I am of a certain age—36 to be exact.
I’m not quite middle-aged, but I am not a young ‘un anymore. I get advertisements via the internet and in the mail urging me to try XYZ product in order to “look younger” or “maintain a youthful” appearance. For fun, I once kept track of all the ads I received in a week.
I estimated that if all these things actually worked, then I would end up looking younger than a fetus.
Of course, I know better than to believe the hype. Also, thanks in large part to being half-Asian and shunning the sun, I’ve managed to age reasonably well. However, I am the last person to deny that aging is not a legitimate fear of most people—especially women.
While some pooh-pooh the idea that aging is something to worry about and chide women for being so vain and shallow, the fact is, we are judged by how we look. Ours is an age-obsessed culture. Paradoxically, we are living longer and growing older as a society while all the while we are fighting the sights of aging with every weapon we can obtain-i.e., “miracle” creams, Botox, plastic surgery, etc.
The only time it is okay to be old is if we don’t actually look our age. For example, just pick up any weekly issue of People or Us Weekly and see page after page of celebrities who are touted for looking fabulous for their age. While some have hit the genetic lottery, many of them owe their youthful visages to cosmetic surgery and the best make-up artists known to man.
In theory, I have nothing against cosmetic surgery. I have actually known several people—men and women—who have had cosmetic procedures and felt like a million bucks afterwards. Often times, the things they got tweaked and changed weren’t even that noticeable but it made all the difference to them and their self-image.
In those instances, I say why not.
However, like anything else, there are those I dub victims of cosmetic surgery. These are ones who have been nipped and tucked within an inch of their lives and are pumped so full of Botox that I doubt their clothing even wrinkles any more. Most of them do this in an attempt to look young. In every case I have ever personally seen, they failed miserably to recapture their youth.
Some people are able to appear younger than they are not because of any surgery or miracle cream but because of their personalities. Such people are rare, though.
Someone who best exemplifies is one of my current idols who happens to be the mother of a friend of mine. A strikingly beautiful artist who is 70 years old and sports (dyed) electric blue or purple hair, she often appears in what can only be called ensembles. (The word that comes close to describing her chose of outfits is “theatrical”.) Now on me or anyone else, they would look ridiculous—however, she can pull them off and has a quality that can only be called “ageless.”
Still, she doesn’t appear to be trying to pass as 25 again. I would imagine that she knows that she will never be or look 25 again and to try and attempt to do so would be ridiculous.
There is something to be said for a face that shows signs of having lived. Give me one with some crows’ feet or laugh lines any day over one that has been plumped and frozen to the point where there are no lines or character present.
At some point, unless we died young, we all get to a point were we will be old and it will show in our physical appearance no matter how hard we try to prevent it.
Many years ago, when I was in my early teens, I read an Allure magazine article in which they interviewed several prominent NYC “socialites” who were in their 60s. There was a quote by one who admitted she had had more than one cosmetic surgery procedure. She said, “The day I pass a construction site and don’t get wolf-whistles is the day I give up.”
I remember thinking even then how it was sad because at some point, the whistles stop.
In fact, an alternative way of looking at it is that it is actually a good thing because 1. It is a way of weeding out people who are only attracted to the superficial. 2. By that point, one (hopefully) has charisma and personality to make up for the lack of looks.
That doesn’t mean that when one gets to a certain age its time to throw in the towel, but I do wish the obsessive search for an eternally youthful appearance would stop or at the very least, society would give it less attention.
Perhaps the aging population will have an effect and this may happen. Even if it doesn’t, then my hope is that at least we’ll be more comfortable with the idea of aging and at least some of us will be comfortable with looking our age.
In fact, I even hold out hope that the latter will be the majority by the time I am old.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise