“The literary equivalent of a summer night, a good friend and a gin-and-tonic: Shannon is a deft writer; a natural storyteller with a wicked turn of phrase and frighteningly specific memory...”

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9 Things I Know About Beauty Now That I’m In My 40s

The 40s are good. You’re too old to be a young fool and you’re too young to be in Depends.

Good friends, whether Nude or Never Nude, make 40 beautiful.

In my teens and 20s I never felt beautiful enough. I thought I was too skinny, too flat-chested, too pointy-chinned, too hairy-thighed and I had no idea what to do with my thick, frizzy, Irish thatch-roof hair. Having been raised Mormon I also had no idea the lady garden could be manicured, hence I could’ve repopulated the entire rainforest with my pubic hair.

There was also the small matter of being attracted to philanderers. For the longest time I thought they cheated because I wasn’t beautiful enough. Two words. Halle Berry. Men who cheat do so because they’re cheaters not because we’re not beautiful enough.

In my 30s I was pregnant twice which meant I felt fat and invisible. I coined the name THE WOMAN FORMERLY KNOWN AS BEAUTIFUL when I was 7-months pregnant with my second child, standing in line at the meat counter at Bristol Farms in Beverly Hills. Five butchers (count ’em…five!) were helping a young, non-pregnant Pussycat Doll select a pound of cackle while I festered swollenly nearby trying to order one freaking carne asada!

Eventually I passed out from hypoglycemia due to LACK OF RED MEAT and when the paramedics arrived they forgot to collect my 50-lbs.-up limp form off the ground because they were too busy helping the Pussycat Doll carry her boneless, skinless chicken cutlets to her car.

Now here I am in my 40s. I’ve got a loving, solid husband. I’m not pregnant and I know what to do with my hair (and not just the hair on my head). So far this is the best decade for me when it comes to feeling beautiful. Here are some of the things I know about beauty now that I’m in my 40s…

1. DON’T WEAR LOW-RISE JEANS:
They’re just not for 40-somethings. I’ve spent more money trying to find shapewear that will keep my muffin top from spilling over my low-rise jeans like Gak from a pre-schooler’s fist than I can afford. Which leads me to this…

2. DON’T WEAR SHAPE-WEAR UNDER YOUR LOW-RISE JEANS:
You’re going to feel like you’re in a hot, sweaty body cast when nothing is actually broken. See #1.

3. YOU LOOK BETTER THAN YOU THINK YOU DO
I spent the years after giving birth missing my formerly slender frame instead of appreciating my newfound voluptuousness. I actually had breasts for the first time! But instead I worried I was too fat. I fixated on the afore-mentioned muffin top, what I perceived to be neck flesh you could pack the contents of an overnight valise in and the concern that my nose was getting longer.

So I did something radical, I posed for nude photos at age 46 and the kicker? I posed in the exact same positions I’d done at age 26.  No, I’m not a professional stripper named Santana, but I had body image issues in my 20s and the nudes I took back then helped me see myself with gentler eyes.

When I saw this round of nudes I thought my plan had backfired. I was mortified by what appeared to be a broad-flanked crone (and my nose has gotten longer). But in the words of Kenneth Alton, a lovely man who commented on my nudes on The Huffington Post–

“I have often considered it a trifle foolish the way that shallow youth is considered inherently beautiful. There is such a terrible beauty which only age brings, a depth of power that only deepens the sense of mystery that utterly, completely­, captivates­.”

Feeling beautiful in your body is one part maintenance, one part acceptance.

4. HAVE PLASTIC SURGERY IF YOU WANT TO
There’s no shame in it. I woke up one day and noticed my eyelids were heading for the border with a chalupa in each fold.  I had a brow lift/blaphorestomy and I love it. I’m me, but perkier.

5. DON’T HAVE  TOO MUCH PLASTIC SURGERY
See Joan Rivers and Carrot Top

6. MOVE
Forget about losing weight. Just move. It doesn’t matter if it’s walking around the block with your dog or doing a mini-triathalon. It could even be just making love in a challenging position (Humpbacked Bridge anyone?)

This is the time to inhabit your body fully, to thank it for taking you this far, to breath into it and feel all of its furthest reaches. Just move. If you don’t like it at first do it anyway. Eventually moving your body will feel like coming home.

7. TRY SOMETHING NEW ONCE A MONTH
I’ve become friends with a 26-year old mom (who could be my daughter) and she’d been pestering me to go to a speakeasy with her in downtown L.A.

