Health Cost Fears

Looking Old

When Crabby Old Lady was younger – way younger – it was common among her crowd to remark, when they had partied too hard the night before, that they'd had a preview in the morning mirror of what they would look like when they got old.

Of course, this was only a stab at a humorous explanation about why they were late to work that day. Crabby and her friends didn't believe yet, in their 20s and even 30s, that they would really get old; they just knew – from somewhere in the ether of daily life – that to look old was the worst thing that could happen to them.

That lame, old joke came to Crabby's mind earlier this week while she was (and still is) recovering from a case of conjunctivitis which has now traveled from one eye to the other. The swelling of her eyelid, according to the mirror, somehow caused even more wrinkles than usual below the eye so that Crabby appeared much like a shar pei.


Cute on a dog, but not on Crabby and maybe similar to what she will look like in five years. Or ten years. Or sooner. Who knows. But she wishes she didn't care. Two things about this:

  1. Crabby Old Lady doesn't like looking that old.

  2. She resents she has been brainwashed to dislike it.

Maybe because Crabby has spent so many years reading, writing and doing 'rithmatic about getting old, she has usually been more curious about aging than caring about what she looks like. But she is not immune and it comes down to what Crabby has always said here: there is nowhere to turn without hearing how awful it is to get and look old. It is shoved in our (old) faces every day in movies, on television, in print ads and commercials and from ageist comedians and aging celebrity spokes persons who are airbrushed to look 25 years younger than they are.

Although Crabby Old Lady has always had reservations about it, the “real woman” campaign from Dove cosmetics has featured so-called real women and was a bit of a welcome relief from the usual. But except that they are somewhat older than 16 and heftier than the models we are accustomed to seeing, the “real women” have been astonishingly beautiful.

Some of that was the result of professional makeup, hair, lighting and unknown amounts of Photoshopping. Now, however, Dove has been caught with their “real women” ideals down around their ankles in a casting call posted on Craigslist last weekend for a new Real Women campaign.

Dove casting call copy

You probably can't read that image of the page, so here's what it says – bold emphasis added:


RATE: $500 FOR SHOOT & IF SELECTED FOR Ad Campaign (running 2011) you will be paid $4000!
USAGE: 3 years unlimited print & web usage in N. America Only

Well groomed and clean...Nice Bodies...NATURALLY, FIT Not too Curvy Not too Athletic

Great Sparkling Personalities. Beautiful Smiles. A DOVE GIRL!!!
Beautiful HAIR & SKIN is a MUST!!!


The casting call has been removed from Craigslist. A Dove spokesperson told the website Stylelist that the posting was an “unplanned gaffe” (yeah, sure) and

"Unfortunately, this casting notice was not approved by the brand or agency team and did not reflect the spirit of the brand team's vision. We appreciate that this has been brought to our attention, and we are taking the necessary steps to prevent this from happening in the future.

“We believe our images demonstrate that real beauty comes in many shapes, sizes, colors and ages and we remain committed to featuring realistic and attainable images of beauty in all our advertising."

That attempt at corporate ass-covering is worse than the casting call post. It never ceases to amaze Crabby how dumb public relations people think the public is. Instead of derision, they could have won Crabby's heart if they'd just said, “Oops, mea culpa. But hey, at least give us credit for including slightly older, chubby women that no one else does.”

Now if you will excuse her, Crabby is going to go work on adjusting her attitude about looking older.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Brrr...


Gosh, I do hear you loud & clear this morning!!! What's really frosting me lately is the fact that whenever ads or news stories refer to "older" women, they include anyone over 40 up to maybe 60-65 & stop. There are alot of us older than that who are going about our daily lives doing good stuff, but we've become invisible....marginalized! Phooey. You just can't win! And BTW, this broohaha about Betty White.
What's that? Do they love her for who she is or because she's making lots of money & livening up the airwaves with some much needed humor. Go figure. Dee

I live near a military base and real women without tattoos are few and far between!

That is somewhat par for the course with PR/advertising these days. Funny and sad at the same time.

