Waving the White Flag

Age like a fine wine

Age like a fine wine (Photo credit: derekGavey)

Strike at the heart of the beast! Show no mercy!

Why do people feel compelled to do battle with all things related to aging? Hair gets colored, as if having gray hair is shameful. Young, nubile women begin getting Botox before the age of 30; begin using anti-wrinkle creams in their 20’s.

Have we come to despise these signs of having lived past our teen years?

My hair gleams with gray sprinkled throughout from years lived and loved.  Hard work went into the making of those signature hairs. Why should shame be associated with them?

Small lines have taken up residence around my mouth. Are they caused by laughing too much? If so, my favorite past-time will continue to occupy me. Laugh lines are far better in my estimation than facial stress fractures.

The reasoning behind this abhorrence of aging escapes me. My entire experience here on Planet Earth was lived at the same moment—the one in which I am aware. Age has rarely meant anything to me.

At age twelve, people treated me as 19-20. When nineteen came along, people assumed I was in my mid-20’s. By the time my 30’s arrived, most of my friends were in their early 20’s. Even now, I have few real friends my own age. I know plenty of people in their 50’s and 60’s, but those whom I call true friends are of all ages, from the very young to those in their late seventies and older.

It’s always been my contention that age is only a marker for statistical purpose. The body may have tell-tale signs of wear and tear. But the me operating this body has no age, except the one I inside my head.

The question which needs to be posed to a person is: If you’re so unhappy to reach your current age that you need to reconstruct your body to hide your experience, is reconstruction likely to erase your unhappiness?

Does one’s happiness depend on the physical representation of the person inside? After all, our bodies are only the vessels, which carry us around on this planet. Is our preoccupation with conforming to culture’s definition of beauty the only path to self-satisfaction and acceptance? Must we all be life-sized, unrealistic Barbie’s and Ken’s in order to be accepted as vital, beautiful, and worthwhile? If so, aren’t we all waving a white flag; surrendering our individuality and uniqueness in favor of a cultural impossibility?

Writers deal with this issue each time they develop a character, put together narrative description, or poetry. We devote much time and page space to beauty in one form or another. Have you ever wondered just how deeply our brains’ hard-wiring goes, if all cultures, races, and ages consider this one aspect of life as this important?

What do you think about our demand for physical perfection and beauty? I’m looking for opinions on this topic. Are we the total of our body parts, or do we have an innate value and beauty than has nothing to do with our outer shells?

You tell me. Leave a comment. Take a stand.

A bientot,

Claudsy

 

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  1. May 23, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    To be young Claudsy….how deep in our culture does this yearning go? When I was a kid, I was fascinated by Ponce De Leon’s search for the fountain of youth in Florida (isn’t that why the snowbirds go there?)

    I’m pretty good at accepting my age; but popular culture wants me to strive to be young: “60 is the new 30.” Youth-craving expressions like that make snake oil salespeople who peddle “youth” salivate like Pavolv’s dogs!

    We have a tsunami of people aging and more businesses selling anti-aging products than there are bedbugs in New York City. it is the perfect storm for capitalism and a sinking ship for the “you-can-age-gracefully” crowd.

    But there is hope! Those of us with an individualistic bent, who have found our internal beauty, can live at peace with growling old. And those who exalt anti-aging celebrities, such as the legendary Joan Rivers…well they’re already in Bloomingdale’s searching for the latest product as we discuss this issue.

  2. claudsy
    May 23, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    You’re so very right, JP. So much of our advertising dollar goes toward recreating youth, as if youth has more to offer than an illusion of time standing still. Every time I get into this question, I think about the movie “Matrix.” I have to ask myself and others how much of what we see, feel, experience in this world is a mere fantasy within the mind of a dreamer wired to someone’s mega machine.

    Do we really even exist, except as someone else’s experiment in behavoral science lab?

  3. May 23, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    I think we don’t want to be younger, but rather appear younger. Many times I’ve run into old people limping onto the bus in their walkers, and sometimes they’ll look at me and say: “Son, don’t get old. It’s *awful*.” I can’t argue with someone who knows.

    So I’m all for trying to look younger, as long as it’s not what we build our lives around. The trick is to look it without looking like you’ve tried.

    • claudsy
      May 23, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      There’s certainly nothing wrong about trying to stay healthy and fit. I wish I could have the fitness I did when I was 30, and I’m working toward getting fitter.That step, though, isn’t for beauty’s sake, but so that my quality of life remains high as I continue to age.

