Monday, April 5, 2010

Grow Old Gracefully??

There was a commercial for a line of anti-aging cosmetics  when I was a kid that showed a model at the end saying, "Grow old gracefully?  I intend to fight it every step of the way."  Then, she flashed a gorgeous capped-tooth smile and with a swoosh of her hair, the commercial ended.  Being young, I rolled my eyes at it and wondered why people couldn't just relax and grow old.  I mean, it's a losing battle, right?  Why get your panties in a wad trying to fight it?  Besides, the whole idea seemed sort of vain to me (a very hypocritical thought coming from a thirteen-year-old.)
So now I'm 34 and the idea of anti-aging cosmetics doesn't seem so ridiculous.  I am abashed to admit, I own more than one tube of expensive goop aimed and reducing wrinkles and sun damage spots.  I do my research and try to make sure I'm not shelling out dollars for stuff that doesn't really work, but I still feel silly about it at times.  And, while the proto-wrinkles don't bother me (yet) I am a bit distressed by the dark spots - results of my sun-worshiping high school days.  What I wouldn't give to go back and tell myself to put on a little sunscreen for godsakes, not that I would have listened.
I've thought a lot about why it's so important to me and just about everyone else in the world to stay young-looking.  Part of it is simply that I have looked the same my whole adult life, and it is a bit distressing to see my familiar image in the mirror sporting unattractive changes.  Though I'm past caring very much what others think of my appearance, I still care about what I think.  After all, humans are innately aesthetic creatures.  That's why we hang art on our walls and put chotchkeys on our end tables.  We like to look at things...well, that we like to look at.  The same goes for the mirror.  Even if we're not out there in the dating scene still trying to attract a mate, we want to see something we like when we look in the mirror.
I think it's an exercise in futility to try to completely renounce our tendency to like pretty things, be it a vase on the dining room table or nail polish on toes.  We want to be attractive and young-looking because we have to be with ourselves all the time, because it's in our nature.  That being said, I do want to avoid an unhealthy obsession with staying young.  After all, I might win the battle in reducing my hyperpigmentation for now, but I will ultimately lose the war.  I will get old, I will get wrinkles and I will eventually not qualify for what our society views as "attractive."  So what's the point?  Why try?  Maybe it's just because I can't help myself.  I can't just sit there an watch those age spots get worse.  And really, what's wrong with wanting to look my best?  Why should I feel guilty or vain because I'd like to stay looking young as long as I can without resorting to an addiction to plastic surgery?  Am I really setting a bad example for my children if I dye my hair?  While I don't want my children to think there is something wrong with getting older, I also don't want to pretend I like my hair its natural color, either.  I want my children to learn to be true to themselves and also not to judge other people because they're naturally old and gray OR because they dye their hair and had a face lift.  I guess the bottom line is, I'm going to do my own thing - whatever feels right for now.  And the message to my children is, "I am who I am, and I'm not apologizing to anyone for it."

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