In Praise Of... Older Women

If you don’t know about the Pirelli calendar, here is a potted history. It was created in 1962 as a marketing tool for the tyre brand and was designed to hang in automotive workshops. Over half a century later, it has somehow bridged the world of high-fashion photography, art and the fact that everyone has a calendar on their phone.

The 2017 version raised both eyebrows and cheers when it was announced that not only would all the subjects be over 40, they would be appearing without make-up. It is populated by the likes of Robin Wright, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and the eternally gorgeous Helen Mirren at a sultry 71.

All of whom – of course – were stunning in their youth but with a decade or four on board, possess a beauty that is more nuanced and less temporal.

I sing, of course, of the wonder – within and without – of the older woman. It is seen, it is appreciated, it is celebrated. All the more so, in a culture obsessed by the twin demons of youth and Photoshop.

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Julianne Moore, 56, in the 2017 Pirelli calendar

So let’s break it down. You see, a mercury flash of silver hair or the filigree of a smile line bear testament to a life lived.

They speak of experiences that may never have been asked for but were capitalised on nonetheless, they bear testament to a thousand wine-laced chuckles and knowing laughs. Most of all, the beauty that comes with age is illuminated by the holy trinity of megawatt traits: wisdom, confidence and the ability to no longer give a continental what anyone else thinks.

As a red blooded male of similar vintage, let me assure you – humbly, respectfully and sincerely – that you are sexier now than you ever have been. And you’re right, I’ll never know what it’s like to be rendered invisible to the gaze of teenage shop assistants or men who have their postcodes tattooed onto their backs in case they get lost.

Few us have the bodies we did when we popped a Jane Fonda workout into the VHS but firmness is overrated. Especially when compared with the more eternal pleasures of poise, sophistication and the sense of forthrightness that comes with knowing what you want and having no hesitation in expressing it.

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At 50 years, Robin Wright will feature in next year's Pirelli calednar

Men (this writer included) have never had to deal with the cult of barely pubescent “perfection” that bombards women on a daily basis. Nor have our social media feeds been populated with targeted ads that routinely feature words “ageing” and “sagging”. Lift your game Zuckerberg!

And yet, here you are – to borrow an expression from the internet generation – owning it. One need only look at those who genuinely deserve the term “icon” to sense a reflection of where you’re at.

I’m talking your Ava Gardner, your Grace Kelly, your Audrey Hepburn, your Sophia Loren, your Ali Macgraw, your Jane Fonda, your Iman. All of whom became more alluring, beguiling and fascinating the more candles they had on their birthday cake.

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The gorgeous Uma Thurman is featured in the 2017 edition

They and you bear out the fact – the undisputed fact - that the beauty of youth is both ephemeral and brief. The real deal is far more complex than a size-8 label, symmetrical facial features and breasts that sit up like kittens at feeding time.

Take it from someone who loves one of your number. It’s in your accumulated experiences, hard-fought victories and dealt-with disappointments that your enduring magic lies. It’s in your knowledge of self and those who adore, respect and can’t believe we ended up with you that happily ever after is writ large. And we see it whenever we look at you. Or the 2017 Pirelli calendar.

Who do you think is the sexiest woman over 40? 

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