“Aging itself is not allowed. Taking care of your body is no longer a personal choice, it is a duty. We are drafted in a war against the normal process of aging. That too is age nullification. We are denying aging like we are denying dying. Do looking tired, or old, being wrinkled, have to be punishable crimes against society. If you are not part of the herd running to the gym, eating a-b-c-d-e-f-g vitamins, you are guilty of something. I'm only 47 and I already feel all that pressure…”
By chance, a New York Times piece titled Is Looking Your Age Now Taboo? [subscription required] has been sitting on my desk awaiting attention since 1 March. Reporter Natasha Singer writes:
“Are wrinkles to become a thing of the past for the self-selected few, like crooked teeth after the advent of modern orthodontics? At the very least, wrinkles are being repositioned as the new gray hair – another means to judge attractiveness, romantic viability, professional competitiveness and social status…
“By now the disdain for [wrinkles] is ingrained in the culture. This month even the magazine of the AARP, a group dedicated to fighting ageism, published a coverline exhorting readers ‘Look Younger Now: Erase Ten Years (or More)’ – effectively canonizing the notion that a face that telegraphs age is out of date.”
In other words, the war against elders is growing more militant. If you aren’t getting a face lift or Botox injections, just put a bag over your head. No one wants to see you.
Two or three evenings ago, I caught an Olay commercial on television for – get this – Age Defying Body Wash which promises to “wash time away every day.” Soon, it won’t be just facial wrinkles that are taboo; we will be forced to cover our hands, knees and elbows as those wrinkles are deemed as offensive as the ones on our faces.
The requirement to maintain a facsimile of youth is unrelenting and those smug holy joes who regularly turn up to tell the rest of us that "age is just a number" and to ignore the cultural pressure have no doubt never been dismissed as “overqualified” when applying for a job.
The Times writer quotes a real estate broker in Maryland who has already partaken of Botox injections, chemical peels and laser treatments at the near-infant age of 33:
“If you want to sell a million-dollar house, you have to look good,” she says. “You have to look good, and you have to have confidence that you look good.”
Translation: "Good" = young and your job is in jeopardy if you are not.
From where I sit, the woman sounds sadly superficial, but she is not far off from the truth, growing every day, that not using all possible means to eliminate signs of aging is a crime punishable by exile from life itself.
I was wondering, after seeing that Olay commercial, what amount of outrage there might be if people with dark skin were as constantly exhorted to use chemical and medical means to lighten their skin. Will someone please tell me what is different about the ceaseless admonitions to eliminate wrinkles.
In the three years I’ve been ranting here about the age and beauty police, the cultural pro-youth/anti-wrinkle lobby has grown by magnitudes. I am tired, today, of bucking the trend. Tired of age discrimination in the workplace and second-class healthcare for elders.
Tired of elders labeled lesser beings for not dying young.
Tired of youth as the gold standard of life.
Tired of repeating myself.
Oh so tired…