Anti Anti-Aging, Pro Great Glow

I thought it was the usual – a skinnied-down version of a new magazine in a world gone virtual. Daring, I thought, as attempting any sort of print publication in this age of the Internet is an uphill battle. But I set aside the bills from the mailbox, and sat down to page through.

I hadn’t recognized the woman on the cover. Only after reading the table of contents did I glance back and scrutinize the face, discovering an 80s icon in the plumped, smoothed, and limpid likeness; a facsimile of her “older” younger self.

I won’t say who it was; I will say I was disappointed. The person gazing back at me seemed pleasant enough, somewhere in that tinkered-with range of 40 to 60, yet her face spun no stories and held only the slightest resemblance to the star I once watched and listened to.

I skimmed the lead article, and thumbed through the rest. Hmm, I thought. A lot of sponsored copy.

Then I realized it was nearly all sponsored. There was lasik from my local clinic, Botox from the dermatologist in the nearby office park, full-fledged nips and tucks or, mini-lifts if that’s your preference.

Would you like a vibrant smile?

That posed no problem, as I scanned “before” and “after” images from a half dozen providers of dental implants or pearly veneers.

Care to explore concierge-assisted recoveries for your surgical enhancements?

There were many to choose from.

And there was more: case studies on European creams, on heart healthy diets, on the advantages of the now-accepting-new-members senior spa and health club. There were pictures and paragraphs on every conceivable cosmetic procedure.

I paged back to see the name of the publisher and learn more about the contributing writers. This thinly veiled advertising circular was little more than a targeted set of “senior services,” all of which were spouting the advantages of anti-aging this, anti-aging that.

And then it struck me – which isn’t to say it hadn’t occurred to me previously.

Anti-aging? Wouldn’t that mean death?

Shouldn’t we be pro keeping our eyes and ears open, pro making reasoned choices, including rejecting the concept that we must always appear young? Why is every sign of aging “bad?”

  • Why are my joyful laugh lines to be expunged?
  • Why must my abdomen reject the ripples that show I carried babies and gave them life?
  • Why is aging for women so sorrowful that we feel “less” than we once were – less worthy of love, less worthy of jobs, less worthy as people?

Why had this lovely 80s star allowed her individuality to be cosmetically and digitally altered?

I am a woman at midlife. I may not like the loosening of skin in all its inevitable places, but isn’t that natural and not without its own beauty? Is it impossible for us to appreciate the entirety of the package, rather than pointing to the shiniest wrapping and saying that is what matters? Can’t we focus on health and its obvious advantages?

Of course I’m aware of ageist prejudice.

Of course I’m aware of my lessening marketability.

But doesn’t accepting the prevailing “wisdom” of fighting aging tooth and nail mean condoning that we are valueless as we mature?

I eat well, I walk briskly for exercise, and yes, I paint my gray and I still enjoy dressing in a feminine fashion. I tend to my mascara and gloss, and God knows I adore my shoes. I won’t say “never” to the possibility of a tweak someday, but nor will I apologize for my age, and with it – my acquired wisdom, my sexual maturity, and my stubborn vitality.

And I won’t be told that aging is anything other than natural, and a privilege.

Maybe it’s time we shifted our thinking, we the women of 40 and 50 and 60 and older. Rather than fighting our years, perhaps we should fight for them. So give me Meryl and give me Helen. Let’s toot our handsome horns and flaunt our fabulous fuller figures. Let’s know that great glow is more than show, and not the entitlement of a single demographic.

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© D. A. Wolf

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Comments

  1. Fabulous post BLW. In a perfect world, we are all allowed to grow old gracefully, wearing the tests of time like medals of honor. Sadly, the temptation to nip here and tuck there is constantly present in our minds. I admit, I’ve considered it from time to time. And I can’t, in good conscious, vilify those who do choose to have “work done.” I just hope they are doing it for themselves, and not just to conform to some societal expectation or misplaced sense of worth.

  2. It’s really just all about selling us something isn’t it? Because promoting contentment, a questioning and engaged mind, a lively spirit just doesn’t *sell* products.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      True enough, déjà pseu, though in the times I’ve lived in France, I never felt that female value was so entirely based on youthful beauty. More elements played into the “package.”

      Then again, what if we did try to sell more services and healthy products to a broader demographic that didn’t “erase” us in the process?

  3. Hear, hear!

    The thing that boggles my mind about so many women who have had “tweaks” done is that they often look odd, unnatural. It’s not just that they’re trying to freeze the process of aging, but they seem to be corrupting so much of their natural beauty in the process.

    I admit that I am struggling with the way my body looks and feels now that I am done having kids. Suffice it to say that things are a little looser than they once were. And I am working on it through exercise and (usually) healthy eating choices. But I know I also have to work on my attitude, to remind myself that I’m not supposed to look the way I did ten years and three kids ago.

