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What French women get right about aging well

What makes older French women so radiant, and have more active sex lives than American women? Journalist Pamela Druckerman wanted to know how women in her adoptive country cope with looking older. She found the secret is simply to aspire to be the best version of yourself. Druckerman offers her humble opinion on how to age gracefully.

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  • John Yang:

    In our youth-obsessed society, there is a multibillion-dollar industry to fight the signs of aging. Most of the advertising, warnings and messaging is directed at women.

    But women don't have to take the bait.

    Tonight, an American in Paris shares her Humble Opinion on how to age gracefully.

  • Pamela Druckerman:

    I have never been beautiful, but, in my 20s, I discovered my superpower. I looked young.

    In my 30s, I moved to France and waiter still called me mademoiselle.

    When I turned 40, I thought it's true that everyone eventually gets the face she deserves. And what I deserve obviously is a permanently youthful glow. But then I had what the French call a (SPEAKING FRENCH) an age glow.

    Waiters started calling me madame. I was shocked. My plan had been to look as young as possible for as long as possible.

    Look, I know this sounds ridiculous. I'm an educated, modern feminist, but I wasn't alone. For a lot of middle-class American women, that's the strategy.

    So when madame happened, I only saw a few options. Spend the rest of my life pining to look 35 again, or gradually start to say that I feel much younger inside, or it's great to reach the age where I don't care what anyone thinks.

    None of these were appealing or even true. And I noticed that my French girlfriends took a different approach to becoming madame. They explained that instead of trying and failing to look permanently young, they aspired to be the best version of the age that they are.

    They kept saying that they want to be (SPEAKING FRENCH) comfortable in their own age.

    French women do point out that the nature of beauty changes as you age. By your 40s, you look like you have a story, but that story can become part of your allure.

    We're drawn to an older woman not because she's unlined and perfect, but because she's unique.

    A Parisian in her 60s told me, the beauty is to see someone's humanity. We don't want to look like we came out of a box. We're not frozen. We're alive.

    To age gracefully, in other words, is to show who you are. And you can't do this if you're terrified.

    I haven't flipped a switch and started to age like a French woman. Heck, not all French women age like from women. I do still secretly hope bartenders will ask for my I.D. But just naming my cultural assumptions takes away some of their power, and deciding how I'm going to age feels like a very adult act.

    Maybe that's my new superpower.

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