RV Living: Discovering that Natural is Beautiful (at Fifty)

Rejecting Beauty Standards at 50 Years Old Wasn’t Intentional!

When I moved into an RV I wasn’t thinking I’d make a statement about beauty standards and our obsession with youth. But here I am three years later, no red hair, makeup or expensive youth-preserving treatments, flaunting my natural, salt-and-pepper hair, laugh-lines, crows feet and full figured menopause-middle. And I’ve never been happier (or freer)!

I ran across this HuffPost article this morning. First it made me cheer. Then it caused me to reflect upon my own experience as a middle aged woman in America. The article, “Stop Telling Me I Look Younger Than My Age” was written by 30 year old Elizabeth Lavis, who, at the age of thirty started hearing , “don’t worry sweetheart you look ten years younger” (I’m paraphrasing).

Her experience as a woman in her thirties made me think about my own process of ‘going natural’ at fifty. How two years into my nomadic RV life I realized how ridiculous it was to keep up my Loreal Paris Superior Preference 5MB Medium Auburn colored hair. I was, after all boondocking on public lands for days at a time and rationing water! Besides, the fake red didn’t really match my new nature-immersed lifestyle.

Natural IS Beautiful!

In my old life, I spent hundreds each month on hair dye, makeup, anti-aging creams, gym memberships, manicures, pedicures, expensive haircuts. As a result, I constantly heard, “wow, you don’t look your age!”. I cringe now to think I took it as a compliment; not yet ‘woke’ to the idea that there is no shame in looking my age!

Carolyn Higgins, Business Owner

Now that I live in an RV and have made a conscious decision to stop conforming to America’s fake version of beauty (youth and thinness) I constantly read comments on my YouTube Channel like these: “Wow the road has really aged you, you look horrible”;  “You’re 51? OMG you look 70!”;  “You’ve really let yourself go, you look like an ugly old hag now”;  “You really need to dye your hair red again, you look haggard” ; “The road has not been kind to you, you look so old!”

Of course, I laugh these comments off because I recognize what’s behind them; ageism and society’s fear of getting old.

Beautiful at Any Age

How did I go from looking 10 years younger to looking 20 years older simply by going natural? The answer is, I didn’t.  It’s all how society views aging women.  I find it fascinating that I went from “looking younger” to “looking old and haggard”. There seems to be no room for “looking my age”. Or even looking like me and how I’m supposed to look at 51!

Carolyn Higgins of Carolyn’s RV Life – 50 and proud!

This chapter of my life, as a menopausal 51-year old woman has been fascinating. I’m learning what it means to be invisible as an aging woman who doesn’t conform to society’s expectations of beauty. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it. But it certainly makes me question many of the mores and cultural messages I’ve lived with.

Check out Lavis’ article. It’s a provocative piece.  And I’d love to hear from you. What do you think about our obsession with youth and beauty?

If you want to read and understand more about my life as a full time solo woman RVer read more here or visit me on YouTube!

11 comments

  1. I’ve already replieded on FB. But this past week I looked in the mirror and decided to add my purple streaks to my hair yet again. It’s about what makes me happy when I look in the mirror. I know you and I agree on personal choice. I choose to add food coloring to my graying hair to make me smile and kinda thumb my nose at people who think it’s freaky. I paid my dues as you did with years of money spent on trying to keep up the image in my professional environment. I’m done with that! I’m on the road full time too and I am liking myself more at 62 than I ever did. I earned my silver hair and laugh lines, my other lines from stress and sadness are a badge of honor I wear proudly because I am still standing. Peace and love ✌

    1. Carol – YES!!! I love seeing streaks of purple, blue or pink in gray hair.. To me that’s another way to buck the norm and express your personality. Congrats!
      I am so glad you are liking yourself.. If only we could have learned these lessons a bit sooner, right?? Enjoy! Carolyn

  2. Great article! I was laughing through the others comments cuz they were so crazy! Not only were they rude and in your business, but they were wrong! You look happy. You look intelligent. You look like you, the uniquely qualified to be you. If only we could all see our true selves, what a better society it would be.

    1. I completely agree Dawn, if we judged people more by what’s on the inside than on the outside, we’d all be better off!

