Claire Haye was profiled here on taoStyle earlier this year.
An accomplished artist, sculptor and jewelry designer, Claire is truly one of Taos’ most remarkable women.Now she has published her first book, A Modern Woman’s Guide To Ageing; Together We Consider Our Options.
With photographs by Lenny Foster, and blank pages included after each section to journal in, the book is set up in a very similar format to Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way series. A self-help guide for women entering the late Autumn and Winter of their lives, in the new millenium.
Claire belongs to the first wave of American baby boomer women, the ones who broke ground for the rest of us; burning their bras, becoming liberated and navigating their own paths to sanity and balance while juggling traditional roles of marriage and motherhood with their newly found feminism.
In fact, Claire who was brought up in an unconventional, very Bohemian home, chose the latter over the former, perhaps in dire need of the normalcy she did not have growing up. It wasn’t until her daughters were in their teens when she began claiming her ground and autonomy as an artist.
Now, on the cusp of 70, she has written this very courageous guide for women who are struggling with their place in a youth obsessed society (I beg to differ however, I believe that’s changing) that focuses on external and very superficial standards of beauty, often rendering women of a certain age, virtually invisible, in their minds.
Well written and although quite clinical in its approach, the book does offer up a few humorous gems. I especially loved the section on food and eating and thought Claire absolutely nailed the fact that we have become a (few generations) of neurotics as far as our diets are concerned.
Focusing mainly on health and a meaningful and purposeful life, Claire does touch on matters of Botox, plastic surgery and other cosmetic procedures a lot of women buy into once their eyelids and necklines begin to show the signs of gravity and time.
In this light, the book breaks no new ground, but puts Claire firmly inside a generational club that includes writer Erica Jong (also brought up in a Bohemian, intellectual NYC family) who is just a year or two older.
Jong’s latest book Fear Of Dying explores sexuality after a certain age, as does Claire, in a less explicit manner. Both of these women hearken back to a time when attractiveness to the opposite sex counted almost as much as their degrees from Vassar or Smith. Even Gloria Steinem made sure she always looked good.
In France (and much of Europe) being a Woman Of A Certain Age has always carried weight; in America it is a different story and this is a distinctly American take on the story.
A generation behind Claire (I’m getting on here too) my own views on ageing reflect both a more European upbringing, as well as a generational revolution that rejected pretty for interesting, and instead of botoxed and bleached role models, the women I came of age looking up to,(e.g. Patti Smith, Charlotte Rampling, Francoise Hardy etc.), wear their silvering hair, drooping eyelids and lined faces like badges of honor. They don’t care, and far from being invisible, they’ve caught the eye of fashion designers and advertisers who are going crazy using them in major ad campaigns as I write. Old in fact, might be the new cool, as far as we are concerned.
But we wouldn’t be here with our punk attitudes this late in the day, if it weren’t for women like Erica Jong, Claire Haye and all the others who mapped out a new route on how to be a woman, a modern woman in this tumultuous and changing world. And as this generation of women enter the final stretch of their lives and contribution to the planet, I’ll continue to look to them for guidance and inspiration with deep gratitude for all they did and continue to do, to make this world a better and easier place for women and girls everywhere.
In the final chapter of this book, Claire takes on death. She tells the story of her mother’s passing in her apartment in NYC at 85. Claire was there, rendered helpless by her mother’s determination to pass away with as much dignity as was possible. She shares her conflict, offers options and advice (as she does throughout the book) with no judgement whatsoever. We all have choices, she tells us as she lists them and encourages us to explore all possibilities.
This I think is the real gift of this book, it won’t provoke defensiveness and might in fact help many women stuck in old paradigms of age and ageing, especially regarding health and fitness. Most of all it encourages us to truly live while we are still breathing; to eat, drink, dance, make love and revel in all of our senses and the sensual experiences that come with them.
Claire’s book is available exclusively via her website, linked below this post.
Photographs care of Claire Haye.