What If Women Weren't Afraid To Grow Old?

The following two words make absolutely no sense together and yet are pitched to women, daily: Anti-aging.

Friends, you cannot stop aging. The second hand clicks by, time is a immovable force. We are aging constantly. And women who indulge in Botox and plastic surgery do not look as though they have stopped the hands of time; they generally look as though they have had a procedure done. In a piece for the Guardian, Kira Cochran calls out the celebrities who seem not to age:

Over the last 10 years, the public face of ageing seems to have changed completely, and many of the world’s most prominent women hardly seem to grow older at all. It’s not so much that they always look young, exactly, or that they have the tightly pulled skin of traditional facelifts. But they do look completely different to their non-famous peers. Where other women’s lips recede, theirs stay mysteriously plump. Where others have laughter lines, they remain undimpled. And when describing how they stay so taut, the explanation is generally this. They moisturise. They drink water. They work out. They eat well. They avoid the sun. They don’t smoke. Which is enough to make the average healthy-living woman wince while inspecting her own wrinkles.

While Kylie Minogue, Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox have admitted “trying” Botox, Nicole Kidman has said: “To be honest, I am completely natural. I have nothing in my face or anything. I wear sunscreen, and I don’t smoke. I take care of myself. And I’m very proud to say that.” Uh-huh.

Now, of course, it’s understandable why a woman — especially in Hollywood — wouldn’t want to age. The roles dry up, you get neglected, etc. As it is, actresses get asked to play the mothers of actors younger than they are. Cochrane includes this quote from Madonna: “Once you reach a certain age you’re not allowed to be adventurous, you’re not allowed to be sexual. I mean, is there a rule? Are you supposed to just die?” No, you’re not “supposed” to die. You’re supposed to buy into the fact that wrinkles = ugly; lines = hideous and gray hair = abomination.

It could be argued that celebrities are different; their careers and appearances are linked, so they should be forgiven for the injections and surgery. But what about the average woman, living in a society where she is inundated with images of these women who do not seem to age? Cochrane writes:

What does this culture mean for ordinary women? Well, for one, the beauty standard we’re expected to live up to is, specifically, a surgical one – which is complicated by the fact that this is so rarely acknowledged. The result is that we are presented with image after image of women (and, increasingly, men) who are astoundingly unlined, and are forced to compare ourselves with them.

And we are forced to endure ads like this one:

If you don’t use their product, you’re clearly rushing to your 40th birthday, which, due to a wrinkle (heh) in time, will arrive sooner than if you do use their product, the dubiously titled “Youth Surge.” But when it comes down to it, should women have to feel afraid of aging? Of looking old? Is there no room for reverence of the wisdom and experience that wrinkles and white hair signify? Cochrane believes that trying to look as young as possible for as long as possible means that as women, “we’re bending to a viciously sexist and ageist ideal.” “And, let’s face it,” she writes. “Obedience is never a good look.” But what if women were not afraid to grow old? What if women were allowed to age as they wished? What if brands were shilled by Carmen Dell’Orefice, what if wrinkles were something to be proud of, what if a leading, A-list actress had a lined face and gray hair? What would the world be like? How much time and money otherwise spent on creams, potions and unnecessary procedures would be available for other pursuits?

Age Shall Not Wither Them [Guardian]

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