The Queen of My Self

June is traditionally the month for weddings and it is also now celebrated as Gay Pride month. Love is in the air all around. This is a juicy time of making whoopy.

But while June is the jolly season for Brides and Grooms, Brides and Brides and Grooms and Grooms, it is important to remember that the most primary and important love is that of Self Love. All relationships are built on the respect, esteem and affection that we have for our self.

When I went to Paris in my early fifties, it seemed like every man between the onset of puberty and the edge of the grave was coming on to me. “But this is Paris,” I would remind myself, “not real life.” I had always heard that in Europe mature women were appreciated. And indeed, women there do seem to age particularly well. They have an incredible talent for remaining luscious and alluring well past their mere middle years and into their 70s, 80s and beyond. Think of Jeanne Moreau, Simone Signoret, Sophia Loren, Liv Ullman, Celia Cruz.

The mother of a good friend was born in Germany 98 years ago. Her face is as deeply grooved as Lillian Hellman’s. She smokes like a chimney. She has a younger lover, but does not live with him. She looks, sounds and acts like an age-progressed Marlene Dietrich. She is one hot great-grandma. I once saw Alberta Hunter belt out the blues when she was in her 80s and she was by far the sexiest woman in that room. Lena Horne once boasted, “It’s ill becoming for an old broad to sing about how bad she wants it. But occasionally we do.” What fabulous role models.

Unfortunately, in our youth-obsessed culture, the specter of an overtly flirtatious and vibrant older woman is treated as a joke. Mae West, femme fatale forever, was presented in the media as a complete laughing stock. It is always said that as she aged she became a parody of herself. But she was her Self — and more and always more so to the end. Authentic and self-invented, she lived and loved totally on her own terms.

It would seem that if you live in a society where you are appreciated at any age, you would naturally have far less fear and loathing of the aging process. You would feel free to change with time and to grow more into yourself every year. You would demand and receive honor and admiration for the rich maturity you have attained. You would have fewer constraints on the range of your self-expression, and consequently, more confidence in the impression that you create. And being confident is very sexy.

A survey of young men who were in love relationships with women much older than themselves revealed that they found young women to be too indecisive, too demanding and dependent. In the words of one 26-year-old respondent, “A beautiful woman is a woman who is confident but not focused on herself. She is a woman who only looks in the mirror when she gets dressed in the morning, then forgets about it. She cares about how she presents herself to the world, but her presence is not dictated by her physical attributes only.”

Certainly that would be the explanation for my own sudden charms. The more competent I became in navigating and negotiating the maze of my life, the more practiced and commanding, the more self-assured I became. Feeling sure of yourself is the ultimate turn on — inside and out. It is more effective in its power of seduction than the finest cosmetic, the most expensive elixir in the world. Loving yourself is like wearing the most potent perfume.

Women of a certain age, emotional maturity and depth of character are extraordinarily and vitally attractive. We are substantial and robust, heady with the flavor of all that we have seen and done so far. Pungent with profound experience, with pain and loss. Lessons learned from lives lived intensely are reflected in our palate, sophisticated, subtle, firm and complex. Like fine wine and good cheese, women ripen and improve with age. Our essence becomes stronger, more challenging and infinitely more rewarding.


Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She is the Midlife Midwife™ offering counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.



The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to



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