A friend of mine recently said of an old acquaintance: "She's so unhappy now she's in her 40s. It's like she lived for her looks and now they're fading, she's got nothing left."
This made me think. I have noticed the way I look is changing. There's a new streak of grey shot through my hair, my face has changed shape, my body is slowly altering and the skin on my hands has become lined. No matter how much it is impressed on me externally, however, I never think my looks are 'fading'. Ageing is, to me, a natural process and it's every bit as beautiful as youth. Like with everything, it all depends on how you look at it.
My friend should have said the acquaintance lived for her looks and now she feels they're fading, she thinks she's got nothing left.
I've been influenced in the past as much as anyone else by the media madness and the spreading of insecurity by demonising everything but a very young, very white and very thin ideal that is pressed on us as the only way to be acceptable and happy. But I'm glad I've got the intelligence to see it for what it is and the ability to think rationally and with reason enough to uncover a personal reality that makes my life so much happier than I would have been if I did allow myself to be convinced my looks are fading away.
I think it was Oscar Wilde who said growing old isn't so bad if you consider the alternative, so I'm actually lucky to be developing lines around my eyes and privileged to be getting the very minute signs of a future struggling to get up out of an armchair (the latter is always fixed with a session of yoga). As ageing is inevitable I can see I have to make one of two choices:
1. I can spend my time worrying that I'm exiting the arena of the media ideal (not that I ever got that far into it) and betray myself by spending thousands on cosmetic surgery and end up with a face that looks a decade younger but also ever so slightly like a rubber doll from a low-budget horror film.
2. I can explore the motives behind the media ideal, uncover the reasons why so many of us allow our peace of mind to be disturbed by the pressure to look a certain way and choose to follow a different, more rational path.
I went for choice 2. I can see that we are all led by the nose to feel terrible about our ageing and any deviation from the manufactured ideal. All so we'll buy stuff that puts us 'right'. But in being led by the nose, we're pulled away from a truth that would instantly make us all happier: ageing has its own graceful beauty that is far, far more appealing (to me anyway) than the rubber-faced cartoon cosmetic surgery look.
I'm embracing and celebrating every change that comes with my getting older because it's fascinating to watch. To say ageing is not as beautiful as youth is like claiming the yellows, reds and golds of autumn aren't as beautiful as the green spring, or that the winter frost, snow and blustery days aren't as beautiful as a balmy summer.
All seasons are beautiful. And if you were forced to state a preference, whichever season is most beautiful to you is surely individual taste? Or maybe we should press on everyone that spring and summer are the only acceptable seasons, eradicate autumn and winter and spray all the leaves with green paint or glue on some plastic leaves when they fall?
I'm sure it would soon come about if someone could make lots of money out of it.
If you're getting old have a proper look at yourself. There's beauty in them there lines.Suggest a correction