Women are Gorgeous
The sense of being perfectly well dressed gives a feeling of inward tranquility which religion is powerless to bestow. --RALPH WALDO EMERSON
As I was leaving the bus station the other day, a stylish woman with flowing long gray hair was hurrying up the steps. I smiled at her with approval. Ah—another ageless beauty. Over the past decade or so, I’ve made a habit of noticing—and really taking in—the beauty of women who are over 50. Here’s what I’ve found. The more I look for ageless beauty, the more I find it. Of course, there are the famous gorgeous Women: Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, Jane Fonda, and Barbara Walters, to name a few. But when you decide to pay attention, you too will begin to notice more and more incredibly attractive ageless beauties in your day-to-day life. Believe me, they are out there, and you can be one of them. Tosha Silver says, “The true depth of your own value, beauty, and worthiness has already been conferred by the Divine. It is set. No one else’s behaviour or opinion can honestly ever minimize it. It’s like clouds trying to eradicate the sun. It always remerges.”
Unconscious Programming About Beauty and Age
The first step to becoming an ageless woman is to become aware of your cultural programming so that you can step out of it. For example, have you ever noticed how women’s magazines tend to run stories on what to wear or how to style your hair based on your age? “Your Best Hair in Your 30s, 40s, and 50s” is a typical one. I have yet to see one that reads, “Your Best Hair in Your 60s, 70s, and 80s,” nor have I ever seen men’s style advice broken down according to age. Instead, a recent issue of GQ called the Style Bible had a headline on the cover that said, “Look Your Best in 2014”—period. The message is clear that we women are not supposed to care how we look after 60 or so and that our age determines what our style should be. Mindfulness expert Dr. Ellen Langer suggests changing your “priming,” that is, your expectation of what you are supposed to experience as time goes by. I want you to forget about which hairstyles are appropriate “for women over 40.” Rejecting this sort of priming helps you feel beautiful as you enter your ageless years. Yes, I’m fully aware of the ageism all around us. In the editorial from AARP: The Magazine “The Smart Money Is on the 50+ Crowd,” editor Robert Love writes, “Older Americans are virtually ignored by marketers mired in last century’s obsession with youth. It’s insulting. So I, for one, am no longer buying into the ageism agenda. And I hope you’ll join me. After all, I was part of the strike generation. Why not keep that new energy going? The baby boom generation has changed every stage of life it has gone through. Watch us change this one! It’s also true that as women get into their ageless years, it’s often hard for them to accept their changing looks, especially if they’ve been used to heads turning when they enter a room. It’s a real loss if you’ve never developed a true inner sense of self and all the gifts of wit and wisdom that come with the years. For those of us who never had that “turning heads” experience in our youth, the transition to a new kind of beauty is often not as difficult. That’s especially true when you’ve developed “centenarian consciousness” and believe that your best years are all ahead! To do this, we must change our thoughts and beliefs. The nuns’ study and studies by researchers such as Becca Levy that I’ve mentioned have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that acting as though we are in our prime has a huge impact on our health and physical appearance—so pay attention to your self-talk! In our ageist culture, even 25-year-olds worry about one grey hair or a laugh line that you can see if you position yourself just so in front of a magnifying mirror. Women reaching 30, which is probably our first shared cultural portal about beauty in the West, can start panicking about looking old. But what if you had no notion of what you’re “supposed” to look like on any milestone birthday? Forget the number of candles you’re “supposed” to put on your cake and your notions of beauty can change. Instead of fretting about your age, make an empowering change such as quitting a job that’s draining you and making you feel disrespected. This alone can make you look healthier and younger almost instantly. And there’s nothing more beautiful than deep contentment and happiness, the kind of happiness that comes only when you have connected with the ageless woman within. When you’re a happy, joyful, ageless woman, people see you in a different light. They aren’t noticing the lines in your face or the skin on your neck. They’re seeing your sparkling eyes as you laugh.
