How Not to Look Old: Yucky stereotype but savvy tips

How Not to Look Old by Charla Krupp (Springboard, 2008) is a book I’d love to hate, and in many ways, I do. Krupp feeds our image self-consciousness as if she were feeding swimmers’ bodies to sharks, with attitudes like we can’t succeed in business and we’re ludicrous and totally unappealing (not to mention unsexy) if we look our age, dress comfortably, go outside without makeup, wear gym shoes with jeans, or wear our glasses on a chain around our neck.

This advice is coming from an unwrinkled, tight-bodied former Glamour beauty director, the darling of Oprah, Tyra, and Good Morning America, who doesn’t look a minute over 40. OK, that’s her point: You never need to look over 40, as long as you follow her fashion and makeup rules and make your dermatologist your new best friend. Oh, and if you can, it’s a good idea to spend a fortune not letting yourself look old.

I resent this woman who looks nowhere near my 64 years claiming to represent “the over 40 generation.” I hate her first statement: “All right, I’m just going to come out and say it. Aging sucks.” I hate that she sees age spots, crow’s feet, saggy bosoms and bunions as vile and icky. I hate her premise that “to keep our paychecks and our self-esteem, we need to look young; we need to look current.” I hate that she spent only one sentence on exercise (the genuine fountain of youth).

And yet, if you can get past all that, I must admit it — this book has terrific tips for optimizing our appearance. I found myself taking notes on the chapter about how to choose a flattering pair of jeans — who knew? I learned about a dozen new things about updating my makeup (on the rare occasions when I use anything other than a dash of lipstick).

I surely would love to debate Krupp about aging, appearance, and our attitudes towards both, though. Do you think Oprah would invite me?


  1. Marilyn Hayden on April 29, 2008 at 11:20 am

    I just read your page on not looking older. I’m 86, I’m no beauty, but I have a few tips to share:

    Don’t wear tight clothes that reveal bra lines or panty lines. Have your bra fitted by a professional. Buy only one kind that truly fits. Wash bras by hand. So many women look terrible from their chin to their knees, to say nothing about how their FACES look! No tight Tee shirts. Please. A little ease in the fit of your clothes is much more flattering than too tight. Too loose looks sloppy. Check a mirror when you are deciding what to wear. People see you in the supermarket, too.

    Tight slacks that draw up in the crotch look OLD. Slacks that sag in the back look OLD. TRY ON pants in a three-way mirror or have someone with you to check the fit and look at the back. When you find a pair that fits your body well, stick with the brand.

    Don’t wear violet or purple at night. Incandescent (Yellow) lights drain all the color out of them. Brown is difficult for almost anyone to wear. Pastels are more flattering than full-intensity primary colors.

    While having sex, never be on top, if you don’t want to look old. If you doubt this, look at yourself in a mirror that is lying on a table. Gravity is not our friend.

    A little “Mona Lisa” smile lifts up the sags at the corners of the mouth and the jowls. A BIG smile takes years of your face. When you are sitting listening to people talking, you can really smile, (mouth closed) even lift your eyebrows a little. You will look interested and your wrinkles will be busy smiling.

    Also, I love this funny tip: When asked on a late-night TV show what was the best advice his father ever gave him, movie actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr. said, “When having your picture taken, lift your tongue to the roof of your mouth. It will pull up your double chin.” Everyone tried it; everyone laughed–it’s true. Don’t forget to smile a little while you do it. Practice it looking at yourself in a mirror.

    Keep your hairdo simple. Sophisticated. No long hair hanging to your shoulders or down your back. Stay away from red dye. Too drastic. Red heads go gray nicely, with a sandy blond look that is much more attractive than screaming henna. NEVER dye your hair stark black. It gives itself away every time. Dull, lifeless, inky. Too startling against the skin where the hair is growing out of your scalp. Salt & Pepper gray looks lovely. If you feel you must dye, go honey blond (never yellow) or warm light brown.

    No BLACK mascara, no colored eye shadow, except taupe or violet the same value as your skintone if you feel it really improves your eyes. No black or dark brown eyebrow pencil. Ugh! Pale taupe if you can’t live without it.

    Go easy on makeup. VERY PALE rosy cheeks look nice on everybody. No RED lipstick, stick to light rose, mauve or other light tones.

    Use moisturizers regularly. Sunblock if you work in your garden or swim.

    Give up cutesy tricks, like tilting your head down and looking up, a la movie stars we saw as girls. Or looking sideways and batting your eyes.

    Find some funny CDs or tapes that make you laugh. It’s great for your face and your whole body.

    Don’t take yourself too seriously or obsess about your looks. Remember, everyone else is concerned about how THEY look and they don’t care a lot about how YOU look. “Well groomed” is what you want to be.


  2. paula on April 10, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    I was thinking about what a distraction it can be to be thinking about your looks a lot of the time. As we age we tend to get better and more focused at whatever we do in the world, and time to do it grows shorter. Worrying about looks — and especially trying to stay young looking — could really start to get in the way of more important things.

    I spend a lot of time of my looks. Today I was thinking that the day will come when I won’t care so much anymore. It’s the first time I’ve thought that and had it feel okay.

  3. Paula age 56 on April 4, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Well, we’re a pluralistic society and we’re all entitled to our opinions.

    Joan really sums up the same resentment I feel when I hear advice like this. I resent this attitude that there’s only one kind of beauty, and only one age range where it’s at it’s best. I resent the idea that we have to look young to keep a good job. I am fortunate to have developed my own standards which are much more inclusive.

    I’m really into fashion, and health and beauty, and I like to look good, but I want to look over 40, because I am over 40. To try to appear as anything else is fake, and that is very unattractive.

    There’s a lot of commercialism behind this push to be impossibly thin, always well groomed with full makeup and fashion look, preferably blonde (Tyra, please!), and young looking. That stuff is fun for me, but it’s a choice not a have to.

    What’s exciting is that older people can define our own fashion look, define our own standards of attractiveness.

    And goodness, everyone runs out of the house without makeup in grubby jeans once in a while — or a lot. (If all the clothes in your closet are flattering to you, then throwing on any old thing always works.) Joan looks really cute in all the pictures I’ve seen of her.

    Joan does need to be on Oprah!!!

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