  3. At thirty, I really didn’t want to look 20 as the infantalization of women irked me and I was having a career. I don’t get what’s wrong with 30 year olds. Move on to 40, I would do my hair for the richer color to maintain the look but I don’t like being fussed over and a manicure is as stupid as stilettos in terms of getting stuff done. Im not princessing my hands for some stupid color. Hands are essential as feet. Though I spent my share on face creams untill I woke up one day and decided I have better things to spend money on. I still moisturize, but you can do it with just about anything like sunscreen. Women will only be free when we stop putting ridiculous, crippling fashion expectations on ourselves and each other. Waxing, manicure, pedicure, idiot shoes, clothes you can’t walk in or are impractical for the season, fussy hair, it’s a prison we manufacture and enforce ourselves.

    1. “ridiculous shoes” LOL.
      I’m not sure though that I agree that women are completely responsible for this. Try climbing up the corporate ladder without or getting a job on television or even politics without towing the beauty line. We didn’t manufacture this – society did and we’ve learned that in order to get by, to get ahead, to be accepted, to succeed we have to participate

  4. Carolyn, my hair started turning white when I was in my 30’s and I decided then – since I wear my hair short – that I wouldn’t try to color it. Haircuts every 6 weeks or so didn’t seem to go with coloring it. ^ . ~

    Since then I have embraced the idea that like wine, I’m not getting older, I’m getting better. Your videos inspire me in a way I would never have imagined. I’ll be taking off in May or June for a solo summer of camping in the Colo/Wyo/NM area. No firm plans except for a couple of weeks – just see where the road leads me. Thanks for being a big part of my inspiration!

  5. I camo my gray..still working ft…but no mascata.. very natural easy care look! I agree..do what we like..I have hardly any lashes and get crying easy..so a little foundation.powder and lip tint..good to go!

  6. excellent, for a woman who does not let adversity make her fall and in the face of the impossible you do what is possible, it is what reflects what she writes, luck in your adventures.

  7. Carolyn,
    Your videos have been an awesome inspiration, and I love your willingness to share some thoughts with us. It’s like having a long-time friend come to visit. Thank you for being so genuine. When I stopped coloring my hair, some family members commented, “Mother still colors her hair, and she’s 85!” My response is that I will continue to “go as me”.

  8. Up until now, I’ve ALWAYS had people tell me I look younger. For senior discounts, I would get carded! I’ll be 65 this year.

    Now, everything’s different; I had brain surgery on Dec. 1, 2021. Two months later I still don’t look the same; the right side of my face and right eye droops. My right eyebrow doesn’t go up all the way. My right jaw is partially frozen and I can’t open my mouth all the way – likely because of where the incision ends just above my right ear, which has pushed it down and out. And of course, I’ve lost hair where the incision is. They tell me all this will go back to normal – eventually. And I’m in physical therapy for the jaw – because that’s the most important problem; I can’t go to the dentist like this.

    But here’s the thing; before the surgery, my doctors repeatedly said things like, “We’ll make you look better than before,” and “We’ll smooth out those forehead wrinkles – oh wait; you don’t have any,” and “You’ll look better afterward!”

    These comments were not only inappropriate but started to make me suspicious about the entire procedure. I also had the feeling they said these things to all their neuro-surgery patients (just the women, I wonder?). But I couldn’t not do the surgery – the tumor was up against my right optic nerve, and not doing it would have meant blindness in first the right eye, and then eventually both – in just a few short years.

    And they tell me if after 6 – 12 months these things haven’t gone back to normal I’ll have to get them “fixed.” Great…

    One of the things that impress me about you Carolyn is how we – as your audience – can tell that you feel beautiful, and happy just as you are. I find myself envious of that. The other thing is that from the hints you’ve given about your upcoming memoir, I feel that our backgrounds are very similar. Having said that growing up through trauma has a way of killing one’s self-esteem and confidence, and it can be very difficult to not feel hurt and angry when our character is judged by our appearance rather than by who we are. I’m so happy that you have not been held back by something like that, and if you were at one time, you grew past it. I don’t think I’m there, though, and I wonder if in 6 – 12 months if my face, eye, and hair are still like this – will I be able to accept it happily – or not.

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