My Italian husband accidentally offended an 80-year-old relative over lunch last week.
His big gaffe?
He said to her (with the best of intentions): “Oh, you’re still so beautiful!”
And she retorted: “What, were you expecting me NOT to be beautiful?”
She was *not* impressed with his assumption that just because she’s 80, beauty might be a thing of the past.
Because while to be young is to be beautiful, it’s also just only one of the natural stages in our lives.
One that passes and brings many other beautiful stages.
So, aside from our offended family member…
I’ve also been in awe of the Italian ladies I’ve been swimming in the ocean with every morning this summer –– doesn’t matter what day it is, they’re decked out with their goggles, bikinis, and fluorescent swim caps and raring to go.
I just don’t see this everywhere in the world, and there’s a vavavoom to Italian ladies that I like to study. Especially the ones over 50.
Women who are confident in proclaiming their own beauty, no matter what age they are.
And I think we can give aging a major mental upgrade if we can mirror this mindset.
Here are three rules I want us to take out of their handbook, AKA How To Embrace My Age Like An Italian Lady.
1. Rock the skin you’re in (or your bikini) at any age.
Many women I see on Italian beaches are well into their 90s and wearing a bikini.
I’m inspired by these women who don’t stop wearing bikinis just because they hit a certain age. They don’t go running for the hills and cover their skin, no matter what shape and size and age that skin is.
They roll up to the beaches as if to say, “I’m gonna rock this bikini like it’s 1989 and I’m 29!”
And when I’m in my own country (Canada), I hear a lot of chatter about “covering up” and “dressing modestly” as if it’s mandatory to tuck away any visible skin into black one-piece suits or mega butt-covering bottoms.
I think, wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a world where there’s zero shame about our bods?
What is refreshing to see under the beach umbrellas in Italy is that all shapes and sizes are out there enjoying the rays. It’s all out and it’s all good!
It’s not that Baywatch-only bodies get all the rays. Nope. I feel a lot more “come as you are” vibe on the sand here, and I like it.
These women have a kind of defiance I wanna get on board with.
Take a neon green string bikini out of their straw bag. I dare you to:
Buy a bikini (or scrounge up an old one) that terrifies you, and wear the heck out of it the next time you’re by the pool or beach. And channel your inner Italian with this mantra –– “I’m a gorgeous woman and the only opinion that matters is mine!”
2. Shout your opinions to the rooftops.
The nonne here are anything but meek or quiet.
They don’t do “shrinking back” or worry about being seen as “shrill.”
They are loud and proud.
They don’t give a damn about what you think or if you happen to overhear their conversation that increases in volume every few minutes (“No, my amatriciana recipe is the only one that matters!”).
In a world where we feel like we’ve gotta choose our words carefully, worry about who we might offend at all times, remain people-pleasers and keep everything picture perfect… there’s some pride to be found in not mincing your words when you’ve got something important to say.
Letting real, raw emotion bubble up through your throat and roll off your tongue.
Standing fully rooted in owning your true personality without giving a darn!
Does that mean way more arguments?
Maybe. (They’re commonplace here. Or at least it can look like they are — conversations are LOUD and ANIMATED in Italy, as so many of us foreigners notice when we visit.)
But mostly, I hope it means more agency.
Because you’re never “too old” to keep taking crap from others or to stuff your voice down so deep you can’t remember what it really sounds like.
Take a wooden spoon out of their pasta pot and stir up your own. I dare you to:
Go out with your girlfriends and have a loud, raucous, laughter-filled afternoon. Annoy the people around you with your voices and don’t keep the volume down. Any time you think that “I’m too ____”, scratch that. If you’re too much for certain people, they’re not your people. Own it!
3. Celebrate age and stop worshipping youth
There’s something different in the air and the water over here.
I don’t know what it is, but here’s what I see:
Women simply just enjoying themselves.
I’m not even sure that the word “aging” is thrown around as much as it is in the rest of the world.
Women are mothers, sisters, daughters, nonnas, caretakers.
And in Italy, they know their place in society is important.
