Aging vs. Beauty

by V

via FlickrOne thing that many women are worried about is aging.  I can understand why. Women feel the pressure more than their male counterparts; it is more acceptable for a man to get older and to show his age than it is for women. That doesn’t mean that men don’t worry about it at all or that they get some kind of free pass. But it’s worse for women.

There is no end to the beauty products advertised for women on television, in magazines, on the radio, Internet ads; everything that is marketed to women seems to be with the connotation that if you use this you’ll be beautiful — or beautiful again, or better looking than ever — and implies that if you do not then you are not good enough or pretty enough.

To a lesser degree, this occurs with men’s advertisements as well. It’s okay for men to show some gray. It’s okay for men to gain a little. It’s not the end of the world if a man has thinning hair. A little gray makes a man look distinguished, a little pudge makes him well-fed and probably able to afford indulgence. A man with a receding hairline might not like that his hairline is receding, but it’s unlikely to prevent him from finding someone to spend his life with.

Women, however, do not have this same luxury. A little pudge is an abomination. A little gray is unsightly and proves us to be over-the-hill. Thinning hair? Forget it, if you can’t find a way to grow it back, you’re doomed. Wrinkles? Nothing about aging makes a woman look distinguished, well-off, or acceptable as far as society is concerned. Some women are even ashamed of their age. It’s still impolite today to ask a woman how old she is, and it’s naive to expect her to tell you the truth if she answers you.

That’s why beauty products are so important to women. It’s why when women get caught shoplifting most of the time we’re caught shoplifting beauty products. Recently there are high profile women— recently Shannon Marketic and Caroline Giuliani —  caught shoplifting, even more women shoplift; much of the time, it’s beauty products they’re pilfering.

Does this mean that beauty products are priced too high? I think they are. That doesn’t mean that someone has a right to steal them.

No, I don’t blame this shoplifting epidemic solely on society. It’s a contributing factor. It’s no accident that this climate can make a woman feel so self-conscious about her appearance. It can lead her to steal things like make-up and other beauty products. Age never equals anything good for women.

That’s also why women are far more likely to get cosmetic surgery of any kind done than men. Statistics show that doctors report more female patients than male patients, and they also show a spike from 2008 to 2009 in most procedures done. Not to mention that most who get these procedures done get more than just one at a time — especially when the face is concerned — and none of these procedures are cheap. [for more, read: AAFPRS’ stats [pdf].

I’ve also found a list of the top 10 reasons women get the cosmetic procedures done that they do. It might be superficial because we’ve been raised to think that any attention to our bodies is superficial. Yet all ads have the same tone: If you do this, you will be pretty. If you do this, you’ll get that hot guy.

(If you don’t, you lose everything. You’ll be ugly and fat and spend your life alone except for the two dozen cats you share your house with.)

Okay, that last part is an exaggeration, but you get my point.

Let’s look at some non-evasive procedures.

  1. BOTOX® injections
  2. Chemical peels
  3. Hyaluronic acid injections
  4. Laser hair removal
  5. Microdermabrasion

Do these sound at all fun? Not to me! In fact, these sound painful! These are just the non-invasive procedures, mind you. These aren’t surgeries. There are articles online that claim half of women will have cosmetic surgery. T

This is not just an American trend.

BBC News has an article claiming most women want plastic surgery. China has also become a place where cosmetic surgery enjoys growing popularity. Their idea of beauty is changing and women don’t fit that new mold.

When I would whine about something being done to my hair hurting or the time it took to put on make-up, my mother would simply say:

“Beauty hurts.”

Which really just means that if you want to be beautiful you have to sacrifice your comfort. Women routinely walk around in high heels, and one thing you expect from a confident, assertive business woman is that she will wear those power pumps. Now, we’re learning about the  negative effects prolonged wearing of high heeled shoes can have on a woman.

Mary Higgins Clark writes, in her novel No Place Like Home, about a female character who had had work done:

What so many women don’t understand is that smile lines around our eyes, and the little creases we all have at the sides of our lips, give us character and define us.

My grandmother definitely had lines all over her face. She had wrinkles. She had extra pounds, but she wasn’t fat by any standard. She was soft, and her face was distinguishable. She looked like a person, not a creepy doll. My mother shows age in her face, too. She still looks beautiful.

I had a PE teacher in junior high who purposely let all of her hair go gray, because she liked it. She wasn’t ashamed of her hair showing her age. Though she wasn’t my favorite teacher, I loved that she had the guts to not care about what most people might think, what society told her about beauty, and just let her hair go gray.

I’m not afraid of aging. I’m not afraid of my looks. Everyone ages. Why waste so much money on cosmetic and plastic surgery or non-invasive treatments to slow or stop myself from showing my age? Like dying, aging is a natural part of life.

You should take care of yourself. But there’s a difference between taking care of yourself and altering yourself. We can’t escape mortality, so let’s celebrate our lives.

Aging is proof that we’ve stood the test of time so far, we’re still here, we’ve been through many things in our lives. Older does not mean ugly even if advertisements will have you believe otherwise. Why let Madison Avenue set the beauty bar for us? Let’s set it ourselves.

2 Comments to “Aging vs. Beauty”

  1. BRAVA! Well said!

    I’ve said before that there are certain procedures I’d like, namely laser hair removal. The main issue is convenience–I spend too much time grooming myself, and I’m NOT one of those women who takes three hours to get ready before work!

    Aging naturally, gracefully, is now also aging bravely. It shouldn’t have to be.

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