Writer and model Hope Bonarcher reflects on growing older and how the likes of the Bible’s Solomon and popstar Madonna, have taught her what to do and what not to do.
I grew up in what could easily be referred to as “The Madonna Generation”, still playing with Barbies and listening to cassette tapes while controversy over her Like A Prayer video consumed the airwaves. The Queen of Pop has been making music longer than I’ve been alive.
Now, gone are the bouncing brunette curls swirling to and fro before a gospel choir, the perfect body-waved coif framed by hot pink sateen gloves and diamonds, the wet boy-cut writhing around on a sandy beach and the boho ringlets gyrating to the speeding beat of city lights and the sunrise. The current iteration of Madonna is barely recognisable for all the wrong reasons.
It’s ironic, her persona is filtered and plasticine at 64, while as a mom going back to work modeling at age 42, I admittedly weary at my reflection in the mirror, lacking luster while abounding in lines.
The current iteration of Madonna is barely recognizable for all the wrong reasons.
The last ten plus years of my life have been anything but Madonna-esque. I’ve spent them birthing, caring for and training up four children; trading the make-up chair and runway for tummy-time and school runs. It’s cliché, but time does fly. I can close my eyes and wonder where it went but I only need to open them and look in the mirror to answer that question.
Like most women, I care about how I look. I’ve been told I seem at least a decade younger and for a long time those reassurances placated me. The problem is, at 42, I’m fast approaching the stage Madonna came to long ago; realising I’m not going to look younger than my age forever and “ever” is steadily creeping up on me.
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I may identify as a 26-year-old, but what’s going on inside and what’s going on outside are getting frightfully close to each other. If this dog and pony show is going to continue much longer I can start turning back the hands of time outwardly (with fillers, serums, lotions, needles, even surgery) or I can start embracing the beauty of time that’s going on inside.
It’s ironic; The Material Girl, the face of transformational reinvention, now leaves the world wanting for any traditional signs of age… a wrinkle, a grey strand, a sag, a droop, a sunken shadow even? We’re left asking, in lieu of all her airbrushed imagery, where is the wisdom of age? This lesser, forgotten, inner beauty in its own right and time, is much less appreciated. Without it, is a woman of a certain age really even beautiful?
I’m satisfied to grow inwardly beautiful in wisdom and love even as my outer woman slowly withers and fades.
With this dialogue opened up, I feel I’ve learned a thing or two from Madonna’s missteps. There’s a time for everything under the sun. Solomon wrote that. The wisest man who ever lived, he was brought down by his obsession with women, reportedly having 1,000 wives and concubines. Yet this man who had more women than any man could be satisfied by ended his book of Proverbs with this phrase: “Charm is deceptive, beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” (Proverbs 31:30)
Unlike Madonna (and Solomon), when I’m tempted to the point of obsession with feminine beauty, a thing that can never truly be subjugated, at least not in one woman; I choose to keep my heart set on the One who never changes or casts a shifting shadow. Satisfied to grow inwardly beautiful in wisdom and love even as my outer woman slowly withers and fades, I’ll keep my heart hoping toward eternity with Jesus, where truly no one ever grows old.