Dita De Boni 's Opinion

Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita de Boni: Looking in the face of 40

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

I've come to the realisation that the lighting in my current house is wildly insufficient, and not only that, mine eyes doth deceive me every time I look into a mirror.

Not that I like what I see for the most part - good gracious no. But I find that I can live with my reflection most of the time. It helps that I only have, on average, five minutes to give myself a good look-over, which is never enough time to consider every wrinkle and blemish in detail.

So on you can go in blissful ignorance for quite a while. But eventually, truth will out. For me, the truth of my appearance was revealed when recently I had to have a professional photo taken for the Friday Business Herald, only to find I was far from the ravishing creature I must have secretly thought I was. Craggy, haggard and pasty might be more apt descriptors.

The first photographer from the Herald was dispatched out to take my photo and did so in about two minutes, not quite giving me the time to arrange my face suitably. I had fretted over the shot for quite a long time (perhaps stupidly and vainly) and thought I had my best war paint on, but was reduced to tears when I saw the final copy on the front of the publication the following day. I looked like someone who had been locked in a cage for five months. (In fact, I have been getting up to feed a baby through the night for about five months and so my droopy, puffy face was probably a fair reflection. My expression, however, where I looked like Margaret Thatcher encountering a hippie, can not be so easily explained).

Family could not understand my devastation at the picture. But as many of them have completely given up looking anything other than scrubbed clean four decades ago, I couldn't take their words of consolation seriously (and their words were far from consoling in any case: "No one will notice!" barked one, while another chided me for being too old to care about that sort of thing any more.

At 39?!)

I was determined to get another photographer around, one that would use more lights and jolly me along a little. I tried to explain what I was after "I know I'm not going to look like Cindy Crawford but I would like to have something taken that's a little more flattering..." I mithered on.

My helpful husband cut in. "Look, what she's trying to say is that in the last photo she thinks she looked like a bit of a mutt," he said.

Errr... thanks for clarifying that. One might think the photographer would have cut in at this point and denied I could look anything like a 'mutt', but in fact he nodded his head sagely and gave a quizzical expression, as if making me look less mutt-like was going to occupy every spare ounce of grey matter.

He proceeded to shoot away, doing about 30 minutes of shots, and resolved to send them through later in the day. As I flicked through them it dawned on me that, while these were better, I was never going to look like I did when I was, say, 33, and without children. Motherhood, constantly interrupted nights, lots of coffee and a lack of exercise had taken their toll; ageing had happened. Not only that but the death of my mother four and a half years ago had, seemingly, made me middle aged in the face overnight. No photo was ever going to please me.

My features had coarsened, but what I could not understand is why I couldn't seem to do the "twinkle in the eye" smile any more. Admittedly I had looked down during my photo shoot and realised I was covered with baby spit-up, but that aside, my eyes looked flinty and harsh. "You look like a bitch in these!" my sister told me, with some amusement.

I sent her the nicest one, one with the merest hint of a smile, to see if she could improve it (she's an image handler by trade). I got it back quickly, which I thought was a good sign. "Um, I did do quite a bit of work on it," she said, before adding she moved my bustline up to stop me looking too "National Geographic".

Well, that will learn me for being vain I guess. The Herald subsequently chopped it back to just my face, which is run so small that really it is hard to see how much three children have sapped the elasticity from my skin, thankfully. The new and improved boobs are gone, the colours are distorted by printing, the carefully preened hair looks simply lank.

It doesn't matter in the final analysis, but because I am a woman, of course it does. I'm sure that the modern woman, having her child at a much later age, finds the wear and tear of child-rearing on her face and body much harsher, and at the stage where she could try and arrest the slide she finds it the hardest, as the children are little and their needs consume large amounts of time.

Nevertheless my new face is something I need to get used to, because I am resiled not to go down the Botox path, so acceptance may be the only way forward. Just don't take my photo please, unless you come with plenty of lights, lots of positive affirmations, and the possibility of plenty of lovely airbrushing afterwards.


Dita De Boni

Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

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