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!