Reading between the lines

In the last decade or so, Western society has developed a very weird intolerance for ageing women. Of course historically, women have always been judged on their perceived youthful beauty, purity and potential to produce male heirs. Older women were painted as crones, evil step-mothers, bitter spinsters. But there seems to be a concerted effort for women to stop ageing by the time they reach their early 30s.

I saw Madonna on TV this week, a 63 year old performer with a massive back catalogue of work. If Madonna were a man she’d be entitled to sit back and wallow in her decades of success. Yet, most comments I saw were about her weight gain (how dare she eat), how her face has changed (how dare she age…or do something obvious that removed the signs of her 63 years on this planet), or how desperate she looked in her back corset and short skirt (how dare she express her sexuality, at her age).

If you don’t like Madonna or her style of music, that is cool. I ask that you look at other women her age that you admire for their achievements and assess how they are judged on their appearance and their age before they even begin to speak. Women do not owe the world pretty, we don’t owe the world an eternal (and artificial) youth.

Modernity turns 63
Fine lines of smoke rise
And the facts of my life evaporate
As if they never existed.
The times when I lay too long on the beach
In the early days of our romance
No longer visible in the pigmented spots
that used to live
on the cheek my grand children kiss.

At home I will have after care
To fade the scar from the time I rescued
My toddler and took the bite for them.
And the stress lines of a career I fought for
Will melt away, flowing out to the sea
In an act of forgetting.
Next week I will have the grey hair replaced
With a gentler hue, augmented by
The tresses of a young widow in a country faraway.
I will reclaim my crowning glory
I pay for the promise of eternal youth
Because I am worth it (for profit margins)
And I want to look my artificial best 
as the world around me decays.

Reshaped, resurfaced, masked.
I don't want to look old before my time
When I stand beside my daughters.
I want to walk through the world
Being visibly invisible.
Soon if you want to know who I am and where I've been
There will no lines left for you to read between.
Photo by cottonbro on

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