When did 50 start to look like this?

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By Lauren Libbert  – Daily Life

J Lo performs with Shakira. Credit:Getty Images

Anyone know who won the Super Bowl? No? Maybe that’s because the highlight of Sunday’s game was not the powerful men butting helmets in Florida’s Hard Rock stadium but the sexy 50-year-old Jennifer Lopez who, in one mesmerising half-time performance, single-handedly rewrote the rule book on how women of a certain age should dress and behave.

Clad in her barely there Versace bodysuits and black leather chaps ensemble, J Lo blew out of the water every notion of what 50 should look like. On stage, in front of millions, she wrapped her toned, cellulite-free legs around a dancing pole with the athleticism of a woman 30 years her junior, leaving her fellow midlife viewers slack-jawed in awe.

It was a performance that sent social media into meltdown, with Lady Gaga leading the charge on Twitter, calling J Lo and her co-performer Shakira (a mere baby at 43) “powerful sexy women”. There was no end to the raving about J Lo’s incredible routine, saying this is what 50 should look like and 50 is the new 40 and age should never be a barrier, blah blah blah.

But I’m turning 50 in a few months and, when I look in the mirror, I don’t feel like donning a micro-skirt or shaking my booty in public. I’m a regular at hot yoga, walk the dog twice a day and am pretty fit, but my hair is thinning, my waist is thicker and I let out a small but noticeable “harrumph” when I get out of bed. I’m also a member of numerous midlife Facebook forums where memory loss and HRT is the hottest topic, not the nearest pole dancing studio.

While the stereotypical image of a grey-haired menopausal midlifer may be outdated, J Lo’s energetic performance, I believe, is selling us a dangerous myth. While she may want us to think that age is more than a number, there’s no denying the half-century our bodies have lived. Very few of us looked like Lopez when we were 20 or 30, never mind at 50.

I certainly couldn’t have worn that navel-baring Versace number she wore to the Grammys 20 years ago, which she revisited again at Milan Fashion Week last September.

J Lo is a rarity, just like Madonna, Dame Helen Mirren and Gwyneth Paltrow, all of whom look decades younger than their age thanks to great genes and a blessed celebrity lifestyle that allows them personal chefs and trainers on their annual expenses.

“The ageing process can be well-controlled and it’s clear Jennifer Lopez has put a large amount of work into looking the way she does,” says personal trainer Matt Roberts. “She might work out for an hour and a half a day, six days a week and she looks amazing as a result and should be applauded for that effort. But it is easier for those who have been training since their twenties to keep their fitness up, even into their fifties and sixties.

“For anyone coming from a lower base – perhaps working out very little in their younger years – it will be harder, as hormone balances change from the age of 50 and the degree that body fat is retained increases.”

Although I know J Lo’s performance wasn’t meant to make women her own age feel rubbish and inadequate, among my peers, it has had that effect. Over WhatsApp and in person, we are asking each other, somewhat disgruntled: is this now what we have to aspire to? To be fit enough to pole dance?

“On the one hand, it’s lovely to have new images out there that represent the midlife woman that isn’t just a grey-haired lady sitting with her knitting needles, but it’s not realistic and they’re not how we look,” says Katie Taylor, 50, founder of The Latte Lounge, a website and Facebook group for midlife women.

“It’s the same when my friends and I look at images of Jennifer Aniston or Kylie Minogue. We can’t believe they’re the same age as we are and it makes us feel like we fall short.

“When I turned 50 my goal was about staying well, not fitting into a pair of size 8 jeans. I’d recently lost a good friend to cancer and I wanted to live longer and stay healthy.”

Flaunting her age in public this way has left others miffed, too. “Shakira is 43. J Lo is 50. I pulled a muscle emptying the dishwasher today,” wrote one Twitter user.

“If I don’t look like J Lo at 50, throw me away!!!!!!” tweeted another.

Well, I won’t be looking like J Lo at 50, unless my partner is planning a surprise body lift for my birthday. But I will be sliding into my half-century mindfully and gracefully without a micro-skirt or leather chaps in sight.

The Telegraph, London

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