Owning your Beauty
One very specific way to “own” your beauty is to invest in glamour or boudoir photography. The photographers who specialize in these services are often women who genuinely want to help other women reclaim their confidence in their attractiveness. A good photographer will do her best to put you at ease so you don’t look stiff and uncomfortable and will adjust lighting, props, and your positioning to make you look great. She can help you come up with flattering poses, but if you do an Internet search, you can find plenty of ideas too. Having a good music soundtrack during a photo session and friends to make you laugh also really helps. When you’re relaxed, it’s easier to own your beauty and prevent any negative self-talk about not being attractive. Let go and feel like a gorgeous woman posing for the camera. Also, a photographer told me to have someone make you laugh, or to think of something funny, just before the shutter is snapped. The best photographs capture your genuine emotion. There’s a huge difference between a forced smile and a genuine one. Even if you’re sticking to snapshots rather than professional photos, keep in mind that a few tricks can enhance what you look like. Remember the Hollywood actress tip of paying attention to lighting: natural lighting or soft, full-spectrum lighting indoors is very flattering. The light at dusk is so forgiving that photographers sometimes call this part of the day “the magic hour.” In the days before cosmetic surgery, Botox, fillers, and collagen boosters, Hollywood actresses like Bette Davis insisted on having control over who set up the lighting for a movie—or even for a personal appearance. Davis could even tell when one of the many lightbulbs on a movie set had popped because she was meticulous about how she looked on camera. You don’t have to go as far as hiring a lighting designer to follow you around, but you can be more conscious about lighting and how you appear in photographs and video. Once I was having some old slides scanned and made into digital files, and I found a picture of me on my honeymoon. I was stunned by the beautiful young woman smiling into the camera—I mean, really stunned. Back then I thought I was too fat and not all that attractive. I had been ignorant enough about my worth to have asked the man I married what he thought about my weight. His reply? “You could stand to lose five pounds.” I weighed 125 pounds, a weight I most likely will never come close to again. It’s amazing to me that I feel more attractive and happy now than I ever did back them. What a relief! Have you had a similar experience of having your insecurities solidified by the people around you? It’s so common! That’s why I want you to take the following pledge. If you’ve gained weight, what’s important is whether it’s healthy weight for you, not whether it makes you look different than you did in your 20s. Of course you look different! You’re an ageless beauty now. Own it without apology.
You Deserve Pleasure!
We’ve been taught that anything pleasurable is suspect. The thought of simply enjoying ourselves, savouring sensual experiences, makes us look over our shoulders for the pleasure police. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own heart. And there is no health in us. But God Almighty have mercy upon us, miserable sinners.” I remember thinking, I’m only eleven years old. I’m not that bad! I wanted to feel a sense of the Sacred and the Divine in church. I didn’t want to feel like a miserable worm asking for forgiveness for things that I couldn’t possibly have done or even thought about. I wanted to feel good in my body and feel loved by the God who made the moon and the stars and the tides—and my own body. Feeling bad and undeserving of pleasure is part of our dominator-culture heritage. Denying and demonizing pleasure has caused too many women (and men) to doubt our natural instincts that tell us that when we feel good in our bodies and hearts, we overflow with joy and abundance that spills out onto other people. Our cup runneth over, and it keeps getting refilled with pleasure, when we reconnect to Spirit. We enjoy having optimism and a sense of possibility because we know that we’re connected to the Divine. We’re refilling the cup from the ultimate Source of all rescue, protection, and abundance—a Source that we ourselves are part of. What a delight to realize that God comes through us as us! I remember when I was married, I used to avoid telling my husband if I was going to get a massage. It felt so decadent and self-indulgent—as if self-indulgence is a bad thing. Many women would instantly hand over the same amount of money to their teenager to enjoy himself on a class trip, or would spend it on a present for a family member or donate it to charity. But spend it on themselves and their bodily pleasures? It’s important not just to get the massage but to get it without feeling guilt. If you hesitate to spend the money, find a discounted way to get a massage. One woman’s husband signed up for text messages from the local beauty school so he could be alerted to discounted same-day massages and set them up for her. It’s a smart man who knows the value of making his woman feel deliciously relaxed.If you still find it hard to justify the time and expense required to give yourself the pleasurable experiences you crave, think about how easy it is for so many men to let themselves go off with their friends to have fun and indulge in nine holes of golf or a pricey concert. They haven’t received a constant cultural message that taking care of their needs is selfish, so they don’t worry and ask themselves, What will people think? or Should I really be spending money on this?