      And most of those old folks on the bus, have the problems they have because they had to work very hard to make a living, hold together families, and reach the age where you see them. Beauty for its own sake wasn’t a priority for them. A roof, food on the table, and caring for family were their priorities. For many of them, beauty was something one had or didn’t have.

      I suppose what disturbs me is the knowledge that we train tiny little girls, for instance, to look and act like adults, and then as soon as they arrive at young adulthood, they’re encouraged to go back, stay as young as possible. The double message isn’t good or healthy, in my opinion. I haven’t any problem with plastic surgery for the repair of injury disfigurement and such.

      But when a person’s whole life is consumed by their “look and youth,” I feel only concern for the trend that helped produce the person’s downward spiral. Do we have to body-sculpt our way to acceptance in our own culture? Is that where we’re headed in a time when so many truly important issues are on the table?

      • May 24, 2012 at 9:17 am

        About the old people: Eh, I disagree; a lot of them looked GREAT when they had the body/face for it. Not all of them just plain didn’t care. I mean, sheesh…make-up was a MUCH bigger deal in the 1950s than it is now! So…yeah. lol I think it’s more that, as they get older, they just don’t care as much. (But even with that, I STILL see a lot of little old ladies who color their hair and wear make-up. 😉 )

        About those little girls: Yeah, that’s always bugged me too. Any mom who does that to her kid is insane, IMHO. However, there’s also a lot of 12-year-old girls who just want to look and feel “grown-up”. (This is usually when mothers and daughters start coming to odds, and conversations such as “But Jenny’s mom lets HER wear lipstick!” begins.)

        About life: Of course not. 🙂 I think sometimes it just comes down to having to actively ignore such shenanigans. It can be difficult, but not impossible.

      • claudsy
        May 24, 2012 at 1:54 pm

        I don’t think I said that old people didn’t care. I think my point was that their appearance wasn’t the first thing that captured their attention when they hopped out of bed in the morning. Their primary issues were making a living, etc.

        As for the little girls, there’s enough on the news about that every day to fill volumes of debate. And mothers arguing with daughters is universal, it seems, and for many reasons other than make-up. Sociologically, it can be pinned on rivalry as much as anything else.

        You’re right about the shenanigans. They are many times impossible to ignore.

  4. May 23, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Here’s a take on aging that will hopefully make you laugh!
    George Carlin Version
    I want to live my next life backwards:
    You start out dead and get that out of the way.
    Then you wake up in a nursing home
    feeling better every day.
    Then you get kicked out for being too healthy.
    Enjoy your retirement and collect your pension.
    Then when you start work,
    you get a gold watch on your first day.

    You work 40 years
    until you’re too young to work.
    You get ready for High School: drink alcohol, party, and you’re generally promiscuous.

    Then you go to primary school,
    you become a kid,
    you play,
    and you have no responsibilities.
    Then you become a baby, and then…

    You spend your last 9 months
    floating peacefully in luxury, in spa-like conditions
    – central heating, room service on tap,
    and then…
    You finish off as an orgasm.

  5. claudsy
    May 23, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Ah, Cloud, this has always been a favorite schtick of Carlin’s. He did have perspective down pat. Thank you so much for sharing this laugh today. It’s something for all of us to enjoy. I wonder if Merlin would have approved of this rendition of his lifestyle.

  6. carrieboo33
    May 23, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    I dunno, personally, I think there is something rather perverse about our obsession with looks and weight in this culture, given the harsh reality that exists for many. Seems like an evil plot to me, to keep us from noticing and caring about the things that really matter. Great post, Clauds. (I’d say more, but I gotta run… midget on the loose.) 😉

  7. claudsy
    May 23, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    It is a large distraction factor. That much is certain, Carrie. Comes in a package with a gift tag that says, “Look at me; not what I do.”

  8. Veronica Roth
    May 23, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    God this is really the wrong post for me to be commenting at the wrong time! I’ve spent today wrapped in thoughts of the finality of life, but managed to get some of it out of my system via post to my website, and now I’m concentrating on your lovely post. For me I try not to dwell on youth and beauty but as a woman (of a certain age) working in the communications field, I’m bombarded with it. My opinion is that women allow and agree with nasty, gendered and misogynistic reviews of women. Ageing wouldn’t be such a cultural concern if women weren’t the major agents of patriarchy in our society. Not enough women are saying enough already and too many women are criticising female celebrities for extra weight, wrinkles, and generally giving into a myth they think is the male desire while dismissing the fact that they are their own denigrating abusers. Oh God…there I go. Claudsy, feel free to delete this comment if you like.

