Monday, 30 November -0001


Ladies get better and better, but we all need a little help to get through our middle years gracefully, says comedian and author Helen Lederer

Written by Helen Lederer
The new woman outlives menopause, mortgage and, possibly, marriage – so we must prepare for the second wave and glide into the years of reinvention and wisdom with ease. Here are my hard-won tips to surviving middle age and making a blooming entrance to your next chapter…


Root care
If you choose to dye your hair, this is an essential discipline for the middle-aged lady. There is nothing worse than being caught out in public with even a nanometre of root growth. No, really.

For some reason, it has been ordained that our hair colour must diminish as we bloom into maturity. But – and please do forgive my candour – a halo of coarse white hair between scalp and hair dye is totally unacceptable.

Some middle-aged ladies will elect to go grey naturally – and good luck to them. The rest of us, however, must resign ourselves to taking out a second mortgage for regular highlights, colour and all the attendant rigmarole.

Root security is the pep in your footstep, the milk in your coffee and the ‘lib’ in your ’ido’. Go grey naturally, by all means, but the ignominy of being caught with grey roots is tantamount to being tipsy before the Queen and asking her for the cab fare home.

I think I have made myself clear.

Ageing nails are best kept covered with a hue of quality. Dark burgundy is best; it is sophisticated and reminiscent of good red wine – always cheering on a rainy February afternoon.

Ladies, we must never allow even a peep of rhinoceros hide. Even if our feet have taken us on the road best travelled for decades, we don’t want to display our soles as war wounds. Our feet must remain soft and shiny, so take good care of them.

And I’m sure I won’t need to say that all varieties of Jesus sandals (especially when accompanied with pop socks) are forbidden. So I won’t. If you wish to display your feet, do so in something daintily elegant – or cover up. I’m sorry, but there it is.


La moustache
The middle-aged visage attains a whole new degree of elegance and poise, but yes, this can happen to the very best of us.

Don’t worry about it, however, simply open yourself up to the process of threading – a marvellous, if prickly modus operandi that will rid you of any insidious facial fluff. It’s also much less aggressive than facial waxing. Whichever method you elect to use, however, don’t forget to manage your profile, which must be kept clear of stray chin hairs – they’re especially visible in sunlight. If a rogue hair catches you out on a date or joyous day trip, it might just put you in a mood. And no lady wants that.

Paradoxically, eyebrows serve several beneficial purposes, so while the moustache must be mowed like a lawn, the eyebrow must be tended and nurtured like a tomato plant. Dye them, shape them and even impose false ones – but generous evidence of an eyebrow can make you look alert, attractive and pertinent. Do not underestimate them.

These must be kept moist, although sleeping in rubber gloves filled with Mazola oil can get a little excessive and inconvenient, especially if you have company. Certainly, don’t be scared of getting the odd mole blitzed by a laser thing from your GP. It’s that or concealer. Brown patches on the hand age one terribly and I’m not yet ready to be dis- missed so needlessly. Nor should you.


Make new friends
The best thing about new friends is that they tend to be far more tolerant than the old ones who have already seen you through various crises. Besides, mingle with a new crowd and it’s hard not to appear interested or indeed interesting for at least a short period of time. New anecdotes can help keep you alert, too, which I find much better than juggling my beta blockers to stay awake. And certainly don’t restrict yourself to mingling with people of the same age. Younger ones will give you a new lease of life, while older ones will make you look, well, younger.


Get interested
Singing can release trapped energy and is far more sociable than other forms of release. I recommend anything from joining a choir, to singing along to The X Factor. Remember that bathrooms often provide agreeable acoustics, which explains why so many people find themselves singing in the bath or shower. Music can also reconnect us with our youth, putting a spring in our step and giving our life some rhythm. And don’t hold back… if you feel like it, just dance. If singing isn’t for you, I am told there are plenty of other hobbies, too.

Get connected
Technology isn’t all bad. Nor is change. Embrace being in the moment. Don’t look back or forward, just be the best you can be while you are alive. Nostalgia is unhelpful. Photo albums are for bookshelves – Instagram is for now. If you can manage, take yourself off for an afternoon of technology, it will open up a range of new possibilities. Better still, get a gentleman in who will teach you new tricks in your own home. Online blogging is the new ‘dear diary’ and at least other people get to read it while you’re still alive. If you’re really lucky, a publisher will read it and give you a book deal.

Get romantic
If you’re single, get a lover and if you’re not, love what you’ve got. If neither of these suit your circumstances, a cup of cocoa and a good book can also hit the spot.

Get helpful
Mentoring someone can be hugely rewarding – remember, you’ve lived a little and learnt some valuable lessons along the way. Anyone will do, but imparting wisdom to others is a sure-fire way to make one’s hard-won experience count. I often encourage my own daughter to listen to my advice, for instance. She listens and then does the opposite, but others may be more responsive. Alternatively, volunteer. We should all try and ‘do our bit’.



Keep it in
Older women acquire a new level of beauty but we can all do with a little extra help now and again. Remember that poise is all. Straighten your back and walk with graceful intent and you will look confident, determined and more youthful all at once. An easy cheat comes in the form of a pair of Spanx – the ‘go-to’ weapon for leaving the house with confidence. A firm hug of the midriff will set you up for the day – as long as you stay away from communal changing rooms.

…and limber up
Don’t let yourself get stiff and creaky, though. Yoga can offer a surprisingly awakening adventure, I’ve found. A cheap flight to Ibiza with other likeminded souls for a yoga retreat did wonders for my chakras. Mine were opened in a week and I came back a new woman. I even researched a drumming workshop for beginners in north London when I got home. As yet I haven’t found the time to make a start – but I know it’s there when I find a window.


Finally, don’t overlook the little things. Some quality clean sheets, candles and a quality room spray is really all you need to enjoy life in the fast lane.

Losing It, by Helen Lederer, is published by Pan Books, priced £7.99.

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