Deprivation is a puritanical value that is not conducive to alleviating stress and inflammation or to experiencing bursts of nitric oxide. Frugality and morality have become inextricably linked in our minds. It’s an obsolete mind-set. Women’s bodies, like Mother Earth, are designed to be a source of abundant pleasure. They are a reflection of that earth, the mother that brings forth life by working with the energy of the sun and all the elements. The sun feeds the plants, the plants feed the animals and us, and we flourish in abundance. The creatures lay plenty of eggs to hatch into new life or to serve as food that nourishes other animals. The trees drop more seeds than will ever grow into seedlings, and the birds eat them up. We get to enjoy the harvest of the earth, from the fresh fruits and vegetables she brings forth to the earthy smell of the rain-soaked soil that has been fertilized by earthworms. That is heaven on earth! Don’t hold back from pleasure. Be direct rather than apologetic or coy. If you want to spend the entire evening watching junk TV and giving yourself a pedicure instead of going to a community meeting you said you’d attend purely out of a sense of obligation, go for it. Such simple pleasures may seem obvious, but they actually do reduce stress and, by extension, inflammation. You may even experience a burst of nitric oxide. My prescription for general health is to experience more pleasure every day. Take a minute to put this article down and make a list of as many joyful activities and experiences as you can. Think of big ones as well as small ones: Heating the seat in your car on a cold day. Opening the door on a particularly clear morning and smelling the air. Relishing the first moment when you step into a warm bath. Acknowledging that you’ve hit a new level of fitness and feel completely in tune with your body. How can you have these experiences more often? How can you make boring, everyday activities you do mindlessly into succulent pleasures? How about putting on a great rock-and-roll playlist or Pandora station when you have some cleaning to do? It will change your mood entirely. And you’ll enjoy the cleaning process far more!
I strongly believe in having “wing women” who support you in making time for pleasure. Get a friend or two to commit to going with you to the group meditation, organic food tasting, or folk dancing night at the community centre so you’ll encourage each other not to break the date. And if your girlfriends or your partner aren’t interested in an activity, there’s no reason to deny yourself the enjoyment. To me, one of the greatest things about social media is that it can be a means for finding others who share your interests. If you use it right, you can start a conversation with someone in the virtual world and carry it over to a real-life meeting at a coffee shop, event, or class. Just be sure you arrange to have experiences offline that are pleasurable and social. Most of our communication is nonverbal, so when you physically get together with people, you can communicate more richly. Take pleasure in your friends’ experiences too. People often get depressed and jealous reading the social media posts of others when those posts are about vacations, accomplishments, and so on. Yet people who post positive statements or share positive stories and videos on social media report greater happiness as a result. If you want to be happy, you have to let go of the belief that life is a zero-sum model—that if you’re happy, somehow you’re taking happiness away from someone else. Discard the old idea that there’s only so much money, pleasure, joy, or rest to go around: it’s simply not true. When it comes to pleasure and happiness, you can actually train your body to feel more and more of these emotions by being mindful and fully present. Your triumph isn’t someone else’s loss. When someone’s doing really well, a part of you is uplifted—unless you give in to jealousy and resentment. When you pass a gorgeous young woman on the street, don’t think, I wish I had her body and her skin. Think, She’s a part of me. Smile and enjoy her beauty. Enfold it into your own experience. You’re a part of her too, and she is able to experience your wisdom because you put that out into the world. She can experience the joy of experiencing your pleasure as you smile at her.
