By Madeleine Kolb
We live in a culture obsessed with looks. From puberty (or even before), girls are inculcated with the need to cleanse, tone, and moisturize their skin, then to apply blusher, powder, gloss, mascara, eye liner, eye shadow and other stuff. So they can look good.
As girls become young women and head into middle-age, though, looking good is not enough. These days middle-aged women feel unrelenting pressure to look young, even “hot,” in their 40’s and 50’s.
And so begins the battle against age, a battle they can never win. The first weapon is “anti-aging” products with power names like Age Defiance and power prices like $55 per ounce.
The fight escalates to Botox, where ‘Bo’ refers to C. botulinum ( bacteria that cause severe food poisoning) and ‘tox’ refers to the toxin produced by the bacteria. Botox treatments cost a lot, don’t last very long, and can produce some mighty weird results.
The heavy artillery in this fight to the finish is cosmetic surgery. In the U.S., middle-aged women account for a whooping 86% of cosmetic surgery patients. But does that mean it’s a good idea? Quite the contrary!
Why you should just say “no” to elective cosmetic surgery
- Aging is a natural process. It’s part of the cycle of life which starts with conception, gestation and birth and ends with death. The years after you’ve borne your children are precious, years to be celebrated especially as your children grow more and more independent.
- Cosmetic surgery is a medical procedure, and—like all medical procedures—it involves risk. For example, a procedure may be done poorly or infection may set in. And if you are wondering what can possibly go wrong, try Goggling face lifts gone bad or breast enhancement problems to see for yourself. Quite an edifying experience.
- Cosmetic surgery is expensive and may have to be repeated as you grow older.
- Even the best cosmetic procedure often makes you look as if you’ve just had a cosmetic procedure. The pulled-up eyebrows, creating a Look of Perpetual Surprise is one clear give-away.
You are good enough the way you are
Those who pressure women to undergo certain procedures or buy certain products are saying in effect,
You need to do this, because you’re not good enough the way you are.
Sometimes the sub-text implies that a woman is Letting Herself Go if—for example—she doesn’t color her hair well into her 80’s or 90’s. (Your hair-dresser can tell you about this.)
After I stopped getting my hair colored, I started to notice how many women there were with absolutely gorgeous white hair. And I think my by-now-mostly-white hair looks good, and so does my boy friend.
There are obvious parallels between the pressure on women of all ages to look young and the pressure on black women (and, sadly, even little girls) to change their “bad,” that is, natural, hair. So all women over 35 or so and black women of any age are given the message that they’re not good enough as they are naturally, but that there is some process or product which can make them a little better for a little while.
One of my favorite journalists, Jerry Large, had an article about this in the Seattle Times some time ago. Mr. Large, a thoughtful man with a fine sense of humor, suggested that
Good hair is any hair which covers your head.
I’m not saying that looks don’t matter. I’m saying that equating looking good with looking young is harmful to all of us, including young women who dread reaching their mile-stone birthdays.
Being attractive at any age
We need to create a different message for ourselves and affirm it over and over. Something like
I’m Elizabeth, I’m 58, and I’m attractive.
Being attractive means being energetic and positive and enthusiastic and intelligent and vibrant. Attractive–not in the narrow sexual sense of being “hot” or having a “bikini-ready” body–but in the larger human sense of accepting yourself as you are and living your life to the fullest.
About the Author: Madeleine started her blog, Age Myths, after noticing her experiences with aging were different than the depressing stereotypes usually associated with growing older.
She has degrees in zoology and genetics and worked in the environmental field for 20 years. She then returned to school for a certificate in Technical Writing and worked as a technical writer for a federal agency.
She now lives in Maryland with her boyfriend and has a passion for cooking healthy food, exercising, reading, birdwatching, and writing. She has been active in Toastmasters for 10 years and is currently an Advanced Toastmaster Gold.