Obsessing about aging has become a national pastime and not just for those who are middle aged. Twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings are just as obsessed as fifty-somethings. And all this hype can be traced back to marketing. The “Does she…or doesn’t she?” hair campaign in the sixties was written by Shirley Polykoff and targeted women suggesting that grey hair made them appear older. According to Wikipedia The successful advertising campaign used the catchphrase, “Does she…or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure.” Within six years of Miss Clairol’s launch, 70% of women were coloring their hair. And here we are more than forty years later still grappling with grey hair; and there they are, all the hair dye manufacturers, taking it all to the bank.
If you dig a bit more into the life and career of Shirley Polykoff, you will also find that she refused raises because she didn’t want to appear to be making more money than her lawyer husband while he was alive. Hmmm. But she certainly understood the minds of women because she also wrote: “Is It True Blondes Have More Fun?” and, “If I’ve Only One Life to Live, Let Me Live It as a Blonde.” Oh yes. Shirley was a blond.
Personally my stand is that most dyes are toxic to the environment and those that claim not to be still have a pretty messy manufacturing process so I am out. Plus once you start that battle, you are at war every couple of weeks. And for what? Your vanity.
Don’t stop at hair dye. Have you noticed how young the models and actors are in anti-wrinkle-cream advertising? Same thing. These women don’t even know what a wrinkle looks like. They are the new target market because everyone is going to get wrinkles, but these lasses will use the creams for fifteen or twenty years before they finally realize it. No cream is going to stop wrinkles, but it will make you feel like you are putting in an effort. I am not saying that I don’t use cream, because I do. I just don’t pay a fortune for it and don’t expect it to perform a miracle. I just use it to hydrate. But if you choose to fall for all the marketing hype, then that is on you.
All this obsessing about aging has more to do with how we feel about ourselves and how we think others see us. Women are bad for this. Women seem to have lower self esteems then men. We have a long history of being criticized and being made to feel that we are not good enough. Women want to look good for men but also for other women. Women have become the worst critics. They are the ones more likely to notice greying hair and midriff expansion in other women. They are the ones who are still insecure and therefore feel the need to improve their own self worth by making catty comments about others. That is why fashion and marketing is often targeted towards women. It focuses on their insecurities. Am I always confident? Certainly not, but I don’t live my life based on the validation of others. One of the characteristics that makes me a good bitch.
Aging is not a battle. It is a journey. If you choose to spend your life obsessing and battling aging, you are going to lose in the end; and the journey will be much more difficult and much less enjoyable. Aging happens. Ageism also happens. The young will never understand the old because they do not share their experience. Someday it will bite them in the ass and they will get it. We didn’t understand the old when we were young either. Old people made us uncomfortable. Ancient People, those in older stages than we are now, still do.
Yet I have a problem when ageism is slotted into the same category as racism because, I am sorry, it just does not compare. Yes it is harder to change jobs when you are older and it is isn’t pleasant when people think your ideas and skills are no longer valid, but don’t compare that to being black or indigenous. Don’t compare light remarks about being too old or being too young to years of systemic racism. At some point, everyone is young and at some point everyone will be old.
I know women who have been battling aging for over twenty years, yet they are still getting older; and they appear to be pretty stressed about it. Stress in my books is a lot worse. It can kill you faster than growing old. Getting old is going to happen. It is out of our control. What we can control is our attitude and approach to aging. We can stay healthy, both physically and mentally. It doesn’t have to be a battle. It is more a matter of eating healthy and not spending the day on a chair in front of a TV or computer screen. It is more a matter of choosing to live not just exist. For me, it is also choosing not to obsess about aging, because that is way too much work and work like that is much too stressful.
Maybe I feel this way because I have no interest or need to feel attractive to men or other women for that matter. All I want to do is be happy with myself. Yes I still look in the mirror. I don’t see the 20 year old very insecure me. I see a 63 year old who is content with who she has become. And believe me, it has been an interesting and sometimes exhausting, not to mention occasionally challenging metamorphosis. I have watched my face flatten, my nose widen (and it was already wide enough) and some distinctive facial characteristics be replaced by sags and wrinkles. I have seen the once skinny bitch (my father-in-law’s phrase) get thick through the middle and develop a slight muffin top. I felt my knees grow larger and lumpy and rebel against tight jeans. My feet haven’t worn heels in over twenty years. Yet I keep going and adapting. Currently I am living in the moment and just loving my new baggy jeans and comfy sandals.
Thank you for reading.
Photo: Jenn Stone