My Education in the Art of Adornment
Years ago, I did a lecture at the famous Chautauqua Institution that was carried on NPR. A couple of television producers in Chicago heard the lecture and wanted to put me on a show, but said they needed to see photos of me first. As they put it, “We had to find out what you look like. Television is, after all, a visual medium.” Thus began my education in the art of makeup, clothing, and appearance—and all the tricks of looking better. Until then, I had never even had a professional manicure or pedicure, let alone professionally done hair, makeup, or styling. It never occurred to me that my nails could be seen on television. I do a lot of public speaking and appearances now, and over the years I’ve become well aware that “the medium is the message,” so I take a lot of care with my clothing and appearance. Once that’s taken care of, then I can forget about how I look and just deliver my message. But I know that the two are inextricably linked. And instead of resenting that I have to dress up and make up for the camera, I accept this as part of my work and I take pleasure in it. For much of my life, I paid no attention to my looks. My natural love of clothing and beauty was deep-sixed by my medical training. I couldn’t even see myself as an attractive woman on any level. Luckily, when I needed to do something about my appearance and style, I attracted a lot of help, especially from gay men! A while back, while speaking in the Cape Cod area, I stopped into a local hair salon in Provincetown. A hairdresser told me, straight out, “Honey, your hair is doing nothing for you.” He suggested that with my fine hair and facial features, I needed something called an “A-line bob.” Who knew? Clearly, he did. He gave me the best haircut I had ever had. Another time, when I had to buy an outfit for a big TV appearance, Joseph, a sales clerk at a Boston boutique, put me in a dressing room and began to bring in outfits, many of which were way out of my comfort zone. The stilettos in particular were a stretch. When he saw my uncertainty about wearing an item that was blatantly sexy, he told me to “get used to it.” Another time, when I was visiting a friend in Boca Raton, Florida, I went into a high-end department store with her and tried on a designer black dress and heels. She told me I looked fabulous, but I couldn’t see it. I was afraid that my friends and family would make fun of me for daring to wear anything that stylish or sexy. We often don’t see ourselves in our finest light, so we need others who can reflect our beauty back to us and remind us we’re gorgeous Women.
That said, some of our closest associates will actually work to keep us down when we begin to upgrade our looks, because they feel threatened by our beauty in a dominator culture where women are supposed to compete with each other in the realm of physical appearance. This is known as the “crabs in a bucket” syndrome. When one crab starts climbing over the top of the bucket, the others will drag it back down. If you’re in a bucket with a bunch of crabs dragging you back down, get a new bucket. If you, like the old me, are worried about what your friends will say when you suddenly start to look better, that’s a sure sign that you need a friend upgrade. We all need what I refer to as a “placenta of support”—women and men who uplift and nourish our expression of our best selves. Without that, it’s hard to reject the cultural idea that we’ll never be adequately pretty, and that we’re always lacking somehow. When I saw myself in my designer suit and stilettos on camera after that first PBS television show was taped, I realized that the outfit Joseph had chosen for me made me look not just serious and professional but stylish and even sexy too. I had to admit that the look worked for delivering my message. For years, I’d seen myself as a frumpy doctor, so the idea that I could be attractive in a daring way yet still be taken seriously was liberating. I had taken an important step toward becoming an ageless woman. I have had to learn to own my beauty and not feel awkward and insecure when I have to present myself in public or have a photo taken. And I had a ball doing it. Why? Because I know how all that magic in magazines happens, and I enjoy being part of it. I arrived at the studio with wet hair and no makeup, had fun all day changing outfits and smiling for the camera, feeling confident and happy, and ended by hugging all the wonderful people involved. Have you been afraid to step into new shoes—literally—or style your hair differently? When was the last time you let yourself take chances with fashion, hair, or makeup? Give up the absurd expectation of perfection when it comes to your looks and have fun with adorning yourself. Claim your beauty, enhance it, and enjoy it. When you do, everyone benefits. And there are many healthy, natural, easy ways to do it that may not cost you a cent!
