This has been my birthday week. And while I’m not a huge fan of the concept of being a year older, I’ve decided to focus on the idea of being a year wiser. So I’ve been pondering ageing these past few days and, namely, what the French have taught me about it.
As a beauty writer in Australia, where the sun shines a harsh light on pigmentation and wrinkles, I was conditioned to fight ageing (whitened) tooth and (lacquered) claw. Every second product that launches here seems to be some anti-ageing wonder. But my love of all things French has balanced out this fear because, in France, ageing is appreciated, like fine wine. It’s a natural part of life. This is the country that came up with the expression ‘La beauté n’a pas d’âge’ (Beauty doesn’t have an age), after all.
Not that French women totally give into nature, mind you, chic things that they are. Grooming is a life-long ritual (as it also is for men) — playing up the positives, negating the negatives. But in a subtle sense. It’s about looking like yourself, but a slightly better version. It’s not about distorting your look … or your life.
French women, by and large, don’t want to sacrifice quality time with friends or family (or even with a book or art exhibition) for the sake of an all-encompassing beauty ritual — and they certainly don’t want to look as though they’ve spent excessive hours in the bathroom or salon. So for them, it’s doing enough to put their best face forward — in a country that, of course, appreciates aesthetics, and considers grooming to be a form of politeness — and then getting on with their day, year, life.
Because as we have fewer days left, it’s more important than ever to live to the fullest, to appreciate every moment, to smell the flowers, both metaphorical and literal.