. He was 84 and his eyes were totally ALIVE!! I want to be like that please….

      • Jean Bedford says:

        Yes there are some great role models. The poet and journalist Elizabeth Riddell was one of mine. Her eyes had a sharp malicious twinkle and she could still put down pretension with a word when she was quite old. She was energetic and engaged right to the end and had also been a great beauty in her day, I think.

  11. Elisabeth says:

    Thanks for a wonderful post. I have been thinking about this issue for some time now. Not only women, but men suffer this infirmity- the shame of growing old. When I was a child I remember thinking it would be a good idea to die at sixty. Sixty would be a good age to go, before everything fails. Now kicking at sixty and soon to reach the next decade I have decided sixty is far too young to die. Daily I become more like my mother who at 93 refuses to concede to the idea that she is old. She will not wear her glasses in company because in her mind she looks better without them.

    I suspect the shame comes from our increased vulnerability as we age, that dread of invisibility, irrelevance and redundancy, but more, it’s about moving out of the mainstream idea of youth and beauty and into the sidelines. No longer center stage but in the wings waiting to retire.

    • Susan says:

      Thanks Elizabeth, I totally agree about how little the aged are valued in first world cultures. Very different in some Asian and African countries. This great fear of ageing is not only about fear of death but fear of dismissal and contempt and disregard. Who would be old in America by choice? Especially old and poor…

  12. Genevieve Tucker (@mulberry_road) says:

    Susan, I am so excited that I have this list of comments and this thought provoking post to peruse at my morning break. Like Augustus Gloop, saving it for later…

    • Susan says:

      Yeah, it’s really got everyone fired up! Appearing on MamaMia site today too…that should get some interesting comments! Nice of you to drop in Ms Tucker!

  13. Genevieve Tucker (@mulberry_road) says:

    That’s great about the Mama Mia posting, it’s a fine post.
    Just wanted to add that I am beginning to notice more than a few men dyeing their hair these days, which I find quite sad, particularly the rock stars.

    However some of us are just lucky. My grandma had some natural colour until she died. Since mine was cropped and I dropped the dye, the silver has just kind of melted into the shiny black. something I didn’t think would work as well as it did. My younger sister thinks it’s wonderful (and she really is a babe).
    What is harder for me to handle is some growing rosacea – I’ve practically given up grog to stop myself getting a purple nose. And to be honest, Doris is right – it will be great when I don’t care about that any more. I give that twenty years though (I am 52!)

    • Susan says:

      Ahem, our mighty leader, Rupert, now sports a dye job….I wrote a piece on teenagers and body image a while back for Qweekend, and one of the most noticeable changes was the young boys and men who now felt body image pressure — just like young girls. Yes, not a good development. I can’t help thinking that celebrity culture is partly at fault — all of them are so skinny!! I think Will’s Kate has lost about three stone if you look at images of her from years ago — she is MUCH too skinny!
      And, yes, several of my pals have the purple nose and red cheek how-much-more-like-a-drunk-can-I-look problem!! I feel your pain, sista! I myself missed this one — phew — but if you have a couple of hours I could list my other signs of decay!!
      But much more fun not to — which is not the oh-you-don’t-have-to-get-old defence (because, actually, yes, you do) but the getting-your-veins-done approach of my darling Molly. Let’s keep rocking, sans teeth, sans hair dye!!

  14. Really enjoyed this article, Susan, and tweeted about it (for what that may be worth!). And simply want to add that for many older women there is a particular freedom in NOT thinking about whether or not they are “sexy” or sensual in anything but the most life-loving ways. It’s quite clear to me that for many women, and probably some men also, personal sexual desire fades or disappears entirely. What also goes is all that angst about whether or how they are “desirable”. If they are fortunate, love for life intensifies with this freedom, and becomes more diffused.

    • Susan says:

      Oh, I couldn’t agree more Stephanie about love for life….life-loving is the ultimate beauty tip in my experience! Just read over the weekend a review of a biography of the travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor. It spoke at length of his fascination with people, and how this was part of his charm, and how he “shone with joy.” This is ultimately what makes a person attractive or not — some light within….Thanks for dropping in Stephanie, and do hope to catch up in person again one of these days! Been following with great interest and respect your journey….beautiful, just beautiful.

  15. Ambra Sancin says:

    My grey roots greet the natural dark brown hair dye every four weeks or so. I often think how annoying the process is and threaten to stop doing it. But how can I go grey when my 88 year-old-mother still dyes her hair? I assume Pamela dyes hers too: the trick is to have a style that’s age-appropriate. Frankly, I thought she looked a bit tragic. And quite uncomfortable. Her wit too, seems to have gone the way of her wrinkles.

    • Susan says:

      Thanks Ambra…..hhmmm, I see your dilemna! Bit tricky that one….but part of the joy of mothers, yes? I just posted on twitter about my mum remarking that Penny Wong should put a pretty bow in her hair! And, yes, do agree about poor P Stephenson, such a shame (although I couldn’t do Q and A in a million years, so safe of me to criticise from the safety of my armchair! I would be pretty uncomfortable too! :) )