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10 Simple Truths about Feeling Great, Staying Sexy & Aging Agelessly
By Diane Gilman
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Format:ebook $11.99 $15.99 CAD
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Like so many women who enter the second half of their lives, Diane found herself trudging along, having lost the energy that defined her earlier life. Overweight and newly widowed, she was struggling with how society had defined her as well past her prime. But she rediscovered her passion, and totally invigorated her life. At the age of 60, she has become everything she had ever dreamed she’d be. Now she shares the 10 secrets she discovered for aging agelessly, and assures women that the later years can be a time of mind-expanding work, earth-moving love, foundation rocking sex, and soul-grabbing purpose.
DENIM & DIAMONDS (MY STORY)
THE TIMES, THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’
In my business, a positive nod from Cathy Horyn, writer for the New York Times Fashion & Style section is like a blessing from on high. Any hot young designer would impale herself on a five-inch stiletto for the opportunity to be profiled. So when I heard they wanted to do an article about me and my jeans in July 2012, I was over the moon, but I had three questions:
What took them so long?
And most important: What should I wear?
Of course, the answer to the first question is money. People in creative industries love to say, “It’s not about the money,” but if we’re honest, that’s how most people measure success. One of my favorite sayings is “Money makes blind men see and deaf men hear.” So it was gratifying to know that in the mighty mind of the New York Times Fashion & Style section, I measure up. My customer base (which feels more like an extended family) is half a million strong. They’ll buy $175 million worth of DG2 jeans this year and look fabulous doing it. Those numbers are hard to ignore.
Nonetheless, in this youth-obsessed business (and this youth-obsessed world!), women my age aren’t supposed to count for much. We’re expected to step out of the mainstream and fade into the wallpaper. Don’t even try to suggest otherwise. The evidence is everywhere.
No one can deny my career has survived long beyond the average life span. Which brings me to the second question I asked when I heard that Cathy Horyn wanted to interview me: What took them so long? But maybe I should have asked, What took me so long?
Wasn’t I supposed to be past my prime ten or fifteen years ago? Here I was, sixty-six, achieving greater success and more recoginition than I’d ever known, and about to be profiled in the New York Times Fashion & Style section. No one ever told me these would be—or could be—the best years of my life, and if anyone had tried to tell me, chances are, I wouldn’t have believed them, because there’s so much cosmic noise out there to the contrary.
We are taught (especially as females) from a young age that these are our “declining” (in other words, “throwaway”) years. I was frankly astonished when opportunities came flowing out of the universe when I approached sixty, for the simple reason that I was taught the contrary—not only by society, but also in my own household, by a mother who constantly assured me, life for me as a female is over at thirty.
So at the very moment when a career is supposed to be winding down, mine is on fire. At a time when women are supposed to be well past romantic interest, I’m involved in the most sexually and emotionally torrid, fifty-shades-of delicious love affair of my life. My significant other (I’ll fondly call him Attila here to protect his privacy) is brilliant, unfairly handsome, almost criminally virile. And he’s fourteen years younger than I am. (Be patient. We’ll get to the juicy part later.)
At a phase when women are expected to quietly take their place in a rocker on the front porch, retirement is not even a distant dream for me. I’m strutting red carpets in full glam gear, looking and feeling better than I ever have in my life. Which brings us to that all-important third question: What the you-know-what should I wear to this interview?
I wanted to look cool and extremely polished, but at the same time, I wanted to be comfortable, to be truly me.
That means jeans.
Jeans are iconic; they capture the essence of femininity, youth, and personality. When you are wearing a perfectly fitting pair of jeans, they say volumes about what you think of yourself and how you take care of yourself. There are a lot of women (including my mother, once upon a time) who feel powerful in a pencil skirt, high heels, and red lipstick, but that’s never been me.
I love the look of a successful, cool girl who’s not hung up on repping as some super uptight “ladies who lunch” type, so I go for the high-low metaphor of denim and diamonds. The value of a Chanel diamond watch is blazingly obvious, but a great pair of beat-up jeans is just as precious, because the jeans tell a story. They have a rich history, a heritage, a wealth of experience, and a comfortable, sexy sense of self—pair them together, and you’ve got my favorite true-to-myself look: Denim & Diamonds.
So I went to my New York Times Fashion & Style section interview wearing an Alexander McQueen couture jacket, a delicately pleated silk blouse by Chloé, a diamond watch and handbag that are unmistakably Chanel, a pair of insanely dangerous heels (ouch!), and—you guessed it—my trusty DG2 super-skinny, $24 denim jeggings.
