Shibusa (shibui) is a Japanese concept, with no real translation into English (Shibui is the adjective, shibusa the noun.) The people of Japan think of beauty in levels – from blatant, harsh and bold to the ideal beauty of shibusa, which is the type of beauty that involves complexity, the imperfections and patina that only time can bring. A mature beauty, like a vintage wine, a history that is conveyed by the artifact. Understated quiet sophistication.
I can’t think of a word in English that comes close. Elegant? Tasteful? Refined? Dignified? These words all describe aspects of shibusa but don’t really define it. It’s the idea that things get better with age, and that perfection is not as well tolerated as shibusa.
Shibusa is simplicity, implicitness, modesty, silence, naturalness, everydayness and imperfection.
- An old rocking chair is shibui.
- A “real leather” lazy boy recliner is not shibui.
- An old baggy cashmere sweater is shibui.
- A 100% polyester “fleece” is not shibui.
- Old English aged cheddar is shibui.
- Cheez whiz is not shibui.
You get the idea here.
I had the insane notion that us boomer women need to throw off fifty or sixty plus years of age discrimination and embrace the idea of shibusa. Why not? We’ve been calling the shots as to what’s cool for decades, so why should we stop now, just because we’re getting old, and challenged in any number of ways?
Let’s throw away the anti-aging creams, the hair coloring, the gold jewelry, the fake nails, the spikey shoes, the clothes that (let’s face it here) aren’t meant to adorn bodies that have been around almost as long as Cheerios.
At some point we’re going to have to resort to plastic surgery if we want to keep up the charade. You can only hide behind dark glasses, botox injections, turtle necks and big hair for a limited amount of time. After that, it’s the old nip ‘n tuck.
I have lighting in my bathroom that makes me look like I am a decade or two younger. I planned it that way. You know the kind. Like when you go into a really upscale department store and the dressing rooms are all lit softly, dramatically, such that you look really good, instead of those fluorescent abominations in Target. Except for a couple of flaws (which can’t be ignored) the skin tones look perfect; unblemished, smooth and nearly wrinkle-free.
Imagine my surprise when I catch sight of myself in some other venue (even a turned off Smartphone will do the evil deed) and find to my horror that instead of looking like the ageless person I believed myself to be, I do in fact look pretty much like other people my age do.
Never mind photos. I think cameras should be able to calculate the age of the person upon which they are focusing and add the appropriate amount of PhotoShop right there. That way, no embarrassingly awful pictures can be posted on Facebook and to which you have to beg the poster to “please take that down, I hate it!” and to which they reply, “aw, I thought it was cute”. Take the friggin’ thing down before I unfriend you. I don’t care if you’re my daughter or not! Say I.
There’s a 55-year-old woman who is trying out for the Dallas Cowboy’s cheerleading squad. Everyone says, “Imagine that! She’s 55! Doesn’t she look great for 55?” What the hell difference does it make? She’s still 55! She’s got an AARP card! She qualifies for the Bob Evans Senior Meal! She can buy a house in a special gated community because she meets the minimum age requirements!
We baby boomer women need to embrace the concept of shibusa and hopefully convince others to embrace it too. Then our wrinkles and hair of (whatever color it is, I wouldn’t know anymore) and sagging skin would all be shibui, very cool.
So instead of this:
I’m going for this: