Sunday, February 23, 2014

Growing Older

All my life I've lived under this idea that beauty fades with age. I'm 27 now, and I can faithfully say my body is not the same as it was when I was 17. Some things are better, but some things are worse.

I don't know exactly when I started believing this lie. I don't know when I let this lie take over my perception of reality, my perception of myself.

Was it when, as a teenager, many older women would look enviously at my body, making comments like "Oh, how I wish I was young again" and "Oh, to be beautiful and youthful!" And, in the next breath they would tell me these years were going to be the best of my life, the most memorable, the most lovely.

Or, was it when I started noticing how negatively older women viewed their bodies? After church, I would always overhear discussions about wrinkles, sagging arms, and weight gain. Or every so often, about husbands who left their wives for younger women. Prettier women. Women without crows feet or stretch marks.

Part of it, I think, is how many "anti-aging" products are offered to the older generation. Products to make older younger, to smooth out the wrinkles and turn back the clock. I always wondered why we women need such products. I mean, men get wrinkles. Yet, for women, somehow age--the number behind our many years--is a symbol of shame.

Hollywood ships this lie as well. From the magazines that shame the way a women looks, to the news sites that consistently criticize "weight gain" and cellulite, women are always under scrutiny. And young or old, we can never measure up to an overuse of Photoshop. And, if they were honest, I'm sure many celebrities would confess to undergoing plastic surgery in order to "keep up appearances," by way of a younger, tighter body.

In a world where women are mostly judged by their appearances, and appearances ranked by society--it's got to be stressful when society suddenly determines that said appearances are waning. 

For example, many of the older women in my life now protest shopping. Nothing fits me. They say, mumbling when I ask. I'm too old. Fashion is for the young. I could never wear anything like that, it wouldn't look good on me at all. I mean, just look at my hips.

I think to myself how sad it will be when one day I am suddenly too old for shopping.

I think it's all this and more that has taught me to fear growing old, because for many years I've lived in a quiet fear of just that. I've looked at every stretch mark as ugly, every emerging wrinkle as inevitable evidence of the decline of my beauty, and shuddered.

I no longer want to live this lie.

Because age does not an ugly women make. Age does not define my beauty nor should it define the way the world views me. And I'm not going to let it. I mean, I can't stop myself from getting older. And I'm actually quite excited about it now. I don't ever want to be ashamed of a wrinkle or two (or ten) and I am absolutely never going to quit experimenting with fashion just because I've gained a few pounds!

I hate the evil in our society that would tell a women this. A society that even tells men younger is hotter, that rewards men for landing a sexy, younger girlfriend. I mean, there is nothing wrong with being sexy, but that term is not age-restricted.

I hate it that most magazines always try and make older actors look younger. And younger actors look flawless. Whats wrong with the way they look now? Why can't they be loved and revered and beautiful just as they are?

I want to see this outlook change, but I'm not quite sure how to proceed.

What do you think?


Kristin said...

I agree with you completely. Our culture is so ridiculous: young girls are supposed to look older as soon as possible, and older ladies are supposed to look young for as long as possible.
I love seeing older ladies with long, beautiful, gray hair. I much prefer that to ladies who pile on the cosmetics, keep their hair dyed, and shop at stores where teenagers buy their clothes, all in an attempt to look younger. I just really appreciate people who can age gracefully. Now I've started noticing that I have quite a few gray hairs (and I'm not talking about two or three...I'm talking about like twenty). It sort of bothers me because I'm only twenty-two, and I don't think that I should have gray hairs yet. :) But then I remember that I respect people who age gracefully and I start to feel like a hypocrite, so I try not to think about it too much...
{Although 22 is still too young for gray hair. I don't think it would bother me as much if I was about 30. :) And I don't appreciate it when my mom reminds me that my grandpa went prematurely gray!}

Tori Bragg said...

LOVE this post. Our society is full of unattainable expectations, especially for women, and it's all based on appearance, which is something we can't always change. I know I've been hit hard with some of the lies, and believing them has caused a huge amount of pain in my life. But the older I get, the more I recognize them and am able to cast them off. I know we can't change society in a day, but we do have a certain level of influence, and helping just one or two people to see their beauty no matter what society tells them can make a big difference. I've started trying to encourage my friends by telling them how beautiful they are, especially when they complain about their own looks, and I'm also encouraging a movement in an art group I'm a part of that celebrates beauty in all shapes and sizes. Hopefully I'll have more about that on my blog sometime in the next month or so.
And personally? I've decided not to dye my hair when I start to gray. Who says gray isn't beautiful? And besides, it's the person that counts, not the hair on her head or the smoothness of her skin or the size of her body. Anyone who can't see past that needs new glasses, because their outlook on life is all wrong.

Kelly del Valle said...

Oh, so many good thoughts. I get very, very worried about aging, especially since my fiance is a couple years younger than I am, and his entire family is extremely focused on looks. It's a change I hate in myself even more than the aging - both my grandmother and my mom are big on natural beauty, and always taught me to be the same way, yet sometimes I am reduced to tears because of the way his family constantly talks about looks, and I am horrified at the fact that they ALREADY think I'm too plain for their son. It's nice to read that there are others who want to change the way people view aging, though, and it makes me feel better about letting other people think what they want while I do what I want.

Carolynn said...

I think it is weird how many females think of beauty as makeup and designer jeans. I know that some people grow up in different worlds, where perhaps trips to the spa and occasional plastic surgery is just normal. To them loads of makeup and a perfect, flawless body scream "i'm beautiful" instead of what really should: your soul! No one should be too plain for anyone. It's hearts that speak, not faces. What should matter to your in-laws is that their son loves you, that he prizes you above all women, that he is invested solely in you.

I dealt with this with the guy I dated before I met and married my husband. I was three years older then him and his family was always telling him I would get wrinkles and stuff before him, that I was too old. They even told him that dating someone older called his manhood into question because somehow age dictates who "wears the pants" (to this we would just LAUGH about in private...) But it drove me nuts that they would just say this right in front of me.

Some people are old fashioned. My advice to you is just to ignore them and have fun :P

Rachel G said...

Aging must be a part of life, and it's sad that it's not seen as "acceptable" or "beautiful". I hope I accept gray hairs with as much grace as I've seen my Mom accept hers. She always says that she's "earned every one" when people tell her she'd look young if only she colored her hair.
But we can look forward to a world where passing time won't mean the decay of our bodies. I think aging can be a physical reminder of how short this life is, and we don't like that, when we can no longer do what we used to be able to, or look the way we did. I know I'm looking forward to heaven where that fear of death will no longer be present in any way.