Not long ago I showed up for a magazine shoot and the photographer, upon seeing me, stopped in his tracks, widened his eyes, threw open his arms, and exclaimed, "Gabrielle, I am amazed at how good you still look." He's a genuinely nice person in a field filled with sometimes not-so-nice people, and it's possible he regretted that tiny word still the second it tumbled out of his mouth. So he went on to overcompensate, praising the state of my skin ("even though you've spent so much time in the sun") and my figure ("even though you've had two kids"). He meant well, and yet every sentence he uttered dead-ended in the same place: I can rock a magazine spread with the help of Photoshop, but I am not the hot-ta-ta boffo babe I once was. I am, like everyone else in the world, getting older.

Everyone turns 50. (I should say, if you're lucky you turn 50, because some of my friends died in their 40s.) The stark fact is that you can spend all your time, energy, and money having fat removed from this place and injected into that place, having different pieces of skin tucked and sandblasted smooth and other parts puffed up and lightened. (Mind you, I'm not for a minute saying you shouldn't do this. The day may come when I spring for an eye tuck.) But it's good to be sane about it, to pitch your tent in the camp of aging gracefully, and to realize that however much you have done, there might come a day when you look like a really rested 40- or 60-year-old who has had work done, but you're never going to look 22. That ship has sailed.

Some days I catch a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror of my truck and am shocked by the new lines beneath my eyes. Or I twist my forearm a certain way and see that the elasticity of my skin has decreased. But the older we get, the less critical we should be about our imperfections. At 40 we should be less critical than we were at 30; when we're 50, less critical still. Back off on your head-to-toe inspections. (And stay away from the heinous magnifying mirrors you come across in hotel bathrooms.) There's always going to be a gaggle of beauties who are younger than you, hotter than you, and gaining the attention of the world in a way that you're unlikely to again—if you ever did in the first place. I'm not being less fortunate than you.

I have young daughters, but I don't let their youth torture me. I want to enjoy watching them come into their own vibrant colors and celebrate all their milestones. I'm not in a race with them, or anyone. You can't be better or worse than anyone if you are not competing with or comparing yourself to them.

Sometimes I tell myself that in ten years I'll look back at how I am now and think how young and beautiful I was, and the thought of that makes me smile. I don't want to be the woman who's angry at the world because the clock keeps ticking. Rather than trying to be endlessly foxy, deep into middle age and beyond, my goal is to be handsome, distinguished, and in command of my life. My goal is to be beloved.

Next: The person who inspires her to embrace aging


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