“Would you anti-age your ears?”.
There are just some phrases that set you off for some reason. That was one of them. “Over 50? Invest in an eyebrow pencil…”,“ Best buys in cosmetic surgery…” And while I cannot help wondering if there is a two for one offer on some of the procedures in that last article, the list, apparently goes on.
Now let’s get this straight. Not only are we supposed to worry about the general effects of ageing… you know, the important stuff like the mechanics seizing up, the joints creaking and the effects of general, long-term wear and tear…. We also have to worry about how we are going to cover all this ageing up. I’m not talking about staying healthy here. That would just be a sensible goal. No, I’m talking about aesthetics, and the articles that litter the home page of my email account and practically everywhere else.
The worst of it is that even with all the buzz words about ‘sixty being the new forty’ and suchlike, forty seems to be classed as past its sell-by date in the eyes of the media. Unless, of course, you are Helen Mirren. We are encouraged to emulate the fashions of youth or adopt a studied elegance of a kind totally impractical for most of us in ordinary life. We are encouraged to use all means at our disposal to preserve our youthfulness by the same media who pillory those celebrities who obey those dictates and choose cosmetic surgery.
Now, I am no spring chicken but I certainly don’t consider myself to be either over the hill or even wheezing towards its summit with my last gasp. Not yet. Granted, there is no guarantee of how far any of us have left on that particular slope, but I’ll be damned if I will consider myself old, past-it or decrepit before I’m ready. Nor will I chase the will o’ the wisp illusion of a youth I have left behind. I’ll do the best I can with what I have… for me, not because I am afraid of looking my age.
The mini-skirts have been laid to rest, the bright red hair is back to its natural colour, the slinky discarded in favour of the comfortable or occasionally the elegant. It has nothing to do with either bowing down to or fighting against a ticking clock and everything to do with whether or not I should allow my self image to be dictated by anyone but me. One of the best bits of growing older can be the confidence to be yourself and not feel obliged to conform to any stereotypical image.
It bothers me that there is this insidious insinuation that if we allow ourselves to age, we will no longer have beauty and, by implication will become unattractive. Who are we supposed to be attracting? Someone seeking a pretty young thing is unlikely to be looking in our direction in the first place. Someone who wants superficial beauty? If that’s their only criteria, I for one wouldn’t be interested anyway.
There is a beauty in the eyes of maturity, a beauty with a mind and depth that youth seldom knows. And it is a beauty that is alive and kicking, regardless of whether it is approved of by the media. It bothers me that all signs of age, particularly in women, are supposed to be covered up, sliced, diced, dyed or painted into oblivion. We age moment by moment… we get old… our bodies change. I’m not suggesting it is fun, or that we are going to like losing the battle with gravity … but like it or not it is happening, gradually to all of us, regardless of race, class or gender.
My face and body have been lived in. The curves, the lines, the grey hairs… even the eyebrows I am now supposed to draw in with a pencil apparently… And while I might well sigh wistfully for the time when there were a few less of each (apart from the eyebrows, you understand) this is me… a visual record of a life; a story in flesh. If I am not happy with it, then I can hardly expect anyone else to be. And if I am, why should I frantically pretend to youth or seek the validation of anyone else?
‘Anti-age my ears’, indeed…