It is often said that women are each other’s worst enemies and the debate about “letting yourself go” shows how true (alas) the maxim is. I believe in vanity; I don’t think letting yourself go is a self-loving thing to do — it’s saying, “Being considered attractive is no longer of any interest to me”, which is sad when you’re not yet 40.
Besides, I don’t quite buy it because it’s also saying, rather passive-aggressively, “my domestic contentment is far greater than yours so I don’t need lipstick”. I understand why new mothers let themselves go — it’s hard to care about this season’s hemlines when you’re in love with your baby and dizzy with tiredness — and I think it is absolutely right that they should. And I think it’s also absolutely right that they should at some point get back in shape — when they’re good and ready. There’s nothing life affirming about being three stone overweight and wearing tents.
As for “sliding comfortably into middle age”: why should this involve abandoning anything? The very idea suggests a kind of gradual petering out, as does the accompanying unspoken notion that women somehow welcome the kind of invisibility that comes hand in hand with wearing sacks and not doing your hair.
I can see why some women go so far the other way and make outlandish attempts at remaining visible. But I wish everyone would relax a bit. It’s not a competition.