  9. claudsy
    May 23, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Not on your life, Veronica. Since women are half of the society and society creates this problem in perception and aspirations, we help–as a gender–to contribute to its continuance.

    If we were more secure in who we are as people, and stop worrying about sexual appetite and attraction all the time, much of the problem would resolve itself.

    This is a complex perceptual situation, with so many sides and factors in it, that to pinpoint the ultimate determinant is nigh on to impossible. Suffice it to say that we, as a society, buy into the hype and believe that it’s accurate. Media doesn’t help any either. You know that as well or better than most.

    If the money spent on cosmetics in this country each year was pooled and distributed to feed and shelter the truly needy, we’d all be better off. Just my two cents worth, too.

    • May 24, 2012 at 9:11 am

      As a fairly new-to-marriage woman in her early 30s, I just want to say this: I like it when my husband says I’m pretty. 🙂 It’s just a good feeling. And honestly, I think that’s natural.

      I honestly don’t believe in the idea that modern society has somehow perpetuated the idea that “beauty is everything”. Instead, I wonder if it’s perfectly natural for women to want to be viewed as desirable, attractive, and pretty.

      Plus, there’s the idea that make-up and hair dye is used for more than -just- to look young and attractive; it’s also used to show that one is a part of a certain group or culture. For instance, I’ve always wanted wild-colored hair. I just don’t like my natural hair color. It’s not greying or anything. I just…don’t like it. So, I’ve begun dying it different colors via Manic Panic. And when I wear make-up, I want to make an impression; I don’t want to just look attractive, but I want to leave an impression.

      So those are my thoughts. Caring how you look or wearing make-up doesn’t necessarily mean you’re trying to be sexy or trying to attract someone. Could be the opposite, or you could just be expressing your individuality (as in the case with many subcultures like Goth and Emo) with no thought as to being sexy. (Why do you think Halloween is such a great holiday?? LOL!! It’s a time to dress up as absolutely ANYTHING, from gross zombie to sexy vampire!)

      Anyways, I could go on and on and ON about this, but both of my posts have already gone on too long! lol Just keep in mind that make-up doesn’t have to equal “being sexy”. It can just be “I want to look presentable” or even “I just feel like being a ghost/vampire/zombie today.”

      • claudsy
        May 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm

        Liz, of course you want to be attractive for your spouse and you feel special. That’s normal and desired. I certainly have no problem with that.

        If you want different colored hair, that’s fine, too. Many people do.

        I’m not sure what you interpreted my post to mean, but here’s what I think about cosmetics. They’re fine. I have no problem with them. I’m merely saying that they’ve been used for millenia for the purpose of attracting those of the opposite sex. In some west coast tribal groups of Africa, it’s the males who use the make-up to attract females. It’s part of their culture and part of ours.

        I believe that extreme reliance on it is unhealthy for a number of reasons. That’s all. I think this culture has become too focused on a person striving for model perfection or perceived perfection. That’s all.

  10. May 24, 2012 at 6:53 am

    The gargantuan influence of advertising dollars is really the issue. If you take one day and focus on all the ads, from all media about the value of staying young and beautiful and so on, I think you will be stunned by the blizzard of messages. it’s taken on a life of it’s own. As you said, Veronica, you’re bombarded with it.

    When I face the hard reality that it’s all about making money and not about making people feel or look better, I can cope better. I believe it is even more difficult for women.

    But everything is about money. I started a blog a few months ago, and now I see message and message about what I should do to attract readers…and how to make money. Who doesn’t need to make money? But there has to be a balance between making money and being true to yourself…and that’s hard to do.

    • claudsy
      May 24, 2012 at 1:13 pm

      Actually, JP, I just finished a short study of ad messages. And people wonder why I don’t watch TV. Just the ones that bombard me online is enough to send me screaming for another medium some days. Money will always drive mankind until it learns that all of it is for naught in the end. Mankind may know that instinctively, but intellectually, it lives within the illusion of material reality.

  11. May 24, 2012 at 8:58 am

    On one hand, I see what you’re saying. 🙂

    On the other, I think it’s important to realize that there’s nothing wrong with taking a little pride in one’s appearance. Remember, how you look affects other people’s opinions of you. Whether that’s right or wrong, that’s just the way things are.