Mentioning about not thinking you'd ever get old in the 20s/30s, I believe most of us feel that way. I remember in my late 30s I used to see a couple of 60+ women out on their daily walk. In some ways, I envied them -- because I was still so caught up in the 'got to look good/pretty' ageism brainwashing and those two ladies seemed liberated from the hoopla, just being themselves. Later there was a quote I found interesting: "A woman over 50 is invisible." Can't remember who said it.

At any rate, I think the liberating feeling of not "HAVING" to look perfect always appealed to me about aging. I liked the 50s quote because I've often thought it might be nice to be invisible! Now that I'm in my late 50s, sometimes I still have pangs about the aging process of my body -- more though about the physical restrictions in activity, not being able to do some strenous lifting, back problems, etc. I do have bad moments when I look in the mirror and think, "Who is that middle age woman?" But in all honesty, I don't mind the lack of attention when I see that glazed look on someone's face that seems to stare right past me. Being invisible has its upside.

I have your back on the #2 of your dislikes. I too resent the attempt to brainwash me about getting older and how it is oh so important what we look like it to our happiness and success in everything in life. Bull! I am finding that I am happy and healthy just being who I am and accepting myself for the first time I think instead of going through life envious of others natural charms and thinking that somehow I didn't get any. At 64 years of age I like being me.

True Confessions Time: 1)I don't want to BE old and I'm aware that there's not an option I'd consider. 2)I do not mind looking the age I am, because it's too painful, expensive, and time consuming to look younger--and it rarely really works. 3)I'd just like to look good--as fit, well-groomed, and attractively dressed as possible--and even that's getting to be way too damned hard! So, read #1 again.

There comes a time when no amount of moisturizer, concealer or foundation will cover up the sad shape of your skin. That's when you are really liberated and quit caring. It's the final acceptance of being old.

Tell me how you plan to work on your attitude about looking older. If it works, you could sell it - in plain brown paper bags.

So much of how we look as we age depends upon our genetic inheritance. And when it comes to skin, women who are or were smokers tend to have more wrinkles. I'm lucky. Good skin genes, and never smoked. At 70, I am finally feeling old, with aches and pains I never had, since I also inherited my mother's arthritis. I know that these days, people over 55 are considered "elders," but at that age I was ballroom dancing three nights a week. I don't think "elderhood" really begins until you're close to 70. That's when, even if you don't look it, you sure start feeling it.

As usual, Shakespeare said it best:

"Thou art thy mother's glass and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime;
So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
Despite of wrinkles this thy golden time.

I can relate to this also because the pressure of trying to look younger is very unpleasant. It is a battle nobody wins as plastic surgery or not, you can't really fool anybody but yourself about where you are. Most surgeries just end up taking away who you were which upsets me when I see a movie star I admired, who had it and suddenly doesn't look like herself. Still it's hard to give it up and say I don't care.

In her film, It's Complicated, Meryl Streep goes into a surgeon to discuss her eyes being done and when she hears what it would entail, she hurries out. That's about how I felt as when I was younger, I always said I'd have a face lift at around 55. When I found out what they did, I thought that sucks. No way was I letting my face be cut wide open and rebuilt. If I had been that insecure, I'd have had my nose done years ago.

I am not convinced though that looking old is something people dislike due to the media. I think it's always been how people feel in any culture with mirrors or photographs. We would have had less reminders of it in the era before digital but I don't think my grandmothers liked it either. i know my one grandma had very thin hair and wore wigs a lot and no media was telling her she needed to do that. We just remember what we once were and it's hard to let go of it.

This week with my granddaughter here, who will turn 12 in September and who is budding into young womanhood with reluctance, I might add, as she isn't eager to leave behind childhood. I think how interesting that she and I are both entering these hormonal changes but at the opposite ends of the experience. It's not that I'd want to go back though... although maybe 10 years back would be good *s* Actually not that either. I don't begrudge what those years were like. It's just life and the cycle but looking old is definitely an adjustment that takes time.