Secrets for Looking Fabulous at Any Age
You don’t have to invest a lot of money in clothes, hair, and makeup to feel good in your body if you expand your ideas about what constitutes beauty. What’s most important is to feel beautiful, even if you don’t match up with someone else’s limited ideas about what’s attractive. Remember, your ageless years are the time to give up for good your addiction to pleasing other people and focus instead on pleasing yourself.
With hormonal changes, hair can change texture and colour. You can use dye, wigs, extensions, and chemical or natural curlers or straighteners to change your hair if you don’t like it, or you can come to love the way your hair looks and feels now. You can also enhance your personal style with hats, scarves, or a radical short haircut. I always find that look really stunning! If you’re losing your hair, it may be because you have a hormonal imbalance, particularly one brought about by thyroid imbalance, too much sugar and insulin, and a lack of iodine. When you have too much dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, in your system (which results from a combination of too much insulin and too much oestrogen), you may experience male pattern baldness and even some darker, heavier hair on your upper lip and chin. Very often, the problem is sugar in the diet, along with iodine deficiency. The hair follicles on the head have a receptor for testosterone, and when there is too much sugar in your system and not enough iodine, you end up with metabolites that fit in those receptors and shut down the testosterone-sensitive hair follicles. On your head, too much testosterone shuts down hair growth. But on your face, the opposite is true. I have seen iodine supplementation restore hair—not to mention energy, breast health, and thyroid health—in many.
For me, beautiful shoes are key to feeling good about how I look. High heels make a woman’s legs appear longer, and the right pair can be incredibly sexy. In the Broadway show Kinky Boots, there’s a whole song about how “sex is in the heel.” Lorraine Neithardt of the radio show Venus Unplugged designs shoes as an offering to Aphrodite (you can see some of her designs at www.shoefineart.com). Her glamorous shoe designs were used in the movie P.S. I Love You. They capture the aesthetic of sexy shoes. I am quite new to the allure of shoes, having been born with very wide feet and a condition called metatarsus adducts, in which the fronts of my feet turned in. When I was a child, they thought I had clubbed feet. However, cool shoes are now available in wider sizes than ever before, and the Internet has made it easier than ever to find shoes in a variety of sizes. For the first time in my life, I can actually find shoes that fit. That said, I consider wearing high heels an “athletic” event. Women’s heels, worn constantly, keep podiatrists in business. One, which I learned from Pilates, is to roll the bottoms of your bare feet over tennis balls while you’re sitting. After dancing, I always do a self-massage of my feet in the bathtub and a series of foot stretches and exercises while soaking in Epsom salts in the water. In fact, foot reflexology is, hands down, my favorited spa treatment. Do an Internet search for Pilates foot exercises. You’ll discover some good techniques for keeping your feet flexible and pain free. Bunions can be stopped in their tracks or even reversed through these techniques. Try them before you consider surgery.
Quality sleep will improve your skin’s health and appearance too. “Beauty” sleep is no joke. Everything is connected, so as you change your diet, combat stress by learning methods to relax deeply, breathe fully, release old resentments and anger, move your body joyously, laugh more, and replenish yourself with a good night’s sleep most nights, you’ll look and feel better in every way. If you want your skin to be repaired and look better quickly, try this three-day nutritional facelift from Dr. Nick Perricone, author of The Wrinkle Cure: eat nothing but wild-caught salmon, watercress, blueberries, and cantaloupe for three days. All of these foods are rich in antioxidants and other micronutrients that will help heal your gut, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and contribute to glowing skin. In the long run, a low-sugar, nutrient-dense diet with healthy fats will also promote healthier skin. And if you have rosacea, you’ll see it reduced when you clean up your diet because sugar and alcohol exacerbate the condition. My company A-ma-ta also makes a wonderful skin care line called Performance3 that contains the herb Pueraria mirifica, which is known for its skin-enhancing effects. The production of the collagen that provides the underlying structure of skin is reduced as we age, thanks to years of stress, poor diet, environmental toxins, and gravity. African Americans have the most hearty collagen-making ability. (I’ve heard Whoopi Goldberg say, “Black don’t crack” with a smile, and yes, there’s truth to that!) Asians have the next largest amount of collagen-making capacity, and then Caucasians, with blonde and red-headed women making the least. Eat a low-glycaemic diet and take supplements such as vitamins C and D3. Skin care products with ingredients such as Pueraria mirifica can help prevent collagen breakdown. If you live in the northern hemisphere and are entering your ageless years, you probably need 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 in winter to keep your levels where they should be.
