It was so lovely watching Terri Irwin on television last week as she sat for Anh Do while he painted her portrait. How refreshing it was to see a high profile woman of my age truly owning her years yet sadly it has become a rarity these days.
We share the same birth year, Terri and me, and the thing that resonated as I watched her was the expression of absolute truth, as though I was watching pure, unconditional love in action. What I loved was her acceptance ; her clear non-resistance to the march of time and its unmistakable signature imprinted into her symmetrical features. It was so pleasing and reassuring to see a well known female face on-screen that sparkled with character and distinctive originality.
I was enthralled by her beautiful and expressive face, unworked and totally natural, vibrant, soft, open and receptive. I would not want to speculate on Terri`s reasons for remaining work-free and I can only speak of what I saw : a woman comfortable in her own skin, free from denial and insecurity, and gutsily defying societal and industry pressure to inject and fill and nip and tuck, all to erase the ravages of time. Her lived experience, her every story, her choices, her challenges, her every victory, her every disappointment, her grief and her strength is right there, visible and worn with dignity.
Moreover, as I listened to her candid and generous interview her words, thoughts and feelings just seemed to have substance. There was a trustworthiness and a compelling credibility to them because they poured forth from an unaltered and unspoilt face. There was no diminution of the overall message because everything about Terri conveyed integrity. To my eyes and my perception there were no pieces of Terri missing and I felt as though I was watching a woman who knows her true worth, a woman at deep ease with herself. She chooses not to shackle her womanly value – her female power – to her physicality and the pursuit of an implausibly youthful appearance.
The gift of Grace in growing older and gaining wisdom is a privilege yet in our youth-obsessed culture ageing is treated as a disease – a repugnant curse that needs to be concealed and repudiated as quickly as possible. Here in pro-plastic Sydney where injectables and age-erasing procedures are seemingly de rigueur even amongst the Kardashian-inspired 20-somethings – the so-called “injectorati” – my unworked face, I have been told is considered a sign of neglect. My lined 54 year old visage is likely viewed as disparate and passé in cosmopolitan Sydney, perhaps too rustic and unsophisticated and a little out-of-place in this aspirational town where style and chutzpah trump substance much of the time. More troubling to me is the long-term damage these injected foreign substances might be doing to these young women. Will we see more Parkinsons Disease in the coming decades?
Everything feels so disposable today with in-built obsolescence par for the course and I wonder if the increasingly broader cultural normalisation of cosmetic enhancements and procedures actually marginalises and tacitly deems irrelevant the unworked face? I have the uneasy feeling that for older women in our culture the implied message is this : without a worked face you`re simply not a contender.
Not that it is likely to change me. I am pretty comfortable wearing my lived-in face and I`ll take truth over illusion, uniqueness over homogeneity, facial animacy over inert lifelessness any day. Besides, I have Terri for company. And Jerry.
I remember watching an interview on the ABC with Jerry Hall back in 2015 – the then 59 year old was due to begin a Sydney season playing Mrs Robinson in The Graduate – and I was captivated by her natural and lined face. Here was a self-assured lady who evidently honoured her own stories and experiences and who carried them with pride. She was so animated and alive, and her authenticity and allowance of the ageing process – her yield to it – was fabulous. To my eyes she was disarmingly beautiful. Here was a high-profile A-lister courageously defying the botox trend, unapologetically embracing the passage of time and wearing her years with regalness, love and absolute validation. And she radiated sexiness too!
I salute Terri and Jerry for their difference. I admire these women because at their core they know who they are. Both are aligned with their truth. I celebrate their self-respect, their self-love, their wholeness but most of all I love their determination and bravery to fly in the face of expectation and the crushing pressure to conform.
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