    I worry about Death ALL THE TIME, so that’s why aging freaks me out. That, and the idea of growing feeble, insane, and helpless. Of not accomplishing what I want to, or more importantly, what God wants me to, before I pass on. Those just aren’t preferable things in my book.

    I loathe mirrors. I really do. It’s a condition I’ve had since I was a child. They freak me out. But, I’m learning to accept the idea that mirrors reflect what other people see when they look at me. And over the past few years, I’ve realized I want to leave them with a crisp, awesome image, and not an unkempt, gross one. (“Gross” as in “She hasn’t brushed her teeth today”, not as in “I hate myself; I’m so gross”.)

    • claudsy
      May 24, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      Liz, I can understand both sides of your argument. I think most of us want to leave people with a pleasant memory of our existence. And I’m not talking about keeping oneself neat and tidy, clean or ready for the outside world. I’m talking about the societal drive to go further, to refuse to age by whatever means available.

      It’s a mentality driver that becomes a belief, that becomes compulsion, that leads to something not expected.

      I can intellectually understand fearing death, though I’ve never felt that way. I always think about the fact that before I came to live on Earth, I was without body, without substance, as we think of it. I came into this world and I’ll leave this world. I wasn’t “alive” once, and there will come a time when I won’t be again. Because I know this, I cannot fear death. Such fears are draining, for you can never be free of them without a lot of hard work and dedication.

      A pastor I knew many years ago talked about it this way: When you worry, you reveal the weakness of your own faith. If your faith is strong, you wouldn’t worry at all; you would know that the Creator does nothing without purpose and will honor your requests if at all possible.

      That little bit of wisdom set me free from all sorts of conflicts and fears. I am who I’m supposed to be, look as I do because of my genetic makeup–not the kind from the store. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against cosmetics. I just think the emphasis on them is too great.

      I can fathom the fear of becoming needy through age or infirmity of mind or body. I used to work in a nursing home when I was very young. I saw way too much of that living situation. Yet I also know that I can only do so much to prevent whatever outcome happens. To that end, I eat very healthy, workout regularly, am losing unwanted weight, getting fitter by the day, staying engaged with the world by talking with lovely people like yourself, and finding purpose for this life I’ve been given. That’s really all I can do.

      If, after all that, I succumb to some drastic fate, I’ll have to deal with it as I have dealt with other obstacles during my life. To live in fear of what might be is to prevent living today.

      • May 24, 2012 at 10:35 pm

        I’ll be frank with you: After my mom died a few years ago under bad circumstances, I started fearing a lot of things that I’d never thought about before. Death and Getting Old were two of them.

        She was an alcoholic, and her body just basically gave up on her; it just couldn’t take the self-abuse any longer. But I loved my mom to death (at least who she was when she wasn’t drunk). That experience has pretty much tainted my whole outlook on life. God and I are still working through it after 7 years, but it’s something I don’t know if I’ll ever fully recover from. The whole experience was just entirely too tragic, depressing, and bizarre. Maybe it’s a thorn in my side God never intends to remove. lol

        I think it’s different when one sees these things happen to other people than when it happens to us personally. Even if one works around it, it’s just not the same as when it happens to one personally. It’s just a whole different ball game then.

      • claudsy
        May 25, 2012 at 9:25 am

        It never is, Liz. Each of us has drivers, triggers, and ways of dealing with the expectations of the world. If that weren’t so, it would be an entirely different world.

  12. John Paterna
    May 24, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    There is certainly nothing wrong with caring about how you look. I think we’re really taking about extremes here. Concerning death, the philosopher Alan Watts once said: What do you remember before you were born? Nothing. And that’s where you go, into the universe from where you came. Now I know that religious (I make a distinction between religion and spirituality) people would protest and insist there is an afterlife. But for me, returning to nothingness is not so scary and I think it has a higher probability than life after death.

    • claudsy
      May 24, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      John, I don’t quibble about where we go when we leave here. Each has her/his own thoughts on that score. And, yes, there are extremes dogging our cultural steps today that have high price tags in so many ways; to the individual and to the society at large.

      I think we ignore much simply because there seems little that can be done to change things for the better. But really, the easiest way to change something is to ignore it, much of the time. Cultural cosmetics would be less of an issue if more people decided that they were fine without having to purchase them. If we accepted ourselves as we are and everyone else, the need to enhance or detract from our flaws or less-than-desired features, would dissipate. At least, that’s how it seems to me.

      I could be very wrong here. I certainly don’t claim omniscience, nor would I want it. How horrible would that be to wake up to everyday?