I spent a few minutes yesterday afternoon "readjusting" my sagging face. I look younger, it's true, but I don't look like me. Then, again, I don't look like me when I'm not "readjusting," either. Where did my face go? It's a mystery....

Seriously, Ronni, I do hope the conjunctivitis is better soon. As to the looking old - I get more and more upset about my yellowing/darkening teeth, but cannot face a) the cost and b) the effort to do something about it. I guess it is because I am a WWII baby.

Great post Ronnie! When I look at photos of myself at 30, I am amazed. Then I thought I was unattractive because of various faults and imperfections (translate as uniqueness) and now I think I looked pretty darned nice considering I was not Marilyn Monroe or Sophia Loren.

Aging involves a litany of losses and/or change. (translate as opportunity but that doesn't mean it is always easy). But focusing only on the physical or biological aspects is what we've been doing culturally through the Decline Model we've been following, in which age is a disease to be avoided at all costs.

I sure don't look as "good" as I did when I was 30. I've grown heavier. My skin and body has loosened. My hair is silver.

Will we keep struggling to pass for young? Or move into new territory, including a rich engagement with the inner life?

Yeah, I like to look good, whatever the heck that means. Alive, vivid, aware, engaged. This way of looking good involves coming from the wisdom of lived experience and it is something I am exploring, as are many of us.


For me, it's practice. Spending some time with a mirror looking at the changes in my face while dropping my emotional attachment to it.

Looking at a fabulous photograph of my great Aunt Edith when she was halfway through her 80s and wonderful looking - including all the wrinkles.

Spending more time with my natural curiosity - something I like about myself. A year ago, I saw the first shadow [shaped like this: ( ] of a new line on the left side of my mouth. Not quite there yet, but definitely forming.

Over the ensuing months, I saw it become deeper and permanent almost day by day. That's fascinating.

And so on. I need all the brain space I can get for the things I care about and I don't want to waste any of it worrying about what can't be fixed or changed.

Someone said you can never be younger but you can always be healthier.

My hair began graying in my late 20's and I colored it for 15 years. Then I was beguiled by that intriguing line of silver and let it grow out. People would say to me I would look 10 years younger if I dyed it but it was just to much work.

At 68 sunscreen and moisturizer is a must. Diets don't interest me but healthy food is my foundation. Yoga 2 to 3 times a week keeps me supple and reduces aches and pains. Gardening, walking the dog, having an upstairs are all part of my fitness program.

Every choice made either builds or takes away from good health. If 95% of the time disipline rules, that still leaves 5% for wicked indulgence. So far this way of living has served me well.

My guyfriend who has lived with me for 17 years and is seven years younger just had to have a triple bypass so my way of doing life is looking better to him all the time. From the newest data we can't blame genes anymore. As soon as you change to a healthier lifestyle some genes turn off and others turn on.

Having the freedom of not going to work every day and doing what pleases me is making this time of life the happiest so far. Being invisible can be a great gift.

I hope your eyes heal soon Ronni!
I've been fighting some of the aging stuff but it's all self delusion. I half heartedly coloured my hair about a month ago, one of those organic non-chemical things and now I totally regret it. I want a nice natural grey mix, something to call mine own and then deal (slowly) with the rest of me. It's all about subtraction now I find.

We all ought to be really proud of those wrinkles.

My thoughts here:

In American society, we are afraid of wrinkles. We have companies making billions of dollars selling wrinkle cures and preventatives, and plastic surgeons making fortunes doing facelifts. Our society is so afraid of wrinkles in our skin, we are willing to spend small fortunes to get rid of them. And that’s just the ones on our faces...

So, what are we Americans most afraid of? Losing our youth, losing our comforts, losing the things that make our lives so privileged. We are afraid of death, even those who seem to most embrace the idea of God and heaven. They don’t really want heaven, they want their own version of heaven, here and now, on earth. They want to be eternally young, eternally comfortable...

