“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” Betty Friedan (1921-2006)
I’ve been thinking a lot about age recently. I guess that’s what happens when you get close to the end of one decade and start wondering what’s ahead in the next.
It’s an inescapable fact – I am heading towards 50.
Is that scary? No, not particularly, it’s just another number. Yet magazines and the mainstream media in general would have you believe it’s one of the worst things in the world, and you must – at all costs – fight to stay looking young.
A quick flick through the glossies and it’s always a popular theme in the beauty features.
‘Banish the Wrinkles!’, ‘Look Ten Years Younger!’, ‘Is this the Secret to Youth?’
The message is clear. As a woman you really, really, mustn’t look old. It’s ever been thus… remember the song ”Keep young and beautiful… it’s your duty to be beautiful.’
Of course the message here – and one that hasn’t really changed – is, if you’re getting on a bit you can’t possibly be beautiful… can you?
I remember panic setting in as I hit 40 because I was no longer 30 something, and was hitting ‘middle-age’ (whatever that is). As a freelance journalist I was beginning to find that editors didn’t want to use my particular case story any more because I no longer fitted their age remit. I was rapidly becoming one of the many ‘disappeared’ – women who cease to exist once they hit the big 40.
It’s the reason many media stars have been caught out lying about their ages: whilst it’s always acceptable for men to have birthdays, it seems women on tv have to stay like Peter Pan. And if they can’t, and their genes just want to do what comes naturally, then the option is expensive cosmetic treatments to extend their shelf life.
Am I the only person who can spot a trout-pout a mile away and thinks most over-botoxed faces just look really sad?
Of course we all want to look our best – but why does this have to be synonymous with youth?
Rather than telling someone they don’t look their age (again I never really understand that – who is to say what a certain age looks like?) – why not just say they look good or healthy?
Perhaps if we think about our language it might even permeate into the way we as a society treat our older folk, which isn’t really that well, is it?
Age should be regarded positively and we should be more caring of these generations and less dismissive.
Dr Maya Angelou, who has just celebrated her 85th year couldn’t have put it better:
“The surface, the superficial, the way one looks has become valued too highly in our society. When the skin begins to sag, many women go for Botox. Why on earth would you let somebody stick a needle in your face just to get rid of a wrinkle?
”Here’s the real question: What do we have to do to place more value on age? We have to value ourselves not for what we look like or the things we possess but for the women we are. The most important thing I can tell you about aging is this: If you really feel that you want to have an off-the-shoulder blouse and some big beads and thong sandals and a dirndl skirt and a magnolia in your hair, do it. Even if you’re wrinkled.”
Yes, I agree. Can’t we all value the aging process instead of trying to fight it? After all, that’s a battle we are never going to win.
As sure as sand sifts through the hour glass we’re all getting older, and we’re lucky to be in that position. Think of all those who have never reached their 30s/40s/50s or beyond.
My mum is heading towards her 90th and, as the last member of her immediate family still alive, she knows she is fortunate indeed. Does she care about her many wrinkles and prominent veins? No, she’s too busy enjoying herself living life to the full – whilst she still can.
I shall leave the last words to a former work colleague, Maurice. He’s approaching another big birthday, and found a quote that sums up this positive attitude, he says:
“I have a new philosophy as I hit 75 – ‘Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming WOO HOO what a ride!'”
Yep, I think I will be following!