Modelling for Calvin Klein, Yasmin Le Bon, 54, said last week: ‘It sounds stupid, but I didn’t want to look like someone’s grandma on the runway . . . but actually, I am someone’s grandma, and I am on the runway, so there you go’
At 54, Yasmin Le Bon is far from the cliché image of a granny — the white–haired, black-clad old lady in the corner, peering at her knitting through specs and wearing sensible shoes.
Modelling for Calvin Klein, Yasmin said last week: ‘It sounds stupid, but I didn’t want to look like someone’s grandma on the runway . . . but actually, I am someone’s grandma, and I am on the runway, so there you go.’
The supermodel says she wears more mini skirts now than she did in her 20s and wants to cling on to her inner ‘rock chick’. Oddly, she adds: ‘I’m sure people say things behind my back, but what I don’t hear or see doesn’t hurt me.’
It’s hard to imagine anyone not thinking that Yasmin Le Bon can wear what she likes. Even in granny glasses and sensible shoes she would still look wonderful.
Yes, Old Mother Goose has metamorphosed into a chick — and we grandmas are busily rewriting our fairy tales.
Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother lay in bed in her frilly mob-cap — an easy, frail victim for the Big Bad Wolf. Today’s grandmothers would smack that creature on the head with a Louboutin stiletto and send him howling back into the forest — then make big eyes at the hunky woodcutter.
When I was young, a grandmother was somebody just . . . well . . . old — and that was all quite straightforward.
Now, you only have to look at well-known glamorous grannies such as Jo Wood, Tamara Beckwith, Goldie Hawn, Carole Middleton, Jade Jagger, Susan Sarandon and Jane Seymour (to name a few) to realise the game has changed.
But this is not about grasping at glamour in a desperate, undignified scrabble for eternal youth. No, the key to modern grandmotherhood is inner confidence — and attitude. Nobody puts Granny in the corner.
Being a confident older woman (granny or not) means embracing time with a light heart, not denying it. It means making the most of who you are and what you’ve got until the very end
But where does ‘attitude’ come from? After all, many older women complain that they feel invisible. I suspect they may be the ones who really dislike ageing so much that they withdraw — pulling in their tendrils of selfhood like a sea anemone when an enemy floats by.
Perhaps it’s not so much a case of how the world sees them as how they view their own place in the world.
If your perception is that nobody in the room is interested in you, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. My advice is: ditch the taupe clothes and beige thoughts and wear look-at-me purple and red, because then who could possibly miss you?
Now, you only have to look at well-known glamorous grannies such as Jo Wood, Tamara Beckwith (pictured), Goldie Hawn, Carole Middleton, Jade Jagger, Susan Sarandon and Jane Seymour (to name a few) to realise the game has changed
Being a confident older woman (granny or not) means embracing time with a light heart, not denying it. It means making the most of who you are and what you’ve got until the very end.
It requires facing all the stages of life (some call the main female ones ‘Maiden, Mother and Crone’) with eagerness, knowing that whatever comes next is a glorious challenge.
Maturity is only reached when you accept your place in the generations, stepping back a little to let your children and their children take centre stage. But I’ve met women who actually disliked becoming grandmothers because they think the label is ageing.
That’s astonishing to me, because the arrival of four grandchildren into my life has been nothing but a blessing.
I’m writing this in the room that was once my smart office but which I’ve now turned into the grandchildren’s playroom. If inspiration dies I can play with Sylvanian Families and Peppa Pig — and indulge my inner child. Being playful and making the grandchildren laugh at your silliness is one of the delights of this stage. I love it.
Still, there in a nutshell I have encapsulated one of the difficulties. Sometimes it’s my work versus Peppa Pig. Forget the famous grandmothers and Yasmin Le Bon’s perfect legs in a mini skirt — for the rest of us, being a modern grandmother can involve a complicated balancing act.
Today, women in their 50s and beyond are continuing to live pretty much as they did in their 20s and 30s, even when life is complicated by the arrival of grandchildren. The trouble is, you have to weigh your own needs against those of the family and there can be a clash.
Maturity is only reached when you accept your place in the generations, stepping back a little to let your children and their children take centre stage. But I’ve met women who actually disliked becoming grandmothers because they think the label is ageing
My own mother was a much more selfless grandmother than I am. She was still working in an office, but wanted nothing else than to spend her holiday looking after her precious two grandchildren.