I could take that outfit anywhere in the world—from a yacht in Ibiza or Capri in summer, to an outdoor café in Paris, to dinner at a contemporary restaurant in NYC. The language of that outfit is immediately understood and respected. It’s a fashion passport that lets you go anywhere. It’s easy to comprehend, universal, classy—and in its own relaxed way, sexy!
Cathy Horyn, the reporter who was doing the profile, is a bit of a legend. The Daily Beast called her “Fashion’s Most Feared Critic.” She’s been the Times’s fashion critic since 1999. Before that, she terrified people from a platform at Vanity Fair, combining a master’s degree in journalism with a California condor’s eye for style. She’s interviewed everyone from Karl Lagerfeld to Anna Wintour, and she occasionally gets banned from shows by big names like Armani, Carolina Herrera, and Oscar de la Renta. Yes, banned.
She’s seen every stitch on every runway and pronounced most of it stupid and irrelevant. Just a few weeks before my interview, she’d written in an article about couture culture, in which she said, “The thing is, fashion is a rotten, rotten business. Tough. Full of compromises and shallow values.”
Sounds like oodles of fun, huh?
Long story short, there seemed to be nothing anyone could wear that would impress a style tyrant who has the entire fashion world alternately sucking up to her and crying in a corner. There was nothing I could wear that would make her like me, so I just showed up in clothes that made me like myself. The little jeans that could.
I met Cathy Horyn in the iconic ladies-who-lunch café of heavenly Bergdorf Goodman. Like a good little fashionista, I ordered a calorie-scant salad. But as the conversation progressed, I followed it up with a slab of lemon cheesecake. This seemed to surprise her (probably because most of the people she interviews are the circumference of a swizzle stick and would never even sniff a spoon off the dessert cart), but she seemed to appreciate the fact that I ate it because I wanted to, not because it was allowed, or because I needed to prove that I didn’t care if it was allowed or not.
To my surprise, I liked her. And she liked me. It was a great interview. (Hardly terrifying at all!) She let me know when she didn’t want to go down a particular path, even if it was something I was interested in discussing. She was skillful and knew how to control the pace of the conversation. But as we lingered over a four-hour lunch, I felt comfortable enough to forthrightly ask her why someone who usually writes about the Lagerfeld set was even interested in talking to me.
“I’m the 800-pound gorilla in the fashion room,” I said. “We both know I’m in a venue that’s not particulary understood or respected by my industry peers. This seems way out in left field for you.”
She told me that both the number of jeans I’d sold and the intense reaction from my audience spoke to buying patterns that interested her. The concept of dressing high-low was a big part of our conversation: How it doesn’t look right anymore to be head-to-toe couture. We agreed that for us baby boomer women (she’s in her late fifties), a pair of jeans with just the right attitude evens the playing field and gives us all the cool of a younger woman without the necessity of virgin abs and low-mileage legs.
When the Times profile came out in July 2012, I was thrilled to see that there was only a passing mention of my age. It was all about the business, and since I’m all about the business, I loved that. My age really wasn’t relevant to the conversation; she cared about my accomplishments and my fashion philosophy more than anything else.
At one point she actually referred to me as “middle aged,” and while I’d like to imagine I’m on track to live til I’m 150, I suspect she thought of me in those terms because I look, feel, and work like most people would expect a woman to look, feel, and work in her forties and fifties.
LIFE BEGINS AT SIXTY
“What’s your secret?” is a question I get a lot. Let me be perfectly clear—it’s not a secret—I want to share with all of you what I believe is the essence of of living an AGE-LESS life.
And it’s not purely about feeling or looking younger. Human beings do not get younger. I promise you—this is a fact. Google it. You’re either aging, or you’re dead. But aging doesn’t have to mean inevitably going into decline, either. Inspired is not a decade. Healthy is not an age. Beautiful is not a number. Curiosity, sexuality, mental and physical flexibility, optimism, daring to dream—none of these come with term limits. The goal isn’t younger; the goal is to be the healthiest, happiest, most radiant human being you can be at any given moment.
That is the essence of aging AGE-LESS.
When we make that shift—in both vocabulary and mindset—we breathe into being an entirely new vision of the second half of life. Every day is a movable feast of opportunity; every opportunity is primed with a wealth of experience; and every experience takes on a delicious piquancy, a preciousness that we were just too damn dumb to see or feel when we were in our twenties.