I had a million excuses not to go. Downtown was a half-hour drive, and what if there were traffic, an earthquake, the end of times? Parking was too difficult. I was exhausted after a long day of working and mom-ing. Also, Dancing With The Stars was on!  When I heard that come out of my mouth I realized I was dangerously close to the abyss of mediocrity.  So I made myself go.

When we got downtown there was a movie being shot in the streets. Lots of foot traffic and interesting people. When we walked through the door of the speakeasy we were transported right back to Prohibition-era Chicago. The place was tiny, hidden, all varnished wood with vintage glassware, bartenders and waiters that looked like they came right off the set of Boardwalk Empire. There was a little upright piano accompanying a Billie Holliday chanteuse belting Lady Sings The Blues. And. There was an absinthe fairy.

I came-to at a cockfight in Guadalajara having grown an impressive handle-bar mustache. I hitch-hiked back to L.A. with a border coyote and made it home in time for morning drop-off at my daughters’ elementary school.

That adventure lit me up for a week. And there’s nothing more beautiful than a woman with adventure and novelty in her eyes.

8. KEEP LEARNING
When my kids were little I was in the trenches. There really wasn’t time to learn news things because I was just trying to stay ahead of the onslaught of needs, crying, pooping, barfing, keeping them alive and not sleeping.

But now my kids are 7 & 9, and developing their own unique interests. So I started my blog a year ago at 45. It’s forced me to learn about social media, networking, computer apps, photography, filmmaking, editing, lighting, performing and writing. That’s not to say I do any of those things well (yet), but I find them endlessly challenging and interesting. I can feel my atrophying brain coming alive again.

“Exuberance is Beauty” – Roland Barthes

9. TAKE THE TIME TO GIVE YOUR LOVER A PROPER KISS ONCE A DAY
That means no “make it quick” little pats on his back. It means standing toe-to-toe with him. Wrapping your arms around his back. Running your hands through his hair (if he has any). Pressing your cheek to his so you can feel his stubble, smell his skin. Looking him in the eye, even if it frightens him a little and then, to paraphrase Barthes again, pressing your lips to his so that through your mouth your soul can pass into his.

Now that is beautiful.

That’s all I got, ladies!


Tags assigned to this article:
beauty after 40beauty in the 40s

69 comments

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  1. Morgan (The818)
    Morgan (The818) 19 March, 2012, 10:06

    I’m not in my 40’s yet, but DAMN did I love everything about this post!

    Reply this comment
  2. Julie (Ginger)
    Julie (Ginger) 19 March, 2012, 10:48

    We share that same 26 year old friend who also wants me to go with her to one of those downtown speak-easys with her. I must do that! Also she keeps telling me about you. 🙂 I adored your post & love your writing style. I love hearing your journey into self-acceptance. I’m still working on that myself. Thank you for the helpful suggestions!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 19 March, 2012, 11:08

      Julie — can I go with you to the speakeasy?? We had such a great time.

      Reply this comment
  3. Bridget
    Bridget 19 March, 2012, 10:50

    Great Article! I grew up Mormon also, I know how that goes. You have some great tips that I’ll be sure to use.

    Reply this comment
  4. Shelby Barone
    Shelby Barone 19 March, 2012, 11:30

    I watched this video on Moms LA and died from laughing!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 19 March, 2012, 22:08

      I love Sarah and Yvonne. They’re funny, loving ladies.

      Reply this comment
      • Yvonne Condes
        Yvonne Condes 17 July, 2013, 23:36

        Ha! When I got to “Move” I thought you were going to say “move out of Los Angeles!” That’s the best way to feel good about your appearance.
        (Thanks for the kind words!)

        Reply this comment
  5. Jadzia@Toddlerisms
    Jadzia@Toddlerisms 19 March, 2012, 14:20

    This is WONDERFUL advice. Albeit much, much easier for me to follow now that I don’t live in L.A. anymore–you are obviously a stronger woman than I am!

    My secret to not being too miserable about what motherhood has done to my looks is to keep telling myself (a) that this is the youngest I’ll ever be, and (b) in 20 years I will WISH I looked like this again, so I’d damn well better enjoy it now.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 19 March, 2012, 22:09

      Oh Jadzia – exactly!! We have to enjoy each stage of our lives and our looks.

      Reply this comment
  6. Florinda
    Florinda 19 March, 2012, 14:25

    I’m a little further into my 40s than you are (I’ll be 48 next week), and you totally speak the truth! This was great. Thanks for spreading the good news :-).

