“You look tired!” was the first thing my friend said to me as she opened the door to let us in for dinner.
It annoyed me. I actually thought I looked pretty good that day, given the circumstances.
As much as I try not to let comments like that affect me these days, it did wake up the dormant monster of self-doubt. With each year, the pressure to “do something” to stop the inevitable signs of aging mounts.
My friend wishes well. But she simply cannot understand why I don’t get with the program. Most of my peers and even women much younger than me have already included anti-aging regimens into their maintenance routines, although most stop at injections and fillers. They’ll tell me, “It’s basic hygiene—it’s like brushing teeth!” in an attempt to make it easier for me to understand how low I’ve fallen.
Having “work” done is now the norm, so I stand out from the Botoxed crowd like a dinosaur. According to Psychologist Ros Taylor:
“The availability and accessibility of cosmetic procedures, the lack of stigma about having work done and the rise in women’s disposable income has meant the gateway is clear for this to become normalised. And it is only going to increase.”
Although I’m still processing the fact that six months ago I turned 50, I know I’m not invincible to the pressures women my age face. I also believe in having a choice.
However, I am concerned.
I am concerned, because over a relatively short period of time, what is considered normal in terms of “routine maintenance” for women has changed dramatically. It has changed due to the increasing emphasis we place on appearance in our social media-ruled lives.
As we navigate this new world, our image often takes precedence over our real achievements. The search for the forever-out-of-reach level of surface perfection leads us to confuse our values and do things out of social pressure—exactly what I teach my teenage daughters not to do!
An article in Time magazine makes me feel scared and powerless, as it states:
“You’re going to have to do it. And not all that long from now. Probably not a full-on, general anesthesia bone-shaving or muscle-slicing. But almost definitely some injections into your face. Very likely a session of fat-melting in some areas and then possibly moving it to some other parts that could use plumping.”
Not having work done is apparently now the new shame: “You’re going to get a cosmetic procedure for the same reason you wear make-up: because every other woman is.”
Women are succumbing to cosmetic enhancement because we feel pressured to. It’s the same reason that women used to wear corsets and had their feet bound and undergo female genital mutilation: because society demands it.
But, ladies, this is 2017 and we have a choice!
We have fought a long time for the right to choose and take ownership of our appearance.
When we inject our faces with stuff, it’s not coming from the same place as putting on a colorful lipstick to freshen up our complexion.
We are manipulated by the multi-billion-dollar cosmetic industry’s slogans urging us to be “the best we can be” and to strive for our “best selves.” The manipulation works because women have been known to readily succumb to pain to fit in and often confuse self-love with self-hate. We are steered to do whatever it takes because we’re told we’re “worth it”—implying that if we don’t, we only have ourselves to blame for “letting ourselves go.”
I find it unfair when the conversation veers in that direction. It implies that I neglect my self-care. And that is simply untrue. Having recently and finally freed myself from the unattainable, constantly moving target of perfection, I now take better care of myself than ever before through yoga, meditation, and working on fulfilling my potential.
Ask yourself: When we succumb to invasive procedures to look younger than our age, what are we trying to accomplish, exactly? Are we trying to turn back the clock?
Surely it’s not injecting poison into my face and paralyzing the muscles out of their natural movements that will slow down the passage of time for me and make me forget my age. And I just know that melting the fat out of my bottom to inject it into my lips will not make me feel any younger, either.
Whom are we trying to deceive? What are we trying to say? Or rather, what are we trying to silence?
Is it rude or anti-social to show up for dinner looking my age? To have my face reveal what I feel? Do I ruin the appearance that all is perfect in the world?
Am I too much of a mirror to my middle-aged friends, reflecting the real state of where we are in our lives—our age, our children growing and leaving, our long-term marriages in which the impending departure of children from home may dissolve the glue that held it all together for years?
Are we trying to pretend that while everything changes, we stay the same? That we are not aging? That we are not getting closer to the unspeakable, the ultimate: death?
Because that’s another pressure we need to face up to—the pressure to wake up. To stop running away from the truth and face the fact that time is precious and fleeting. That life is fragile and that we need to somehow change our relationship with it, before it becomes too late.
So, ladies, we have a choice.
Which pressure will you succumb to?
I am personally looking for a more sustainable path to aging gracefully.
As human beings, we are part of the natural cycles of life. The sooner we accept that essential fact, the sooner we can reconnect with the truth and, hopefully, accept where we are in our lives.
There is nothing ugly in nature. All of nature’s manifestations have a reason for being and serve as part of the miraculously-working whole. Change and transformation are part of life.
I am so done with the need to be perfect. It leads to tremendous pressure and isolation. It causes people to pretend and to hide and breaks down sincere communication.
We shall not stay young forever. As sad as it sometimes is for me to accept, that’s the only truth.
The point is not to look younger for as long as possible. Tampering with our looks does not change our physiology. What does help us to look and feel better is being mentally and physically healthy, while we live lives filled with purpose.
Let’s go beyond the surface. Beyond the temporary. Beyond glossy images of pretend life.
Let us go deeper. Accept the reality. Be grateful. Find our inner potential. Inspire others. Live according to the natural laws. Give back.