It doesn't take long for little kids to understand that physical appearance - whether you are beautiful or handsome or not in the eyes of others - matters a great deal in the world.
Those who win the beauty lottery have all kinds of advantages over the rest of us including, according to repeated surveys, higher income throughout their lives. Relatedly, one of the reasons old people are marginalized is that younger people think we are unsightly – you know, all those ugly wrinkles.
It doesn't seem to be true for men (I could be wrong about that), but pressure on girls and women to make themselves as attractive as possible is what keeps companies that sell cosmetics, hair care products and chemical enhancements wealthy, billions of dollars style wealthy.
That's because the entire industry is geared to make all women who are not Angelina Jolie believe they are unattractive and most of us buy into it.
In regard to my appearance, I have always been adept at selective vision – seeing only what I want to see about my hair, face, body. During the decade when I got fat, before my recent weight loss (40 pounds), I never actually looked at my body.
That was easy while I was still living in Maine; I had no full length mirror. But even in this home that came with several full length mirrors, it was as though there was a veil over my eyes that made me invisible in the reflection.
Nowadays, I'm quite happy to see myself clearly in the mirror. Even the remarkably high number of new wrinkles that come with weight loss in old age (in places where I've never had wrinkles before) doesn't bother me.
According to a new survey from Gallup of more than 85,000 adults age 18 and older, I am far from alone in being comfortable with my appearance in old age.
”Though many may pine for the physical appearance they had in their younger years, America's seniors are the most confident in their looks. Two-thirds (66%) of Americans aged 65 and older 'agreed' or 'strongly agreed' that they always feel good about their physical appearance...”
Elders even beat 18- to 34-year-olds in the survey. Sixty-one percent of them like their appearance. The middle-aged are least likely (54 percent) feel good about their appearance.
As you might suspect, throughout life men are more confident about their looks than women and they hit their peak – when the largest number are comfortable with their appearance (74 percent) - at age 80-84.
That age for women (69 percent) is 85 and older.
Now we could attribute that result to poor eyesight but it's much more fun to believe that at last, toward the very end of our lives, we finally achieve a measure of wisdom as to what is really important and what is not.
You can read the entire survey results at the Gallup website.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clifford Rothband: The Chance of a Lifetime