My father was endlessly patient with little ones and loved to play. They were perfect, selfless grandparents. I don’t think my mother ever chafed at the demands of my children, but (to be truthful) I’m still keener on building my career than building plastic bricks.
Mostly, anyway . . . for I’ll still drop everything to help out — because I must. That’s the ‘job’ description — and it’s how I was brought up.
There’s an irony in the fact that we baby boomers thought we could have it all — and (phew!) we are still trying our hardest to have it all. We wore mini skirts first time around, took risks, forged careers, partied hard, lived life to the full. Fifty years on, some of us are still dressing boldly, working hard, facing life’s challenges full on, and dancing to rock ’n’ roll as we quaff too much wine.
Jo Wood, 64, has a granddaughter from her daughter Leah Wood. Social changes play a part, too. The rise in divorce among older people often involves finding new partners. In that case, Mum may be less inclined to play hands-on grandma because an exciting new life beckons
Next morning we might find ourselves picking up the grandchildren’s scattered toys with a sore head. Just hand me that ‘Bad Granny’ T-shirt and welcome to my world.
And then there’s the ‘sandwich generation’ issue. The other week, my husband and I spent a day troubleshooting some health and wellbeing issues with my parents, who are now aged 97 and 94.
The following day, we rose at 7am to drive to my daughter’s house, because her early hospital appointment meant we had to finish giving the two children breakfast, supervise their teeth-cleaning, make sure they had all the right coats and bags, and then deliver them to the school and nursery.
I’m not complaining, because we were delighted to help, to be needed. But let nobody think it’s easy. To be blunt — I’m 72 and I get darn tired. These days, plenty of older women still work, or have retired to set up businesses which need enthusiastic attention. It’s not quite so easy to drop everything and get down on the floor and play Lego — even if the new hip would allow it!
I suspect this can be quite an issue nowadays — young mothers wanting their mothers and fathers to help out with the kids, while those parents (loving as they may be) are keen to do their own thing.
Social changes play a part, too. The rise in divorce among older people often involves finding new partners. In that case, Mum may be less inclined to play hands-on grandma because an exciting new life beckons. How can you be there to change nappies and find the missing dummy when you’re touring Europe with your new beau?
But this is not about grasping at glamour in a desperate, undignified scrabble for eternal youth. No, the key to modern grandmotherhood is inner confidence — and attitude. Nobody puts Granny in the corner. Pictured, Carole Middleton, 64, has four grandchildren from her daughter Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William
And if grey-haired Dad has transformed himself into a silver fox and gone off on a Danube cruise with his delightful, divorced new lady friend, he won’t be able to get out the old train set, will he? He’s too busy creating his own fairy tale to read them to his grandchildren.
I confess that, back in the day, I used to imagine a delightful future on our farm with my first husband: idyllic days when our children married and brought their own children to stay . . . But, sadly, it wasn’t to be.
Now we both have new spouses and new lives, though we each adore the children and grandchildren we share.
And this is how life is, for many older people . . . just complicated. Fragmented. Trying to be all things to all people, splitting yourself into grandmother and new partner and worker while trying to keep on top of the gardening and master new technology, because it is boring and ageing not to.
Sometimes it can all seem like a mammoth task.
Oh, but I’ve left the best until last. The vital ingredient: love. It’s what keeps us going, no matter how different we all are. The love between generations, the devotion within families, this is the one and only elixir of life.
No wonder many cultures have always revered the iconic grandmother figure who keeps the whole family together by holding out her all-embracing hands.
And it’s why I’m singing this song in praise of grandmothers (and grandfathers too, of course). Grans glitzy and cosy and happy and tired and devoted.
The admirable strong ones who raise their grandchildren full time after family traumas. The sad ones who see little or nothing of their grandchildren but always cherish the burden of love in their hearts and pray that one day family discord will be healed.
The selfless Grans and Gramps who take on countless hours of childcare without complaint — fetching and carrying and loving.
The Nans who tackle the ironing their daughters won’t do, who are wise enough to know they shouldn’t interfere, who buy secret chocolate for the kids (because it’s what grans do, isn’t it?), and who treasure the everyday miracle of seeing their own children replicated in fresh young faces full of hope.
It’s like a second chance. You may shorten your skirts, Yasmin, and slather on your anti-ageing cream — and good luck to you.
In fact, good luck to all of us as we try our best. But — whether modern or old-fashioned — what makes a grandmother is the ageless depth and joy of her unconditional love.