Not that this is a rare sight, but I was walking down the street this morning and passed a 65 year old teenager. By that I mean her face looked like it was simultaneously being pulled in eight different directions and in a perpetual state of surprise. She had her hair in a high-ponytail as if to drive the point home further that she was young and perky and was wearing a cute pink Juicy jumpsuit – not the type of outfit you would expect to see on a seasoned woman aging with dignity. My initial visceral reaction however was not one of judgment or scoff but sadness. We see it everywhere. It is now commonplace for women to start taking ‘corrective’ measures against nature. When I see surgically-altered women so desperately chasing the youth that is fleeing us, it comes off as one embarrassingly, undignified apology. Why does she feel the need to keep running from herself, running from nature? Which ills of society is she expressing and reflecting back to us? The answer is not splitting the atom. Our youth-obsessed culture and marginalization of elders has brainwashed those who are especially prone to people-pleasing or self-esteem built on externals.
Societal sicknesses always seem to stem from an excessive amount of attention or value to a false god of some sort. Hopefully, we are beginning to banish the money god southward down our totem pole of priorities as deifying the green to the exclusion of higher principles has turned around and bitten us in the ass. A shift has definitely begun and we are having a cultural awakening in this regard. Almost as firmly entrenched in our collective unconsciousness is the absurd fixation on beauty and youth… and it’s getting worse.
It began innocently enough; the wealthy woman scorned, left by her husband of 25 years for his much younger, nubile secretary. As a society, as women, we saw this as a rampant problem to solve. In the middle of problems we are forced to adapt and evolve. In an effort to stay relevant, women began to try to compete with their adolescent counterparts. Mistake Number One. Cosmetic surgery became nothing more than preemptive strikes against their husbands and against society’s obsession with youth. Women began to come from a place of reactivity rather than proactivity which grossly disempowered them. Soon a facelift turned into an eyelift, a nose job, a boob job. This of course posed unforeseen problems: the 60 year old woman walking down the street with three perfectly perky body parts, but sagging knees. The travesty! Back to Dr. Silverstein for that knee lift! The damage to psyche done by this kind of running from nature and the cycle of life is dire. In essence, women are not only reacting to these challenges in fear, but they are making unnecessary apologies every minute of the day. I’m sorry I am aging. I’m sorry I am not young. I’m sorry I am not as valuable to you as I was when I was 25. If anything, we are reaffirming society’s choices and beliefs rather than exposing the illusions.
Most disturbing is the lack of respect we pay to our elders in this MTV-saturated, reality TV-drenched culture. Where do they belong? We push them to the side and get them a time-share in a 250-bedroom home with nurses milling about. The prevalence of nursing homes in the US has great implications surrounding the extent to which we value senior citizens, even if covert. In Russia, sending grandma away to an assisted living home where she is completely isolated from friends and family while nurses take care of her is unheard of. Grandma moves in with the family. She is family. She is not abandoned. Her ‘market value’ in the family does not decrease with age. If anything, it appreciates. Is it any wonder that women are stampeding Dr.’s offices to avoid the tragedy that is getting old? So many are buying into it. They are reacting to societal ills rather than stepping back and saying: Something is wrong with this picture. More people need to take control of their own decisions by saying: “My husband’s philandering is not an effect of my fading beauty, but a cause of his own insecurity and fear of death. Therefore, I will not punish myself by slicing my stomach open with a knife for a harmless little nip-tuck.” Invasive surgery and disgfigurement is not the answer. How many times have we looked at African women with saucers in their lips and thought, “Whoa. Now that is just crazy!” We think that they would be so much more beautiful without the saucers, if they just brought forth their beauty, as-is with no apologies. This is me, take me or leave me. Well, the legions of women going to Dr. Rosenfeld’s office for a makeover two seconds after the ink has dried on their divorce papers is no less crazy.
Even more disturbing is how this culture has been accepted with open arms by the youth, the very model and ideal we are chasing after has now decided that they too need to be fixed, but absolutely nothing is broken. Several years ago when I was in college I was at a weekend training conference put on by Christian Dior. The girl who shared a room with me was telling me about her high school graduation gifts. She was a very sweet, attractive blond girl from an upper-middle class family and she knew just what she wanted from her parents to mark the end of her high school career and her entry into the real world. She asked them for a boob job. I’m not sure if it was more disturbing that she asked her parents to buy her a boob job or that they agreed and gave her one as a high school graduation gift. This is sick. Again, it’s not a judgment against those who choose this path – but a legitimate concern and question, which is: Why does this girl feels she needs to do this? Why is what she is not enough? How is altering the shell going to make her life any more fulfilling? It’s not. If anything it will make her more restless as every minor challenge she faces in her life drives her to falsely blame herself or the image she is projecting to the world. One of the most common arguments for cosmetic surgery is “Well, if it makes someone feel better about themselves, then they should do it. No harm, no foul.” This is a dangerous notion. The paradox is each surgery takes us deeper into the illusion that we can escape death, that we will finally love ourselves if our mouth looks like a platypus, that chasing a youth that no longer exists will solve all of our problems, that our philandering husband will see the error of his ways and come back to his wrinkle-less wife.
The true position of power really does lie internally. It is the take me or leave me mentality. It is having the elegance and dignity to age with grace with no apologies. It is Sophia Loren. It is Lauren Hutton. It is embracing the cycles of life with good humor and positive expectation. It is a shift in values and a refusal to participate in societal sickness and to set the example of genuine self-love and self-respect. At the end of the day, this is the type of beauty that will radiate outward and be self-sustaining, not the acquiescing type of beauty that fixes, reverses, apologizes. Society can dictate a certain standard, but we don’t have to be raped by it. It is up to us to search our souls and decide whether we will accept or reject.