    (And yet hope remains for all of us; I suspect you’ve seen this from HuffPost, but I thought I should share just in case: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/01/helen-mirren-has-body-of-the-year_n_914847.html)

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Yes – saw it (wrote about it) – loved it! But we also need to remember that we don’t all need to (and won’t) look like Helen Mirren. I believe what we should take from her example is the continued pursuit of what she loves, and the passion, ease, and confidence that she exudes. A healthy glow, rather than artificial show…

  4. I’m just into my forties but have an interesting perspective I think. I look unusually young for my age. I feel that this has hampered my ability to land more senior positions and, at new jobs, people assume I am young and inexperienced and discount my input. Of course I show signs of aging. I have a few gray hairs shimmering through and it’s crossed my mind on several occasions about if or when I’d ever color my hair – I never have thus far.

    But honestly, the most frequent response when I tell people I have a junior in high school and I’m in my forties is utter disbelief. It guess it’s flattering, but at the same time I feel extremely uncomfortable. My appearance has nothing to do with me – it’s just good genes. And why should my appearance be tied to my age? And why should it matter? Why do people feel the need to comment on that? Yuck, I don’t like it. Maybe this sounds like the person complaining that she has too many taxes to pay?

  5. Yes, yes, and yes! I mean as I move into these years I want to have the smile lines and everything that comes with aging. I find it a beautifully biologic process that I wish more people appreciated.

  6. Oh I agree with this. It is not fair that men look more distinguished with grey and with a few lines.. but is that because we have created a world where women are not awarded the same?
    I hate to see stars I love with the tight mouths pulled up behind their ears so many times they are unrecognizable.
    I prefer those role models who have grown old gracefully – Bette Davis, Sophia Loren, Jacqueline Kennedy, Maria Shriver… so many more.
    And if you want a woman who has embraced that she may not be the model of societies idea of perfect and yet is so beautiful and charismatic- take a gander at Kathy Bates.
    Maybe these women had work done? Maybe it is classic beauty? I prefer the latter.

  7. Amen Sister.

  8. Great post. It does seem to me that women are being taught to fear getting older and it’s working big time. My aim is to look like a woman who respects herself and isn’t too lazy to make the effort to look as well as she can, given her current age, weight, etc. I think women would be better off finding a man who loves her for her, not for how she looks or how she makes him look; a man like that simply isn’t worth having. I think women would be better off keeping their money for themselves and their own futures rather than giving it to the sellers of all this ‘beauty’ stuff. I’m sure most women aren’t really as silly as the adverts suggest they are…surely.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      I think part of the problem, Shelley, is the imagery that bombards us in the media (of all sorts), and then of course, the accompanying expectations that what we are “supposed” to look like (and be like) is one thing, and what we actually look like (and are like) is most often very different. It’s something that has been done to young women for a long time, but now it’s extended to women who are older. What is happening I fear, is that what can be (through cosmetic surgery, for example) is becoming the new “normal,” or at least, thought of as desirable and possibly within grasp – and increasingly – as a competitive “must” rather than an option.

      I think we need to change our mindset that midlife can be about greater vitality and health, capitalizing on our maturity and wisdom, and not about some false god of ageless appearance.

      And YES to everything you said about choosing men who love us for us. And we as women should do the same, no? Choose men for who they are, for their character, for their values, for their ability to make us laugh and stand up for what they believe?

  9. wonderful wonderful! i truly love your p.o.v. and completely agree! i am the authority in my own life. my bike rides and runs put a touch of blush on my cheeks. yoga keeps my posture perfect and my life experience has become my greatest gift – wisdom! i honor me and i honor all of you – namaste – pia

  10. Bravo… I have never owned a soap box before, but I am considering the investment. I AM SO BLOODY TIRED of the role models for our younger women being so consumed by appearance, both young and old. For gawd sake, did we fight for nothing? Did we march, and stomp and scream that we, as women, are as valuable as the next guy, for nothing?

  11. I can usually tell when a woman has had work done. It’s an invariable turn off. The most beautiful women I know are those who made it past 80 intact.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      You’re a man among men, Wolf. (Truly.)

      But I’d like to believe there are many more out there like you – the Good Guys.

  12. You know, I’m tempted to do a closeup of my face, and a makeup video, whereby we see an unaltered 55-year old gussy herself up for a night on the town. We have it in us, we can be old and sexy at the same time.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Ha! Love your attitude, Lisa, and I think it’s a great idea.

      It may sound trite, but we’ve got to start seeing our own beauty – and showing it to each other, and to those in our lives. A large part of that beauty comes from who we are as women, not how we look. And that means warm, generous, attentive, caring – those qualities that make others feel good and appreciated around us, and make us feel all the more beautiful – on the outside and the inside.

  13. Freedom is really about doing what feels authentic to you. Rather than feel we have to plump, inject, starve, slim, run, jump, etc., it’s always best to try and breathe and give yourself the opportunity to decide for yourself what you want which includes deciding how you want to look. It’s certainly true that our American culture in particular puts a heavy burden on women to look a certain way and remain miraculously ageless. Letting go of that burden is the true work whatever you decide — plastic surgery, botox, juviderm or nothing. It’s being able to believe in yourself no matter what decision you make and then just getting on with the real business of finding peace and joy in one’s only life.

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  1. [...] I long for a little common sense. Aging is inevitable, and anti-aging propaganda is just that – propaganda. That doesn’t mean we don’t have choices in products and services, [...]

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