Through the call-in segments on my television shows and my Huffington Post (HuffPo) blog, I constantly hear from middle aged women who are longing for mind-expanding work, earth-moving love, foundation-rocking sex, and soul-grabbing purpose. They’ve been taught to believe that those ships have sailed. But I believe women can unlearn these negative messages and embrace a new way of thinking.
During television shows in both the United States and Europe, I talk to as many viewers as possible. These are the women who’ve created the wave that caught Cathy Horyn’s attention. Each one means a lot to me, but every once in a while, a particular caller will grab ahold of my heart.
Chatting with a caller on an evening show not long ago, I caught tears in her voice when she said, “I want to put this simply. Thank you for giving me back to me.”
It seems crazy that a pair of jeans could make that much of a difference in someone’s life, but I knew immediately what she meant. So many of us lose the essence of who we are when we reach this transitional period called middle age. Suddenly, our body, face, energy level, libido—everything that adds up to our sense of our female self—aren’t us anymore. We look in the mirror and see a stranger. (Like Bella confronting her “older self” in Twilight.)
Worst of all, we blame ourselves. So many of us women step into the fitting room at a store that caters to twentysomethings, and when the jeans don’t fit, we don’t see the jeans as wrong, we see ourselves as wrong.
Quite frankly, this is bull. The reality is (hope you’re sitting down for this), before menopause, women age half as fast as men. After, they age five times faster. What’s to feel guilty about there? That’s science, genetics, Mother Nature—not a lack of willpower or some kind of deep personal failing. So stop beating yourself up about the passage of time—start to work with it instead.
“I’m not looking to be twenty again,” another caller told me, “but your jeans make me ‘look like how I feel’. I’m sixty, and now I believe how I feel inside is how I look outside. My life is back in harmony.”
Harmony. Denim and diamonds.
Exactly like a perfect pair of jeans, we’ve reached just the right fade. We speak that universal language: class, grace, experience. A twenty-five-year-old woman has plenty of assets we don’t have, but she can’t fake, buy, implant, or paint on wisdom, personal style, and richness of character. It takes decades to create what we’ve got. But it takes focus and effort to make the most of it. To enjoy it! To use it to our advantage. And to share it.
Because I’m in fashion, my face is always buried in the editorial pages of magazines. As I’ve gotten older, and the models have gotten younger, I felt more and more marginalized by the very culture that my generation created.
However, a few recent breakthroughs suggest there’s a revolution on the way. In January 2012, when I first saw Meryl Streep on the cover of Vogue, I said, At last! One of my own kind! This was monumental. Revolutionary! The Berlin Wall of ageism was crumbling. We’re talking Vogue, people: the biggest, snobbiest, most powerful high-fashion magazine in the world. At sixty-two, Streep was the oldest cover model in the magazine’s history, and where Vogue goes, our culture follows.
Even before that, we saw a younger—(but only by a decade)—Madonna on the cover of December 2011’s Harper’s Bazaar—a major “I’ll have what she’s having” moment. (Whatever she’s doing, eating, chanting, injecting, or abstaining from is definitely working.) In her mid-fifties, she is every bit the powerhouse she was back in her torpedobra days, which is an amazing feat, because aging in the public eye is such a minefield—you’re always one collagen injection away from being one of David Letterman’s punch lines.
Candidly, we saw both these women poised and ready to lose their way, and then, find themselves again.
Meryl, ever the good girl, believed that she would be forced to pack it in when she turned forty, which is equal to eighty in Hollywood. The year she turned fifty, she was offered three movies—all casting her as a witch. As she told Vogue, she turned to her husband and said: “Well, what should we do? Because it’s over.”
Instead of giving up, though, she did the impossible. She plowed through limited ideas of what a “middle aged” woman can be (in show business) with utter intelligence. She survived in Hollywood, and against all odds, even thrived. Since then, she’s done everything from sexy rom-coms to the screen adaptation of a Broadway musical, and more than half of her Oscar nominations have been earned since she turned forty. (Up yours, Hollywood youth worshippers.)
Meryl came into her own as she aged, with a classy, natural, authentic appearance. No trout lips or frozen brows here. She looks healthy, vibrant, knowing, strong, mature, and comfortable.
Most importantly—and, I believe, the real key to her success—she never shut down. She always understood her strength, which is her ability as an actress to effortlessly access and honestly convey her emotions. To do so, she has had to open her heart, again and again, and have the courage to be very exposed. That fearlessness is a major key for all of us to aging AGE-LESS.
Madonna, a bad-girl savant, awkwardly clutched onto her youth a little too long, then relocated her trailblazing balls and basically flipped society the bird with her bangin’ body, bold career choices, and hot young boyfriends.