  13. John Paterna
    May 24, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    I don’t think there’s any right or wrong Claudsy. I think the key to what you said was “cultural cosmetics would be less of an issue if more people…..were fine without having to purchase them. But some people need them. Some people are defined by them. And Self acceptance is always challenged in a world that entices you constantly by telling you that you need more, should have more and should be more.

    Just a little insecurity and self esteem problems and a person is prone to the enticement.

    • claudsy
      May 24, 2012 at 10:25 pm

      I suppose that’s true, John. What I wonder is why are people insecure and un-accepting of themselves in the first place. Are they born that way? I doubt it. What is the social trigger which causes this lack of self-acceptance that leads to drastic or continual efforts to change the body to conform to someone else’s standard of beauty?

      There are so many possible penultimate causal factors for extremism. There is also a social standard for beauty and when one doesn’t quite come up to that standard, she/he is made aware of it each day if in no other way that by the facial expression of others when looked upon. Denying that social pressure brings about conformity is as faulty as denying that extremism has causal factors.

  14. May 24, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    I believe that extreme reliance on it is unhealthy for a number of reasons. That’s all. I think this culture has become too focused on a person striving for model perfection or perceived perfection.

    Ah. Well, that I agree with. 🙂 Crazy people are crazy.

    I used to be really heavily anti-makeup, anti-skirt, anti-etc. when I was a young person, and sincerely thought the only purpose of it all was to “get a man”. It took me some years being out in the world and actually among (sane) adults before I realized that that wasn’t really the case.

    Also, my sis and mom tried to push make-up and dresses and what-not on me when I was a teen. I had to beat them back with a stick (figuratively) to get them to leave me alone and let me wear my scrungy clothing and no-makeup in peace!

    Thus, I guess I have sort of a knee-jerk reaction to these things. It’s hard to explain, but whenever I read something like this, it’s almost like I’m reading Teenage Liz’s journal. Hope that makes sense.

    • claudsy
      May 25, 2012 at 9:23 am

      It seems everyone has issues, of one degree or another, with their appearance. It’s a societal norm that everyone must deal with, whether on their own behalf or someone else’s.

      Whether a person likes how they look to others or not will be decided, ultimately, by the person wearing the skin.

  15. May 24, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    claudsy :
    I don’t think I said that old people didn’t care. I think my point was that their appearance wasn’t the first thing that captured their attention when they hopped out of bed in the morning. Their primary issues were making a living, etc.
    As for the little girls, there’s enough on the news about that every day to fill volumes of debate. And mothers arguing with daughters is universal, it seems, and for many reasons other than make-up. Sociologically, it can be pinned on rivalry as much as anything else.
    You’re right about the shenanigans. They are many times impossible to ignore.

    I have no idea what older people think about, but I meant more that when they were younger, they would have been just as concerned about appearance as any other young(er) person today. Sure, concerned about making a living, too…but sometimes those two things are tied pretty closely together. I don’t know how accurate it is, but if that show “Mad Men” and my parents are to be believed (they were both born in the late 30s, early 40s), looking presentable then was just as important to getting the career one wanted as it is now. Probably even moreso.

    Heh. This is why I don’t watch the news. I think they present crazy people as the norm far, far too often. Also, there’s only so many shootings I can hear about in a day without wanting to run back to Southeast Asia immediately.

    Moms arguing with daughter. Oy vey…I know on my end it had a lot to do with a LOT of different factors, not the least of which was an influx of hormones! x_x;;; (Thank GOODNESS for modern anti-depressants!)

    • claudsy
      May 25, 2012 at 9:28 am

      Cultural norms shift each day. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a goth movement.

      This about that one as a norm.

      • May 25, 2012 at 10:59 am

        Honestly, I disagree; I think the norm fashion trends change even faster than it does for niche stuff. Look at any fashion mag; it’ll talk about what’s “In” for this summer, and what’s ‘like totally’ out. It’s just one of the many things that bug me about the fashion world.

        Compare that to basic Goth couture , which has actually been pretty much the same since the ’80s. 🙂

      • claudsy
        May 25, 2012 at 11:31 am

        Can’t argue with that logic, Liz. Fashion reflects aspects of society and the groups involved in its interest. I gave up long ago on what, for me, was nonsense. I stopped playing the games that all of that entailed.

        I hope you have a great weekend with lots of laughter and happy memories.

        See you on the flip side, as we older fogies sometimes say.

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