Book review: You Look Good For Your Age: an anthology edited by Rona Altrows

I heard rumblings about this book in my social feeds, hints that a subversive collection of essays, poems and short stories would take on the often heard back-handed compliment: 

You look good for your age.

I’m too young to get this ‘compliment’ but I sense it coming my way through variations, such as, ‘You can’t be in your forties,’ even after providing key life details. After mentioning how long I’d been married, the age my hairdresser blithely declared for me would have made me a child bride, young even by Victorian standards.

Reading You Look Good For Your Age is like having a community, of chatting with people of different generations, an experience that’s been missing while the pandemic rages on. I have missed the women turning up for 7am cardio classes at the rec centre. I’ve missed the librarians. I’ve missed the readings at bookstores. Luckily I have a neighbour who makes me laugh with her ‘golden years’ attitude toward indulging. If she wants an ice cream cone, she’ll have one. Life’s too short.

While I’m trying to maintain health good enough to get to her level of indulgence, I know that aging is unavoidable. Our culture is obsessed with youth, and might only have time for stories of old men, and only powerful ones heading family dynasties. What’s unique to this book is the stories of women’s aging, which as recounted in this book, are stories people don’t always want to hear.

But as this book reminds us, a woman has worth even if she bears no children, even if she isn’t found attractive to men, and even if she won’t conform to the current norms of womanhood.

I stopped wearing makeup when I wondered why no one asked the men I worked with if they were tired, like I was asked if I forgot to put concealer below my eyes. No one commented on their grey hair or gushed over their new blazer. Or suggested the team take a break from bringing in baking for a bit, while purposefully not looking at their button-straining bellies.

I am now simply myself, with a fresh face and natural-coloured hair. I prefer comfort over fashion. I must be able to run for my life in any shoes I wear. I am no longer self-conscious about my body because it’s my body. If a man looks at me in the grocery store, I’m bemused, amused, slightly flattered, and then I shrug it off. I’m not here for you, I mutter out loud.

This anthology is a wonderful gift for any women in your life, especially if that’s you. It gave me the sense of community I was craving, and the company I didn’t know I need as I enter the next stage of my life. 

Get your copy of You Look Good For Your Age from the University of Alberta Press as a physical, printed paperback, a downloadable pdf, or an e-pub from Kobo.