Every woman goes through a transitional period as she ages, after which many end up off-center, lost, and less than true to themselves. Some never find their way out of the woods. (I’ll be telling you all about my dark “lost decade” and emergence into the “light” later in the book.) We desperately need sexy, sophisticated, and confident mature women role models in our media—real women, not Frankenstein constructs—showing us that it is possible to redefine aging.
“To have fun, that’s the main issue,” Madonna says in her Harper’s Bazaar profile. “To continue to be a provocateur, to do what we perceive as the realm of young people, to provoke, to be rebellious, to start a revolution.”
Mission accomplished. These two magazine covers signal the beginning of a long-overdue media and retail insurrection.
Baby boomer women are the larger half of the biggest generational population on the planet, and so far, we’re the biggest missed opportunity in retail history. When we need a great little dress for a special occasion, we show up at the store with cash in hand, but ninety-nine percent of the rack space screams, twentysomethings only! We are the invisible woman!
Let’s take this thinking a step further: Viagra’s been raking in billions for fourteen years. In their television ads, it’s always some silver fox with a hot blond at his side. And there’s still no female-enhancing counterpart! What message are we supposed to get from that? Our sexuality is expendable? We should just put on a baggy, “hide me” dress and catch the next ice floe out of town?
“I find whenever someone writes anything about me, my age is right after my name,” says Madonna. “It’s almost like they’re saying, ‘Here she is, but remember she’s this age, so she’s not that relevant anymore.’”
That’s been the attitude, from Hollywood Boulevard to Fashion Avenue. Many of us, including me have found the path through middle age to be “the Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” But in greater numbers every day, we’re resisting that attitude with attitude.
I encouraged everyone I knew to buy a thousand copies of that Vogue issue with Meryl on the cover. I wanted to make it the most popular cover ever and send a message back to advertisers and editors: We are here, and the biggest mistake you could make in this economy would be to continue to marginalize us and judge us by our age instead of our buying power. The Silver Tsunami has started, and it is unstoppable.
When somebody gives you a hand up, helps you rediscover the essence of who you are, it’s life-changing. I know, because before he died, my life partner, Jim, did just that for me (much more about Jim later). He cared enough to be honest, to challenge me, to inspire me. Early on, I made it my mission to pay that forward and be a champion for those women who were being cut from the pack and brought to their knees by aging, as so many of us are after a certain age—it has become my life’s mission.
But I didn’t realize any of this until I had pulled myself out of my “lost decade” at age fifty-nine and came to a personal space where I saw that I would have to build the stage on which I wanted to play out this part of my life. It was within my power—and only prudent—for me to create the setting, cast the characters, and design the set and costumes. Confronted with big and small questions about how to do that, I settled into a learning process that will last the rest of my life. There are no easy answers, and we all have to be responsible for discovering and sticking to what works for us. But I have figured out a few universal truths that really work for me, and I suspect you and I have a lot in common, even though it might not look that way on the surface. So, I’m betting they’ll work for you, too.
Always remember this: You are not alone! We are not alone! There are tens of thousands of us baby boomer women out there wishing for a better quality of life and a way back to vibrancy and joy—but with no idea how of to get there or even where to start—or that it’s possible.
I know because I was one of them—lost in the vast and lonely sea of aging, alone in a tiny rowboat with no oars or rudder to steer back to shore—until not so long ago. Because I did find my way back, I’m now in the amazing position of being able to share my experience with all of you.
So many of you are telling me exactly how you feel and what you want. You want change! You want to feel important! You want sex! You want to feel sexy! You want love! You want comfort! You want to matter to the conversation at large—in your bedroom, in your home, in your workplace, in your community! If anyone knows how to rally a group around an important issue of the day and create real change, baby boomers do!
Another important component of our journey is this: Find a sense of shared experience. Isolation can be a major ager, and it can make issues seem larger than they really are. Unity looks so different today from the sixties love-in vibe—now it’s a global community—it’s Facebook—it’s the Internet Twitter minutia—it’s the cosmic conversation so essential for staying relevant.
So find a way to get out there and engage in some level of group conversation. In the New York City fashion world, where I live, it’s all about the urban, cool-girl fashionista. It’s very “fast”—it’s very visual—but if you’re sending out the right “vibe,” you’re in the club, no matter your age.
What I see there these days is actually very encouraging. When you are truly cool—like Karl Lagerfield, chief designer of Chanel, who’s well into his eighties—age is irrelavent (the central message of this book).
- On Sale
- Apr 2, 2013
- Page Count
- 248 pages
- Running Press