    Reply this comment
  7. Roxane Bludgen
    Roxane Bludgen 19 March, 2012, 14:56

    I totally LMAO reading this post! Go on girl! Tell it like it is!

    Reply this comment
  8. Yolanda
    Yolanda 19 March, 2012, 15:13

    Love this! Esp #10- I think sometimes, no matter how old we are, when we become parents this is forgotten all too easily. #10 woo!

    Reply this comment
  9. sonora
    sonora 19 March, 2012, 15:53

    I had a parallel speakeasy experience w/ some classmates (avg. age 28). Went to a pub downtown. When’s the last time I did this? We got hit on by some guys, and one spent a long time talking to me. When I told him my real age (let’s say I could have been his mother, and not through a teen pregnancy), his jaw dropped. I felt so much more in control than when I was that age. Able to put the clowning, BS guy who was too drunk in his place, and still have a civilized convo with the other guy (my “son”). It was fun, the whole thing, and I want to do it again.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 19 March, 2012, 22:11

      The 40s (and let’s face it, loving husbands) give us so much more confidence.

      Reply this comment
  10. Adrienne
    Adrienne 19 March, 2012, 16:13

    Great advice.

    Reply this comment
  11. Debbie Goldberg
    Debbie Goldberg 19 March, 2012, 16:40

    #10 is really the best advice. Great piece, Shannon!
    XO

    Reply this comment
  12. Andrea Edwards
    Andrea Edwards 19 March, 2012, 19:11

    I’ve recently signed up to your blog and can relate to so much of what you say! I need to soul kiss my husband more for sure. Although at 4 and 5 and with the 5 year old having a speech delay, I don’t feel out of the demanding-kids-woods yet…. one day soon xxxxxx

    Reply this comment
  13. Sharlene
    Sharlene 19 March, 2012, 20:24

    Ahhh… body image. How I would kill for that 20 year old body that I thought was so imperfect.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 19 March, 2012, 22:14

      That’s what I’m saying. Not too far down the road you’ll kill for the one you’re in. We have to work it!! BTW just saw Gladys Night on Dancing with The Stars — If that’s 68, bring it!

      Reply this comment
  14. Jana Memel
    Jana Memel 19 March, 2012, 20:45

    I love this post. Try being in your fifties, knocking on the door of your sixties. Moving getting slightly harder, nose and everything else including breasts getting slightly longer. A scary looking older woman staring back at you from the mirror yet feeling so much more beautiful inside than ever before. You inspire us all Shannon.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 19 March, 2012, 22:15

      Jana you are so sweet and you still have it going on girl. I saw you in that bikini on Facebook!

      Reply this comment
  15. Yvonne Condes
    Yvonne Condes 19 March, 2012, 23:07

    Love it. Especially the part about the low-rise jeans. You talked me out of buying a pair of jeans that I wanted (they’re on sale and I have a coupon!).

    Reply this comment
  16. Tisha | Biz Mommy
    Tisha | Biz Mommy 20 March, 2012, 00:02

    Okay Shannon, you are officially my hero!! #7 and #9 are truly great pieces of advice, but #10?? Beautiful!!! I’m waking my hubby up right now.
    Oh and btw, no #8? Still in Guadalajara perhaps? 😉

    Reply this comment
  17. Jamie
    Jamie 20 March, 2012, 09:34

    Oh I love this post! ( Especially the part about you meeting a 26-year-old adventurous mother!)

    I agree with all of it!

    I hope people listen intently to #4 and #5. Two controversial, but important pieces of advice (except in my family where our coming of age ritual is a nose and boob job)

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 20 March, 2012, 10:21

      Hi honey — you are so much fun. I miss you! And I’m so glad you didn’t touch that gorgeous face and body!

      Reply this comment
  18. Ciaran
    Ciaran 20 March, 2012, 11:16

    More about the border coyote please!

    Reply this comment
  19. Becky
    Becky 20 March, 2012, 13:29

    I totally thought of you last night when I saw Gavin DeGraw on Dancing with the Stars… so glad you mentioned it today, you just never know if someone is into that show or not. Is it weird that I like you more now that I know you are?? (Nothing I just said is related to your post, which I did love, btw, but it needed to be said.)

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 20 March, 2012, 15:35

      I felt so bad for Gavin. That show is doing him no favors and I’m afraid he’s going to get the first boot. I’m so invested in that cutie.

      Reply this comment
  20. Caryn B
    Caryn B 20 March, 2012, 13:45

    Beautiful post Shannon….definitely taking these tips to heart….

