Thursday, March 4, 2010

inner beauty and the style icon

I read the saddest, most discouraging article the other day.

It was called Age Perfect and it was in Sunday Life magazine, which comes to our house via The Age newspaper, and to yours, perhaps, via The Sydney Morning Herald. It followed hot on the heels of a recent article about "cougars", older women who ooze sex appeal, most often seen on the arms of younger men.

"Age perfect" should have been an encouraging article. It's about (it claims) inner beauty. It's about how older women are the new style icons. So long pushed out of the way by young, nubile teens and 20-somethings, 40 is now the new 20. Older women have won our admiration for their ...

Wisdom? Life-experience? Character? No. Here's why older women (that is, 40 or 50 year olds) have won our hearts:

  • Demi Moore (47) was spotted at 41 "sporting a body as hard as the surfboard she was carrying by her side"; her younger husband, Ashton Kutcher, 32, exclaimed on Twitter, "'Watching my wife steam my suit while wearing a bikini. I love God!'" Oh, and she wears "Donna Karan, Michael Kors or Roland Mouret ... Or Versace".
  • Gail Elliott (fashion designer) says, "'I know my body better. I feel proud of it. Being happy with yourself makes you confident, which makes you happy.' ... Elliott believes that by 40, most women know how to work it."
  • Michelle Obama (46) "is a knockout, sure, ... but it's the all-round package that has the world mesmerised: her elegance, sophistication and intellect. Stuff it takes years to acquire. ... To top it off, she can dress."
  • Collette Dinnigan (fashion designer, 44) says, "Dress for your body shape and what you know works; classic accessories always add a twist ... When you feel good, you look good. Confidence is sexy."

  • Jennifer Aniston (41) "gets about in cut-off denims on days off and chic minis at premieres." Helena Christensen (41), is "Always elegant and chic, not radical or trying to change her body." Elle Macpherson (46), "still working her trademark string bikini and cowboy hat", has a "wonderful personal style and always looks great."
These "older women" are 40 or 50 but look much younger. They've been able to "ward off ageing", not with Botox or cosmetic surgery (or so the article claims - although it admits that some of its heroines have probably resorted to surgery) but with "lifestyle choices" - "time to exercise", "organic food", the ability to dress for one's body shape, designer fashion, and, in Jennifer Keate's case, "her mother's time-trusted facial exercises".

The article concludes with some words about "inner beauty":

'It's about how you take care of yourself; it's about inner beauty.' ... For once, self-love is more alluring than tits and teeth. Inner beauty is yours for the taking. If you just bide your time.

And here's me thinking that inner beauty is all about a quiet spirit which trusts in God! (1 Pet 3:3-4) Apparently it's really about self-confidence, caring for yourself, and self-love. And, of course, youthful looks, diet, exercise, a sculpted figure, and designer clothes. So, at the age of 41, here's what I have to aspire to (and a standard I, like most women, have no hope of meeting): a toned body, a designer wardrobe, and the kind of ethereal beauty which ages well.

Give me God's dream for the older women: a woman respected not for her style and well-preserved sex appeal, but for her wisdom, godly character, years of faithful service, and trust in Jesus (1 Tim 5:9-10). I'll take a few wrinkles, some saggy skin, and a dream like that any day.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (Prov 31:30)


Rachael said...

Can't help thinking that God's picture for the older woman is also his picture for the younger woman. There's not outer beauty for the younger woman and inner beauty for the older woman. It's inner beauty fullstop.

Jean said...

Yep, absolutely, I definitely agree with you on that one!!

Rachael said...

And is the reason we've (society in general) lost this picture for older woman because we've lost it for younger women anyway? We idolise those older women who have somehow learnt the secret of eternal youth.

Can't quite fathom how they managed to turn all those exterior qualities into "inner beauty".

Thanks for your post, and I really enjoyed your breifing article. Thanks for your hard work.

Jean said...

Yes, we are definitely youth-worshippers. I was reading a chapter in Paul Tripp's "Midlife and the grace of God" (a wonderful read even for those not in midlife!) about aging and physical deterioration. He made the point that when you don't believe in spiritual things, the material is all that is left, so everything becomes about the physical body and physical preservation (Romans 1:25 - we swap the true God for idols, the spiritual for the physical). He also says that aging scares us because it's a foretaste of death. Food for thought!

And yes, it's very funny how they defined inner beauty! Self-confidence and self-love which is shown in the confidence with which these women dress?? Odd! And so blind to the fact that these women - just maybe! - might be naturally beautiful rather than achievable examples for the rest of us if only we believe in ourselves? Hah!

Rachael said...

"naturally beautiful" or naturally conform to society's current definition of exterior attractiveness.

Jean said...

Yes, true. Although the Bible is quite happy to call some women "beautiful" (like Sarah). So "beauty" is a category the Bible uses.

Whether that means there's a non-culturally-determined standard of beauty they conformed to, or whether they were only "beautiful" according to their own culture's standards, is a philosophy question I'm not prepared to tackle! :)

Rachael said...

But don't we know what made Sarah beautiful!!??

I'm really thinking hard about this at the moment. I just think that on the whole we've sold out to the world's concept of beauty (with reasons behind it such as the bible speaks of beautiful woman e.g. Rachel, Bethsheba, Abigail and the evident goodness of the physical attractiveness between the woman to her beloved in Song of Songs) and I'm not comfortable with it at all.

Still thinking and nutting it through...

Jean said...

Yes, although it's also clear Sarah was physically beautiful - hence the whole Pharoah and Abimelech thing, where Abe lies about her being his wife.

But yes, I do agree with you that this is not where the Bible's focus lies. Not by a long way! It's all, as you say, about "inner beauty". And the world - and many Christians! - have forgotten this.

I gather you've read/heard stuff that has made you think about these things. I'd be interested to hear more about what you're reacting to. Do you mean the teaching about women having to make themselves attractive to their husbands? Or the focus of many Christian books on health and beauty?

(n.b. On the Song of Songs: Mark Driscoll says that the implication is that our husband/wife is our standard of handsomeness/beauty, whatever their age and attractiveness in the world's eyes. We have a responsibility to value and delight in our spouse's beauty - like in Proverbs, to be always satisfied with the breasts of the wife of our youth.)