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Lighten up, sisters!

Mercedes Sayagues

Body Language

Aagh! I’ve had it with joyless women writers whining in this section about the tyranny of looks and gender issues. Sisters, could you please lighten up a bit?

One of the best perks of womanhood is that with very little effort we can actually look better. One dab of inexpensive lipstick and, voila, face is brighter and sexier. Indian and Arab women apply kohl and instantly their eyes are magnificent, like Elizabeth Taylor’s in Cleopatra.

Men have to wear every day the same old tired face, plus or minus some facial hair for a change. I feel sorry for them.

Three weeks ago, a writer complained that her mother faced invisibility, having crashed the 50-year-old sonic barrier. Excuse me, but could we please see a photo of said mother? She may have been a babe in her 20s but has she put on 40kg since? Does she buy frumpy clothes at Harare’s Truworths?

There may be a good reason why men don’t look at her. As Tom Petty sings, “Maybe you shouldn’t try so hard to change the world, maybe you should change yourself.”

Cher and Tina Turner are over 50 and very visible. They work hard at keeping fit. One may prefer Tina’s Buddhism-cum-gym approach to Cher’s body surgery, but the fact is neither let go.

If ageism is the problem, it equally applies to men. When was the last time a man over 50 turned your head? “Oh, I was pushing the trolley along the supermarket aisle when this handsome 65-year-old man” yeah, and I believe in the tooth fairy.

There are as many good-looking men over 50 as there are women a handful. The fact is, most people age badly. They let go and it shows.

Germaine Greer rightly identified the invisibility threshold and its advantages. But she is not one to become invisible. Oh no. There she was on The Guardian a few months ago, baring it all on her 60th birthday. Naked, although her legs were discreetly bent to the chest, covering boobs and tummy. And she looked visibly good.

Recently I was musing with a friend about letting go. My elder sisters did that. They love to eat as much as they hate exercise. They are successful professionals and doting grandmothers, they are fat and they don’t care.

As I wondered, vodka in hand, whether to go or not to the gym, my friend said: “I want to show you something.” She is younger than me, just turned 40. She pulled up her dress. Rolls of milky white flesh cascaded and bobbed. “You don’t want a body like mine,” she said. Indeed I do not.

She said: “I enjoy cooking and I am lazy about exercise. I’ve made my choice. My husband loves me as I am. We have good sex. I am a happy woman with a lovely family. But my fat is disgusting. I have accepted it, but you don’t need to develop a body like mine. Any time you falter in your resolve, remember me.”

I thank her for that nnnn moment ofn truth. No, I won’t letn go. And there is nothingnn wrong withn make-up and hair colouring as long as it does not become obsessive.

Sure there are plenty of silly things we women do. Like waxing. There are two kinds of women in the world: those who wax and those who don’t. I wax. I have learned, though, that men don’t give a damn if women have hairy legs and hairy armpits. Why should they, when men are hairy all over?

So we wax for ourselves. A million years ago, when I was young and hippie, I succumbed to the theory that waxing is a cop out, not natural, to please men, blah blah blah, and gave it a try.

I set out for Bolivia, sure that in the cold altiplano the following would happen: a) I would never wear shorts; b) Prince Charming would not materialise; and c) If he did, I would be retching from the altitude so it would not work.

Retch I did, all the way from Oruro to La Paz, but eventually I got used to thin air. Four weeks later, Prince Charming materialised. The possibility of sex sent me scurrying to buy waxing cream for I did not fancy self-pirouetting in bed with hairy legs. In fact, I postponed sex until I got rid of unwanted hair. That was the one and only time I tried not waxing. At a party I met Prince Charming’s previous girlfriend. Her legs looked like the Yeti’s. Oops.

It may be silly to wax but it does not detract from my feminist convictions. Neither does wearing lipstick or caring about my looks.

Last week this column waxed (sorry, could not resist the pun) lyrical about Jane Fonda endowing with $8-million a chair on gender studies (“Wifelet or she-wolf?”). Good, and may all graduates dedicate their theses to explaining why Fonda had breast implants when she married CNN mogul Ted Turner.

Remember how Fonda preached in the 1980s that women must be happy with their natural bodies? She made millions from her aerobic workout line. Nice that she is giving back some of the profits to help us understand her contradictions.

Can a true feminist have breast implants? I am not sure. But I know that feminist writers would benefit from humour because sour preaching against frivolity is as bad as, well, hairy legs.

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