    Reply this comment
  21. Katarina Henkys
    Katarina Henkys 20 March, 2012, 17:01

    Shannon, dear, I gladly join the chorus to tell you how much I’ve always enjoyed your writing! I’ve been following your blog with interest & amusement. (& rather adored your nudes, both the photographs & the experiment).
    Yeah, I agree: the 40s are for most women a far more relaxed time, than the hidious 20s could ever be. Gracious, I really was a pretty girl, sweet as well as sexy, but I never knew or believed it. (And there are pictures to proove the fact). Past 35/40 I actually began to feel quite pleased – or at least contend – with myself. Okay, it’s well past 50 by now & there are wrinkles at my throat, which I find rather offensive…. but still, most of the time I see a attractive, competent, lively woman in my mirror.Only once during the past decade or so it had been suddenly occupied by a worn out, seriously unattraktive elderly hag (does pubic hair actually turn grey?). That was last summer, just when Patrick had ditched me for a 20 year old bimbo he’d picked up in Cuba. Not too surprising, is it?
    Since than I’ve made two intresting discoveries: not all men turn imfantile when they hit 50 & – more importantly – most women age so much better than men. Suddenly the world teems with funny, interesting, adveterous, pleasently cynical self aware women. And hey, who really cares about a few wrinkles or this nice soft bulge in the middle?
    xxx Kat

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 20 March, 2012, 17:47

      My dearest Katarina — Forgive me for saying that poor 20-something is stuck with a bit of a lemon in Patrick. He simply was not worthy of you. And there are so many lovely men out there who deserve a sexy, intelligent, hilarious woman like you. My only regret is that you returned to Germany which means we can’t laugh over this at Jerry’s Deli with some bad beer and borscht. That damned pubic hair is such a nuisance both coming and going. And little children so love a soft middle. Kisses to you. And I know sometime very soon our paths will cross again. xo

      Reply this comment
  22. slbowling
    slbowling 20 March, 2012, 19:55

    Enjoyed your post. Especially reading about your browlift because I will be getting one soon and am a little leary of having it done. My optometrist actually referred me to a plastic surgeon because my eyelids are drooping so much I have some field of vision loss. I too thought I would need blephorplasty but after seeing the plastic surgeon he says I need a brow lift. I feel better reading about your successful surgery.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 20 March, 2012, 23:01

      My right eye was really drooping. I guess I had a naturally low brow and then time and tide did the rest. I am so glad I had the surgery. I don’t feel “done” – but I should warn you I did look frightening for a good two or three weeks. Just warn all relatives you’re going to be an Avatar for a while. It’s worth it in the end.

      Reply this comment
  23. Jacqueline
    Jacqueline 20 March, 2012, 22:23

    I agree I’m going on 43 or is it 44 ? Oh crap! Well I love it 🙂

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 20 March, 2012, 23:02

      I would like to set up camp and stay in the 40s. So far they’re my favorite decade.

      Reply this comment
  24. Vanessa
    Vanessa 20 March, 2012, 23:26

    such a great post!

    Reply this comment
  25. Elaine A.
    Elaine A. 21 March, 2012, 08:15

    You kinda make me wanna say “can’t wait”, from a woman who will be 37 on Monday. 😉

    I had to giggle at the “if he has any” comment since my hubby’s hair is starting to disappear. Good thing we both love each other just the way we are, huh?

    Great post!! 😀

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 21 March, 2012, 08:43

      Thanks Elaine — my husband finally took a razor to his head because when you’re going bald you just have to embrace it. I guess like everything else.

      Reply this comment
  26. Megan
    Megan 21 March, 2012, 08:56

    I think your 20-something you and my 20-something me are the same person…

    Love this!

    Reply this comment
  27. Rita Augustine
    Rita Augustine 21 March, 2012, 10:32

    Loved this, Shannon. So much honesty and wisdom. Beauty, indeed.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 21 March, 2012, 10:43

      Hi Rita — so glad you checked in. I always see pics of you on Lisanne’s FB and you are growing more beautiful each year.

      Reply this comment
  28. Rita Augustine
    Rita Augustine 21 March, 2012, 13:27

    Thanks, Shannon. That means so much coming from a woman I’ve always admired both for both the external beauty and internal beauty. Can’t wait to read more of your blogs. So much to think about and learn from!

    Reply this comment
  29. Shoes
    Shoes 21 March, 2012, 20:04

    I love this! I am heading towards 40 fast and I am in the awkward newly acquired muffin top, crazy busy with little kids, what the hell do I want to do with my life phase. Your post offers good advise with a sense of humor. Thank you!

