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You look good … for your age

Posted on Monday, September 6, 2010 in Aging, Happiness, Honesty, Kat, Relationships, Self image

Mia had a goofy little smile on her face when we met for coffee before work the other morning.

“What’s with you?”

“Nothing, why?”

“Did Rex rock your sexy little world last night? You look pretty damn pleased with yourself.”

“Oh, ha! No, this guy in my yoga class was shocked when he found out how old I am. He told me I look 10 years younger.”

“Well, you do. Yeah, when I told a gal how old
I was the other day, she said I looked great for
my age.”     

“Ugh, I hate that ‘for your age’ thing. It’s like such
a backhanded compliment.”

“Me, too. What exactly does my age look like?

Do you know?

“For your age” is not something you hear when you’re in your 20s and 30s, the decades of youth and assumed beauty, although, honestly, I’ve seen a lot of not so-attractive 20- and 30-somethings.

Then, at some point around your 40s, you enter
that particular subset of beauty — the  “for your
age” subset.

I suppose it’s a compliment, but again — what is
a middle-aged woman “supposed” to look like?
Damned if I know, but I’m certainly not going to
turn to the world at large to help me figure it out.

Some women my age are wearing Lane Bryant
size 18s. They’re overweight and under-exercised, and they’ve let themselves go. Compared with them, you bet I look great! Is that what my age is “supposed” to look like? No thank you!

And then there are the women my age who’ve
turned themselves into living Barbie dolls, adding or subtracting body parts like Mrs. Potato Head, injecting chemicals and fillers to smooth, boost and erase, re-creating themselves into what they want to look like and not who they really are. Is that what my age is “supposed” to look like? God, I hope not!

OK, sure — there are many people who think those women look a lot better than I do. Maybe they do. But beyond my minor beauty sleights-of-hand — highlighting my hair (which is not permanent, BTW), a little lipstick, eyeshadow and mascara and keeping the aging wolves at bay by moisturizing like hell — I’m just not interested in putting my body through that.

And, I don’t think it even think it looks good. It looks fake.

I don’t have some secret-to-youth beauty routine. I don’t do anything extraordinary, certainly not anything expensive. In fact, I’m pretty shocked — and very, very thankful — that all those years of my “youthful indiscretions” and of blowing off my mom’s warnings about sunscreen and moisturizer before I got with the program didn’t damage me for good.

Perhaps my “looking great” is genetic. Maybe, I should thank my mom and dad although I didn’t think like that when I was younger.

I was part of the “hope I die before I get old” generation, so I used to look at my parents and think, “You’re just so old!” There was nothing about them that looked or acted youthful.

Yet when I looked through an album of family photos recently, I was blown away by one of my mom taken when she was around my age, maybe a few years younger. Her lips were lush and red, her tight shirt displayed her ample bosom and tiny waist, her face was vibrant and sexy. My mom was a babe! A middle-aged hottie. How could I not have seen that when I was younger?

I guess our vision of what middle age looks like is still being guided by our impressions from when we were young and flawless. We saw wrinkles, saggy arms, veiny legs. And, you know, most of us do start looking like that when we’re “old” old — although who knows if people in their 70s and 80s see it that way. I’ll let you know when I get there.

So, I’m neither flattered nor upset when people tell me that I look great “for my age,” whether they mean it sincerely or whether it’s a backhanded way to point out that I’m old … or at least older than they are. Instead, I just thank them.

Inside, though, I may snicker.

All that really matters is that when I look in the mirror, I honestly can say that, yeah, I’m looking pretty good. I care enough about myself to care for myself; how can I expect anyone else to care about me if I don’t do it myself? And, really, that attitude looks good at any age.

  • How do you decide if someone looks good, or do you judge it by his/her age?
  • Is it a compliment if someone tells you that, or …?
  • What’s your beauty “secret”?

Photo © Angelika Bentin –

Bring on the comments

  1. BigLittleWolf
    Twitter: BigLittleWolf

    I chuckled at this one. That “you look good for your age” is a shocker at first. Then you just smile and go on about your business.

    If you ask me, it’s genetics + eating + sleeping + exercise + manageable stress. A sex life doesn’t hurt! It’s also a matter of luck, Kat. Some of those size 18 women you mention? (No, I am not one of those.) I do know some. From the outside looking in, you don’t know if medical conditions, injuries, or miserable stress is part of putting on pounds or not being able to shed them.

    I think the desire to “look good for your age” gives way to wanting to feelgood, whatever your age. Which really, is the most important thing. And it certainly helps, when it comes to the public or private persona.