If your skin is discoloured from sun damage, there are ways to reverse the damage. The most effective method is IPL, or intermittent pulse laser, a treatment you can get from a dermatologist or plastic surgeon. This procedure also works beautifully for spider veins. If you don’t use it already, start using sunblock daily. It’s often added to makeup, but don’t forget to use it on your neck and chest, arms, ears, and other exposed areas as well. Acne is often the result of a diet high in sugar, especially after the teen years. What’s going on in your body can often be read on your face. You might find, for example, that consuming certain foods results in pimples in specific places. A friend of mine found that she broke out in the same place on her chin every time she drank diet cola. Pay attention and make the connection between what you’re eating and what is going on with your facial skin. If you have hormonally related acne, detoxify your body nutritionally to balance your hormones. If you’re very uncomfortable with your skin’s appearance, new types of cosmetic surgery and procedures you might want to consider are always becoming available. For example, I had a lot of spider veins on my cheeks that completely disappeared with IPL treatments. I get a treatment every six months. Work with an aesthetician, dermatologist, or cosmetic surgeon who specializes in working on skin, but beware of the ones who start ticking off all the things you can change about your face. If you go in because you want to do something about the lines near your upper lip and you start hearing about every other part of your face or body that “could use a little work,” walk out of the office. You don’t need to feel pressured by an “expert” to suddenly see “flaws” in your appearance that never bothered you before. The lines on your face represent the wisdom you’ve acquired. Don’t get cosmetic procedures to try to look like you’re 22—you’ll just end up looking artificial. A woman once came up to me at a tango event and said, “Look at your daughter’s skin! It’s so beautiful! I That’s because I feel better and more confident now than I ever did at 18, or even at 45! Let divine energy flow through your body and you’ll look vibrant at any age, whether or not you decide to have plastic surgery, get laser treatments, or let your hair go grey. You get to decide.
An Ageless Smile
As a dentist’s daughter, I know that you can tell the state of someone’s health by looking in her mouth. Veneers, caps, and whitening can all make you feel more confident as you smile. Whatever your age, good dental care prevents you from experiencing gingivitis that can lead to periodontal disease and tooth loss. It’s important to stay on top of dental hygiene because periodontal disease puts you at higher risk for heart disease and diabetes. The bacteria that build up in your mouth enter your bloodstream through your gums, causing inflammation. Take the time to floss and stimulate your gums, and get cleanings regularly. Don’t bathe your teeth in sugar by snacking throughout the day—and drinking coffee or tea with milk counts as snacking. Milk and cream, of course, have sugar (though cream has less), and constantly drinking any beverage with sugar in it contributes to tooth decay as well as the build-up of bacteria. To reduce bacteria in the mouth, you can use a technique called oil pulling: put a spoonful of coconut oil in your mouth and pull and push it through your teeth, using your tongue, for about 20 minutes a day. You can also reduce bacteria by brushing with red clay. If you like to chew gum, choose a gum with xylitol, which has been shown to reduce tooth decay. Teeth, like bones, require calcium, magnesium, boron, and other trace minerals to be strong and healthy. But again, it’s usually not a calcium deficiency that causes problems so much as a lack of magnesium to help you use the calcium in your diet. Osteoporosis usually begins in the jawbone and can be spotted by a dentist long before you’re at risk for a broken hip. As I said earlier, I don’t recommend drugs such as Fosamax for treating osteoporosis because they make bones denser and impede circulation to the roots of the teeth, leading to the need for root canals.