For Hamlet, as we analysed it back in high school, the question was “to be, or not to be?”

Now, for many women and some men, the question is not about whether to die or not, but whether to allow one’s looks to gradually shift into old age, or to use the lotions, potions and surgical procedures available to keep looking young. Or at least youngish.

This is a question that has been brought back to the front of my mind by some of the photos taken at Bob Hawke’s memorial service.

There, in glorious technicolour, in a gorgeous dress and peach velvet cape, is his widow, a smooth-cheeked blonde beauty, Blanche d’Alpuget. At 75 years of age, looking barely older than her step-granddaughter, Sophie Taylor-Price, she is just two years younger than I am. And she was, is and ever will be far more beautiful than I was or am.

Not that I’m decrying my quite satisfactory looks, but it’s a fact that there are a lot of people who look like me, and not a lot who look like her.

Is that why I’m reasonably happy with my changing face and whitening hair? Because I have less to lose? In the meantime, she has openly used a variety of ways to keep looking like what seems to me to be a somewhat fake version of how she did back when she was somewhere between 30 and 40.

And that patina of artificiality makes me wonder why she has gone down this road. Is it for herself, as a choice to look a certain way, which is the acceptable mantra for those choosing the cosmetic surgery route, and very much how the ever-sparkling, much-missed Joan Rivers saw it?

Is it a fear of ageing as a sign of impending death? Or is it something that she did for Bob, a man who – in their more recent photos together – was unabashedly wrinkled and white haired, while being well-known for a lifelong appreciation of female pulchritude?

Quite possibly, if she saw me, she’d be feeling sorry for someone who has clearly let herself grow into messily old looks. And perhaps wonder why I’ve let myself go when I could easily afford to look a lot younger, not to mention prettier.

Am I just being lazy, or deludedly complacent, or making some sort of pro-ageing point with irritating moral superiority, while being completely out of touch with the modern day value placed on a youthful appearance?

I have no doubt that we could each argue cogently for our respective choices. And the question, finally, is in which camp do you, dear reader, belong? And why? Let the debate begin.

Anne Ring ©2019

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