  2. T
    Twitter: tsquest

    Well, I’ve met you and you’re a hottie!!


    Ah yes… guess I’ll be hearing that “for your age” stuff too, now that I’m in my 40’s.

    I’ll take it!

  3. Steve says:

    I developed an interest in nutrition when I was a teenager, so I am currently receiving a lot of those “you look great for your age” compliments. I have had the same had the same thought about “back handed compliments”, but I know that they are not and I will TAKE them. I don’t know too many other guys “my age” that will get 20 somethings flirting with them when they go out. Particularly if I use the male equivalent of high heels…aka, the sport coat :).

  4. Steve says:

    what is a middle-aged woman “supposed” to look like?

    You got it right. A lot of excess weight. Stretch pants or sweat pants. A “man cut” short hair cut. General neglect, or overdoing the fight against time by looking like an actress auditioning for a remake of “Death Becomes Her”.

    Middle aged men go bald and not in a sex way. Then there are the bear bellies. Wearing office shoes and socks with shorts. Dressing like a big 12 year old.

  5. dadshouse
    Twitter: dadshouseblog

    I get the opposite from my teen daughter. I’m fit and active, and get told I look young for my age. Full head of hair, flat stomach, etc. So whenever I find a photo in the newspaper of some businessman who is younger than me, but is balding and overweight (i.e. ageing normally), I ask her what age she thinks he is.

    “Um, 55?” she’ll guess.
    “Nope. He’s younger than me,” I say. “I look good for my age, don’t I,” I add.

    “No, Dad. You look all wrong for your age. You’re supposed to be fat!”

  6. Eathan
    Twitter: iswirls

    I think it’s genetics and a good lifestyle.
    I’m always asked for my ID. But I don’t smoke. I drink sparingly and I stay active. Of course it doesn’t hurt that I don’t have grey hair or wrinkles. 🙂

  7. mvgrl says:

    This gave me a good morning laugh!
    Thanks to good genetics, I’ve always looked very young for “my age” i just turned 50, but my figure says stretchmarks or celulite, and still wearing a string bikini..yeehaa! I still get carded sometimes, then get a compliment , the carder saying”I’m sorry, you don’t look “your age” I just smile and thank them..leaves me smiling all day..
    I trashed my skin a bit when my girlfriends and I would have tanning contests (pre sunscreen, the 70’s}
    Beauty secrets? riding the trails on my mustang, a good nights sleep, Shea butter for
    the skin, good sex, lots of laughing..oh yeah, water, Chardonnay,and a 35 yr old boyfriend Giddyup!!!

  8. Kat Wilder says:

    I look good "for my age"? Does my age have a "look"?

  9. brian says:

    when i was in my 30s i grew a beard which was kept nicely trimmed
    everyone said “You look more professional”

    shaved it off a year or so later and everyone said “You look younger”

    never grew it back

  10. W
    Twitter: kissnblog

    The really important part about aging is to placate everyone else with an opinion about aging.

    Kiss me, and I’ll forget how old you are, Kat, darling.

  11. Kat Wilder says:

    BLW — I agree; we all do want to feel good, and when we feel good we actually look a lot better, too.

    T — Ha! Yeah, just call me the “ageless hottie.” 😉

    Steve — Wait; a sports coat is the same-same as stilettos? Really? I like me a man in a leather jacket …

    Dads — That’s what I mean; young people have weird misconceptions about what middle-aged people “looks” like. We’re not “supposed” to be fat! A little gray, perhaps …

    Eathan — Genetics absolutely plays a part; too bad we can’t pick our parents, eh?

    mvgrl — Giddyup, indeed!

    Brian — Funny how just a little patch of hair can change everything!

    Wombie — Pucker up, baby!

  12. Steve says:


    Variations on a theme, both have a similar effect on women. LOL! I love socializing in the fall.

  13. Mama Dharma says:

    I agree with the PP – I have met you and you are a total hottie! Whatever you’re doing or not doing, keep it up. 🙂

    I am 35 and I have already started to get that: “You don’t look 35!” Whatevs.

  14. Kat Wilder says:

    Mama — you have? You sure about that? I don’t think I’ve met you. But I’ll never turn down a hottie compliment

  15. […] You Look Good…For Your Age (a post at […]

  16. Jack
    Twitter: thejackb

    I watched Survivor last night. They divided the two tribes into the 40 and older group and the 30 and under.

    Kind of surreal to realize that I am in the older group, but at the same time I really see that much of our perspective is colored by where we are at life. Bottom line is to just be comfortable with yourself.

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