Last month was my birthday and I turned an age at which apparently British women feel “officially unattractive”. I certainly felt for the first time that I had reached a “real” age and that I don’t want to get any older. But what really hit me was I can’t remember the last time I saw a woman who looked her age.
In Hong Kong, it seems, ageing is not an option. When I visit the UK and the US I see women of all shapes and sizes and in various stages of the aging process. Here, women over a certain age – and that can be as young as 35 – simply stop ageing.
My expat contemporaries are universally toned (thanks to hours with personal trainers). There are no signs of flapping, “bingo wing” arms, bulging stomachs or overweight thighs. Not even a hint of cellulite, for god’s sake. Sleeveless tops and shorts are still worn – and why not, they look fantastic in them.
The only pay off seems to be a hardening of the facial features or “gym” face as it’s apparently called. So it’s true that you have to choose between your face and your body when you reach a certain again. My face is holding up pretty well but my ass is another story. Bummer.
The Tai Tais at my Pilates studio are a particular breed too: not a wrinkle in sight, helmut of raven black hair (absolutely no grey – that’s some maintenance). Although not hard bodied (their Pilates time is spent chatting across the reformers) they all appear naturally slim. Though this might not necessarily be genetic – my chic Chinese friend tells me the wealthy middle aged/older woman’s secret friend is Lipo. I must get the number.
I’m aware that this a socio-demographic thing. When Western people repeat the cliché: Asian women don’t age or get fat it always makes me laugh. Only if they’re rich they don’t. I was reminded of this once again on a recent Cathay Pacific flight to Singapore I was surrounded by a group of Chinese women who certainly looked their age (fifties) and were the opposite of lithe and lean. Outside “the bubble” it’s a different story, just as it is in the Western world.
But a few lessons I have learnt:
The older you get, the more you need to blow dry. I can never get away with letting my hair dry naturally now – I don’t look like a surfer chick, I look like a bag lady.
The more casual you dress, the more groomed everything else – hair, make up, nails – needs to be. Even if they are groomed to look “natural”, the overall look needs to be polished.
Stilettos are no longer my friend. These are now “limo wear” only – for getting in and out of a car and straight to a table with minimum standing required. But I’ve also learnt that I’d rather be happy in flats than miserable in sky scraper heels.
It seems the law in Hong Kong that expat women passed their mid thirties should have fabulous legs. I must start working on that…