They aren’t going to stop living or diminish their posturing because their arms are wrinkly.
Isn’t that the way it *should* be?
I don’t know about you, but I am SO over the glorification of youth!
When did we let the world dictate what’s really beautiful, and what’s not?
It’s a gift to rack up our years on the earth, but we’ve been primed to feel incredibly guilty for sticking it out.
I’m done with it.
When I jump into the ocean on hot mornings in Levanto with a nonna paddling beside me, she makes me excited for wrinkles, thickly veined hands and tough soles on my feet.
For accepting them. Recognizing that no matter how I evolve, I’m only going to be better and more fab –– if I allow myself to.
Italian women treat aging is a privilege and a benefit, not a disservice to our bodies or a punishment.
Take a swig of their homebrewed limoncello. I dare you to:
Make your next birthday the biggest celebration you’ve ever had. Stop saying “ugh, I’m so old” and swap it with “I’m ___ and I’m rocking it.” Stop looking at what all the youngins are doing and think about what YOU want to wear, eat, and put on your face. Be a little feisty and shock yourself where you can.
Now, over to you…
Here’s what I wanna know.
What are we so scared of? What are we covering up? Where are you not doing things you *shouldn’t* be doing?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Ciao, Bianca. I loved your article on ageing as it made me think of a good friend, who recently turned 60, referring to himself as being “18, with 42 years’ experience!” Ha ha. You are right, though. I too like the way older people here in Italy are valued for their knowledge and life experiences. More strength to them!
I love that expression Domenico! “18 with 42 years experience” — pretty much sums it up I think! Thanks for sharing 🙂
I Loved this piece!
We should live free spirited and own our lives and bodies! We’ve earned it, and we are still here to continue living it!
I’m a 69 year old mother of 4 and a Grammie of 9 and recently realized I am a Grammie in a Grammie’s body and I am still my young spirited self! Which I try to pass on to the younger generation.
Love yourself for what you have achieved and for the people you have raised and the things you have experienced and travels you have taken and enjoy life to its fullest!!
Thanks for reminding us!
And your children and grandchildren take notice of your spirit — I am sure of it! Keep on doing your thing!!
Bianca – you inspire me! This crazy thing happened to me in my 50th year – my arms got a little “wrinkly” as you put it. I injured my shoulder skiing so haven’t been using it much and I’ve been running for the first time in 30 years so I’m a bit leaner. When I look in the mirror I see my grandmother’s arms so I’ve stopped wearing sleeveless tops & dresses (my favorite!).. But after reading this post I’m going to rock the sleeveless again – it is Texas after all! My grandmother was beautiful in every way to me, well into her 80’s, I’m lucky to have inherited any part of her. Thanks for reminding me that aging is nothing to be ashamed of. Love you!
That is such a beautiful memory of your grandmother Cameron, and how lucky to see her in yourself! Thanks for sharing with us 🙂 You go rock those sleeveless shirts and dresses!!
Yes, Bianca! I love this post. And as a deep-into-my-fifties woman who’s sometimes shocked by the image in the mirror and photos of myself, I feel love for the person behind the wrinkles, and my life as a whole has never been happier.
Julie, it warms my heart to hear that. Self love and gratitude for our spirits, bodies, and experience is so important. Keep doing your thing!! 🙂
PASSION! That’s what I have always loved about Italians, and that is what you are describing about these women..they have a passion for life that I have always identified with, but when I’ve shown it myself here in the States with excitement about something or fast talking or using my hands to “speak”(I’m not Italian) Iam made fun of….sometimes frowned upon…..sad.
I turned 70 this year…not crazy about the number, because I still feel 45…..so this blog was perfect for me….making our eighth trip to Italy soon…again to Florence, my favorite place…
Thanks, Bianca . I’ve been wth you since you started your blogs and you have always shown such wisdom…ciao…
Jeannie! Thanks for all the love! You are absolutely correct — that’s what keeps us energetic and full of ‘youthful’ vitality. It’s the PASSION! Florence will be lucky to see you again. And we’re so fortunate to have you in our circle!