You’re How Old?!

Lindsey Kelk ponders the mother of all backhanded compliments

Cindy C
A few days ago, Cindy Crawford, one of the first supers, turned fifty and celebrated in the most modern way – by posting a selfie on Instagram. As anyone with eyes will tell you, Cindy was, is and always will be one of the most beautiful women in the world and yet, within minutes of the posting the pic, it was met with online comments, blog posts and news articles all declaring how great Cindy looked ‘for her age’. Some argued as to whether she was wearing make up or not, others debated possible work she’d had done but they all agreed on one thing – for fifty, she was wearing pretty well.

But what the bloody hell is that supposed to mean?

A few weeks before Cindy, fuelled by great lighting, a good hair day and half a bottle of rosé, I posted a Saturday night selfie and was met with similar comments. Of course, I am not now, nor ever have I been, a supermodel, I’m a 35 year-old writer who loathes the camera and has consistently ducked out of any and all opportunities to have my picture taken. with such commitment that my headshot was taken in my publisher’s office only after they lured me there with the promise of cocktails and a free lunch. In this post-Kardashian world we all live in, even authors are expected to live online, post the odd selfie and support ‘the brand’ and so I was pretty pleased with my pic, but as soon the comments came rolling in and wiped the smile and copious contouring right off my face.

Lindsay Kelk 1


For the most part, the comments were very sweet and I was impossibly proud to have received my first ‘slay’ but mixed in the Facebook likes and Twitter hearts were the seemingly innocuous ‘Which filter did you use?’ and ‘Did you Facetune?’. Even my aunt made a sly comment about the favourable lighting. And of course, right there amongst the heart eye emojis and tiny unicorns, was the old classic ‘You’re 35? No way!!’ and ‘I didn’t realise you were 35! You look good for your age!’

This is where I have a problem. Somewhere between thirty-one and thirty-four, I slipped through an invisible door and into a room where I can no longer simply look good but only ‘look good for my age’. I am regularly made to believe I must aspire to look younger than my actual age, that I need to fool people into thinking I’m not a 35 year-old woman who has been diligent with her sunscreen but a wee slip of a thing who has somehow achieved professional success and written 12 bestselling books, presumably beginning in utero.

I’m not ashamed to be 35 and quite frankly, you couldn’t pay me to go through my twenties again. No amount of plump, glowing skin or razor sharp cheekbones would be worth that merry hell. I’m also not ashamed to have lines under my eyes, the beginnings of a crépey neck and a not-quite-so-taught jaw line as once there was. It’s called age, I’m ageing, we all are. And yet, ever since the tide of judgment began to turn against me, I do find my finger hovering over the Facetune button and poring over make up formulated specifically for selfies (I’m looking at you, Too Faced and Estée Edit). Of course I want to look good. I get facials, I use the best products I can afford and I genuinely love and take pleasure in my skincare routine, but I am genuinely afraid of a society that places such emphasis on youth and beauty to the point where we are simply not allowed to age.

Lindsay Kelk 2

The thing that scares me the most about the culture these apps and intensive make up routines perpetuate, is the impact it’s having on our kids. I never thought I would consider myself lucky for having my first wrinkles before I owned an iPhone but we’re living in a world full of girls growing up with such a terrifyingly idealised image of a woman’s face that they’re booking in for Botox on their 21st birthday. The face they see in the mirror bears absolutely no resemblance to the person staring back from their Instagram feed.

Cindy Crawford’s portrait was perfection. Her healthy skin was even and glowing, her natural laugh lines and wrinkles weren’t blurred into non-existence and even though this is a former supermodel who clearly knows her angles like no other, there was no mistaking how old she was because she wasn’t trying to hide it. She looked like a stunningly beautiful 50 year-old woman and to qualify any compliments with ‘for her age’ does this woman, and all women, a disservice. Enough is enough, it’s time we stop considering down-aging someone to be a compliment and start acknowledging beauty at any age. After all, like it or not, none of us is getting any younger but that doesn’t have to mean we’re worth any less.



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