Ed Hillary on the nature of beauty

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17 August, 2007 by rhesus12

Ran into a old university friend, who I’ll call, er, Rachel. We went for a walk around the top of Mt Victoria and down into Evans Bay. She seemed troubled and out of nowhere started complaining that it was OK for men to age and have their “faces turn to leather”, but society was not so forgiving of women over 30 who look over 30. As someone starting to look like a late model Ed Hillary, I agreed (and was slightly relieved).

It must be especially difficult for Rachel, who during the Otago years was what the Victorians called a “celebrated beauty”. I remember the first time I saw her. I was standing in the hostel kitchen, a naive first-year direct from a boys school, watching her walk towards us over the grass with the sun at her back. It was like a slow motion Timotei ad. For a few weeks I couldn’t even talk to her, until someone kindly pointed out that she was so far out of my league I could relax. So I did and we became friends.

She still looks pretty much the same, a few more lines, possibly one or two more kilograms, but no more than is totally natural. At the end of our walk she hit on the idea that the further she got into her 30s, the more she would drift into sexual anonymity until she was invisible to all but her own age group (ie, leather-faced men). My answer was, probably not true, but who gives a shit? See the process as a gift, as the clearest possible example that attachment to temporary things brings suffering. Otherwise you end up like Blanche DuBois or, bloody hell, Posh Spice.

This just made her more upset. I could see her new favourite phrase appearing on her lips – “Hippy Buddha bullshit” – but at least she didn’t actually say it.

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August 2007
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