It was all a bit Dorian Gray. The woman who had bought our house ten years ago was doing a lockdown purge of clutter and clearing her attic. In it, she found a mailing tube addressed to me. It had been sitting in her attic for the last decade, having arrived with us from our previous home, which we sold 17 years ago. It had been sent to me when I was living in my single girl’s flat (bear with me), by The Independent. It contained three black and white photos from a shoot I had done to illustrate a piece I had written for The Indy before I got married, 26 years ago. So tube and pictures had been sitting unopened for a quarter of a century. For some strange reason the woman delivered it not to me but to my ex-husband. Who then handed it to me, via our now adult children.
It contained three black and white photos from before I got married, 26 years ago.
I didn’t have to go to my cuttings files to find the provenance of the photo shoot. I knew exactly what the story was and when it was written. It was about what happens when you visit the Wedding Dress Department at Harrods, and the photos depicted yours truly trying out a vast dress and also one of me wearing a tiara, which I loved so much I bought and wore on my own Big Day, which was shortly afterwards. I was 29.
Too thin. Too anxious. Too eager to please.
How I looked in the vintage photos
Back to the present day. I don’t know what my ex thought about these pictures. The children however were unequivocal. “Oh Mumsy you looked LOVELY.” No, I really didn’t, I thought. Too thin. Too anxious. Too eager to please. Too accommodating, in my pearl necklace which my father had bought for my 18th birthday (later stolen by an adventurous window cleaner). Togged up in the voluminous wedding dress I looked like I was suffocating, miserably. Agency? There was none. Sex appeal? Don’t make me laugh.
Sex appeal? Don’t make me laugh.
Of course, traditional wedding garb is about as sexy as a wet suit. The whole virginal nature of it runs counter to the very idea. My parents actually bought me a double bed for a wedding present, which I thought was totally weird of them since I had been brought up in a family where sex before marriage was unthinkable, and since they had spent the last 15 years doing their level best to keep me out of anything resembling a double bed, including when I was living in a student flat in Hull.
I only have to look at those photos to remind me. I feel a lot, lot sexier now.
Being older, I know what I want
I feel much sexier at 55 than I did at 29 because – as Johnny Rotten ought to have shouted, I know what I want, and I know where to get it. And knowing what you want is not anarchic. It is of course the whole story, as long as you have the confidence to go and get it. It is not necessarily about looking 29, by the way. I only have to look at those photos to remind me. I feel a lot, lot sexier now.
And that’s not about having “tweakments”, as the style sections of papers feel duty-bound to call them. It’s not about looking young. When I was young, I was vulnerable. I don’t want to seem young now. I want be an adult.
Ah! But you dye the grey out of your hair, say people. I was born with mousey brown hair, I respond. I’ve been dying my hair since I was 23. Hair dye is fun and impermanent. Botox less so. Do I recoil when I see wrinkles by my eyes when I laugh? Nope. Laughing is part of being sexy, a huge part. If you are going to alter your face so you can’t laugh properly, what does that do to your joie de vivre? I know a lot of my contemporaries are Botox believers, and that’s fine. It’s just not for me. I really do not think it looks sexy.
I feel sorry for those staving off wrinkles
Poor old Nicole Kidman, what has happened to her? I interviewed her for a film – possibly the very creepy The Others – a long time ago and even then, I felt she was being held in a cage and only allowed out when she had enough hair and makeup on so that she looked like a doll.
Ditto with actual plastic surgery. I have had a couple of operations and it’s not something I ever want to voluntarily repeat. Willingly undergo a general anesthesia? I’m too much of a coward. And too vain. I give you the woman once known as Meg Ryan as a reason why.
Will it make me feel sexy? You bet.
Having a tattoo however is something I am up for and this year, intend to achieve. Will it make me feel sexy? You bet. Even now, with everyone under 35 tattooed everywhere, it still seems transgressive to me – and transgression, for me, is connected with feeling sexy. Perhaps this is because I was brought up in a rule-abiding church going family. Perhaps not.
The source of feeling sexy
I think feeling truly sexy is a combination of being daring (that tattoo), and counter intuitively, being in control and on top of things (pardon the pun). I feel sexy when I am walking down the street in shoes that feel good, with all my stuff neatly stowed in a pocket or a bag and wearing a coat which is just so. I don’t feel sexy when my shoes pinch, when things are falling out of the bag, when my jumper is awry and I am tied up in some awful scarf, and I am late. I think it is about being in charge. I feel sexy when I have organised the spice rack, for goodness sake.
I know what I want, and I know where to get it.
What makes me feel sexier with age
When I consider I am in charge, it means I feel great in my clothes and myself, and that makes me feel sexy. It’s when you run for the bus in heels, and catch it. It’s when you are called to speak in public, without notes, and you do it effortlessly. It’s when you are caught askance and do the right thing without worrying about being a mere people pleaser. It’s when you decide to get something unusual for your partner’s birthday and it is a perfect gift. It’s when you envisage an erotic fantasy, dare to describe it out loud and your partner gets as turned on as you do. It’s about confidence, not bossiness. It’s about being grown up, not childish. It’s about understanding, not stumbling around in the dark; about knowing you are in the right spot, not hankering after being somewhere better; about being sober, not drunk; about loving life, not dissatisfaction. That is beauty. That is sex appeal.
Now, when do the tattoo parlours reopen?
What makes a Noon lady sexy
- Being in charge
- Being on time
- Wearing shoes she can run in
- Being happy in a makeup-free face
- Having a good joke at the ready
- Always with matching underwear (sorry, but it has to be so)
- An ability to talk for hours without mentioning her children
- Risk happy
- Being sober
- Active enjoyment of sex, obviously
– Rosie Millard
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