Real liberation in our own lives comes from seeing our wrinkles and understanding their inevitability, and the seamless way they fit into our own lives, and the lives of those around us. As we see our children become young adults in their own right, we understand the passage of time and we move to new phases of our own lives. We move to having the position of the elder, with our wrinkles and, hopefully, the wisdom that comes with those wrinkles. Wrinkles are neither beautiful or ugly – they are the seamless ties of our lives to time itself.

have you read nora ephron's book "I feel bad about my neck"? I esp liked the essays on life in NY. But some are about the aging body.

even when I do look in the mirror, say, to comb my hair, I really dont see myself. I have always been this way. little vanity. so when I purposely pick up a mirror to look at my current face situation i am shocked at the changes. I still think of myself as 33. :) too many other things to worry about though, so i just dont look very often.

I really like what Donna said and the beautiful way she said it.
Yes, our lives move from phase to phase and every phase includes tasks, whether it is learning to walk upright (baby into toddler), using the toilet (toddler into child) forming an ego-identity (child into adult) or transcending the ego-identity (adult into elder). Some tasks are difficult. And we don't master any of them the first day we try. It's gradual: two steps forward, one back. Like you said Ronni, it takes practice. Lots of it!

thank you for that, ronni. of course. and i'm older than anybody. gonna be eighty effing four this month. "they" say i look younger, but i try not to be happy about that but i'm happy about that.
hope your conjunctivitis heals sooner than later.
and have you been struck by the actresses on british tv? real-er, except helen mirren, of course, who is a british knockout. and i just looked it up: she's 64. a kid. elaine

hi. i'm back and remembering when i was 42 and at the beach and looking at the 18 year olds and feeling shabby in my stretched-out bathing suit and thinking, they don't know how young they are! i don't remember really thinking about my age until i was in my seventies. there's a lesson here somewhere. and if i told you i really like my wrinkles and it's okay to be in my eighties, i'd be kidding you. and me.

Just found this happy to hear all the comments; can relate and identify with all the feelings triggered by the aging process. I feel very torn at times...part of me wants to just let up on some disciplines like expercise and watching my diet; the other part fears letting go...I say to myself "if I let go it means I'm giving up on myself"....such a battle in my head....finally came to the condlusion that it is not an ALL or Nothing decision...I've decided to come to a sensible balance. I will continue to eat well, exercize, stretch, yoga etc., because this truly makes me feel good both physically and mentally, (not to mention how it keeps my weight in check), but will not occassionally decline a delicious piece of rich choclate cake, or sleep in and read a good novel on a rainy morning and miss my morning workout. Again, the balance works for me. To never indulge in the fun, delicious things in life would be too rigid, and psychological unhealthy.

I try--I really try--to be like some of the responders to TGB. I wish I could honestly say I don't care about how I look any more, but that's just not the truth.

I was never a Great Beauty--not even close. I've always been Ms. Average or maybe a tick above in my prime. It's not that I want to look 40 again, or 50, but 60 would be nice (I'm 73).

What I don't like about looking old is being discounted, ignored and treated as though I don't have a clue as to what's going on in the world. I still work, I'm reasonably computer literate, I drive, shop, care for 3 beautiful cats, garden, decorate and write. I watch my calories and walk 2+ miles most days. I still enjoy clothes, fashion and makeup--even though I can't wear many of today's fashions. In short, I don't feel 73 most of the time and would prefer not to look it.

Still, I've never had cosmetic surgery and doubt that I ever will. I don't spend money (often) on overhyped overpriced cosmetics, so I'm pretty much stuck with what I've got. I guess I'll continue to do the best I can for as long as I have anything left to work with--and hope I grow more accepting about looking old as I approach, say, 90.

My personal guffaw is the obvious 30-year-olds slathering on wrinkle-cream to hide all those "wrinkles" they have.

So true, TropiGal. Can't they find any models who are at least 45-50 for wrinkle cream ads? They might be just a bit more believable. With the exception of professional models Andie McDowell and, rarely, Lauren Hutton, most of them are under 40. Could it be that the cosmetic folks know the stuff doesn't actually do much of anything except perhaps moisturize, which can be done for MUCH less than $100 per jar?!

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