So many women seem to imagine that when they dip their heads in henna twenty years suddenly slips from off them into the mess. As a matter of fact, they invariably pick up an additional ten years with the dye every time. After all, the hair, even at its dullest and greyest, shows fewer of the painful signs of Anno Domini than almost any part of the body. The eyes and the hands, and, above all, the mind–these tell the tale of the passing years far more vividly for those who pause to read. But then, so very many women make the mistake of imagining that if their hair is fully-coloured and their skin fairly smooth the world will be deceived into taking them for twenty-nine. As a matter of fact, the world is far too lynx-eyed ever to be taken in by any such apparent camouflage. On the contrary, it adds yet another ten years to the real age, and classes the dyed one among the “poor old things” for evermore. No, the truth of the matter is that, to keep and preserve the illusion of youthfulness long after youth has slipped away into the dead years behind us, is a far more difficult and complicated matter than merely painting the face, turning brown hair red, and being divorced. Perhaps one of the most rejuvenating effects is to show the world, while trying to believe it yourself, that you don’t honestly really care tuppence about growing old. To show that you do care, and care horribly, is to look every second of your proper age, with the additional effect of a dreary antiquity into the bargain. It isn’t sufficient to be strictly economical with your smiles for fear lest deep lines should appear on your face (deep lines will come in spite of your imitation of a mask), or to dye your hair a kind of lifeless golden, or to draw your waist in, dress as youthfully as your own daughter, and generally try to skip about as giddily as your own grandchildren. No, if you want to seem youthful–and where is the woman who doesn’t?–you must think youthfully all the time. This doesn’t mean that you must act youthfully as well. Oh, dear me, no! Old mutton skipping about like a super-animated young lamb–that, indeed, gives an impression of old age which approaches to the antiquity of a curio. No, you must keep your intelligence alert, your sympathies awake; you must never rust or get into a “rut”; above all, you must keep in touch with the aims of youth, without necessarily merely imitating its antics–then a woman will always possess that interest and that charm which never stales, and which will carry her through the years with the same triumph as her youth once did, or her beauty–if she ever possessed any. And if she must use the artificial deceptions of chemists, which deceive nobody, let her do it so artfully that, metaphorically speaking, she preserves the lovely mellow atmosphere of an “old picture,” not the blatant colouring of a lodging-house daub.
But, of course, one of the hardest problems of a woman’s life is to realise just when she must acknowlege that her youthful prime is past. Some women never seem able to solve it. They either hang on to the burlesque semblance of twenty-five, or else go all to pieces, and take unto themselves “views” as violent as they are sour. When they cannot command the uncritical admiration of the gaping crowd, they descend from their thrones to shy brickbats at everyone who doesn’t look at them twice. A wise woman realises that although at forty she cannot be the centre of attraction for her youthfulness alone, she can yet command a circle of true friends, which, though smaller in number, is more deeply devoted in intention. But she will never be able to keep even these unless her sympathies are wide, her heart full of understanding, unless she keeps herself mentally alert and her sense of humour perpetually bright. Should she do so, hers will be the triumph of real charm; and, providing that she grows older not only gracefully but also cheerfully, not by plastering herself over with chemical imitations of her own daughter’s youth, but by shading becomingly, as it were, the inevitable ravages of time, which nothing on earth will ever hide; by dressing not more than five years younger than she really is–then her attractiveness will continue until she is an old, old woman. And I would back her in the race for real devotion against all the flappers who ever flapped their crepe de chine wings to dazzle the eyes of that cheapest of feminine prey–the elderly married man.