    Reply this comment
  30. Michelle Fryback
    Michelle Fryback 23 March, 2012, 07:30

    I love this! At 42 and no pregnancies I have been battling between acceptance and anger of my muffin top. I even Injured my back trying to exercise like I did in my 20s. I’m closer to acceptance but still can’t let go of my low rise jeans. On the other hand I adore being naked, no bunching of clothes and I have a great ass. Love the the kiss advice I told my husband that I need to be French kissed at least once a day. And the day I bend over and he doesn’t slap my great ass will be a very bad day indeed;) I also add maintenance sex to the list once week whether you need it or are into it or not. So you can have great sex when you are into it! Love love love your blog.

    Reply this comment
  31. Alexandra
    Alexandra 23 March, 2012, 21:18

    I love what you are doing on your blog lately.
    LOVE.
    Every time I come here, I think “She’s starting a revolution.”

    You are.

    Reply this comment
  32. Jo Anne Jolley
    Jo Anne Jolley 27 March, 2012, 08:27

    Love this!!! I am 56 & so wish I had heard something like this in my 30’s & 40’s… society today seems to worship at the altar of size 0 teens & 20’s. Thank you for these words of wisdom!

    Reply this comment
  33. Jeannine
    Jeannine 17 July, 2013, 14:10

    all true and same list applies to 50’s! I would just add: look at the old pictures of yourself when you thought you were ‘old,’ ‘fat’ …. whatever and appreciate what you are NOW because you didn’t then and look what good it did you!

    Reply this comment
  34. Sandra Sallin
    Sandra Sallin 17 July, 2013, 23:09

    May I say that what you’re saying about the 40’s applies to the 70’s as well. As a 72-year-old blogger, one has to stay alive to it all. I will not wear shape wear, I will have adventures, I will not wear low rise jeans, I’m always curious, can’t stop learning new things, and had no idea how pretty I was when I was younger. So enjoyed your post.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 18 July, 2013, 09:47

      Dear Ms Sandra — so happy to hear the 70s will be wonderful. You wear them well xo

      Reply this comment
  35. Deborah Davis
    Deborah Davis 18 July, 2013, 14:43

    I loved this article. Bravo for your fearlessness!
    I have learned a lot about beauty as I grow older.
    I agree that moving, eating right, continuous learning, laughing a lot and keeping life full of interesting experiences and friends, makes me feel more beautiful.
    Most importantly, I now know that the hundreds of dollars I spent regularly on “miracle” skin care serums, high-priced, high-end cosmetics and over-priced prestige perfume brands is no longer healthy, vital or important to me. With time–and lots of research–I have learned so much more about natural beauty aids. I switched to home made, kitchen beauty preparations, essential oils for scent, coconut and olive oil for moisturizer, and switched to simple, lead and toxin free lip color for makeup! My skin is smooth and nearly flawless. Better than it looked in college, actually.

    Reply this comment
  36. rodalena
    rodalena 18 July, 2013, 14:46

    There is so much *vitality* in this post that it’s spilled out all over the comment section. How…beautiful. <3

    Reply this comment
  37. Zoe
    Zoe 19 July, 2013, 07:46

    I am yet another person with that same 26 year-old friend and if I ever make out to LA again, I must check out that speak easy!

    Great post! I’m not sure I feel the most beautiful in my 40s. Never one to spend much time on myself, I find looking good now requires more maintenance, and I’m not used to having to spend time on that LOL. (Nor do I even *have* any time for it as a new mom.) Hopefully denial will continue to go a long way in my beauty routine!

    Reply this comment
  38. Cherie
    Cherie 9 November, 2013, 21:13

    You are so funny. Always lose myself on your blog flitting from post to post….I wish we had speakeasy’s in Australia!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 10 November, 2013, 16:38

      Cherie thanks so much!! I wish I had me in Australia. It would be a dream to go. xo

      Reply this comment
  39. Anne @MidlifeBlvd
    Anne @MidlifeBlvd 6 March, 2014, 19:10

    I love you and I love Kenneth Alton.
    Take me to a speak-easy next time I see you. Mustache optional.

    Reply this comment
  40. Deborah Morrow
    Deborah Morrow 17 March, 2014, 17:31

    I’m heading for 46 and feel ‘old’………….hate the sight of myself in the mirror and feel I have nothing to offer my younger partner…………I can’t afford plastic surgery……reading the ‘ten things I now know about beauty….’ was inspiring….thanks…

    Reply this comment

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