The real problem with aging is that we consider it a problem
We don’t need to defy aging. We need to embrace it and not see it through the lens of decline. Or diminishment
The images of “older women” were not very pretty when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s. In tandem with the stifling portrayals of older women in popular culture, there was also an increasing obsession with the “problem” of age and how best to avoid it through diet, exercise, chemical formulas, moisturizing creams, and the best solution… denial as long as possible.
Despite the glaring absence of images of people over 65, especially older women doing or selling anything in the mass media, there was no shortage of ads reminding us about getting old. Fed at an early age, I had my fill.
Doesn’t She know She Can Look Younger?
Complicit with women’s magazines in alienating women from their faces and bodies, cosmetic companies eyed women’s sagging faces with greed as we were bombarded with lavish ads emphasizing the burden of getting old. “Doesn’t she know she can look younger?” one ad asked, clearly blaming any woman who did not defy her age. S
In fact, the message I received as a teen was quite clear- we were not supposed to age…at least not visibly.
The Invisible Woman
Having been drafted by the media at an early age I have been waging a war against any visible signs of aging for over 40 years. Like most girls, I learned that along with a “visible panty line,” there were to be no visible signs of aging.
Struggling to hold onto the illusions of youth we saw old age only as a decline. For all our current advancements, one fact still remains avoid any visible sign of aging or you become invisible.
No wonder women are haunted by the horrors of growing old
Despite the fact that we are currently living in a time when women way over 65 are more visible and more powerful in government, business, and entertainment than ever before the insistence that there is an arbitrary expiration date for women and their perceived beauty and function has not lessened its strong grip. In fact, it has accelerated as more fillers, serums and procedures lay in wait to correct the problem, fix the flaws, and reverse signs of aging. To turn back time.
Here’s the un-botoxed wrinkle in that. Every woman is an aging woman.
It begins at birth and continues, if we are fortunate, for 80 decades. Yet the window for desirability is a short one in our youth culture, one lasting only a third of our life’s expectancy
Like processed food, the more chemical additives and fillers added to a woman the longer the shelf life of her attractiveness. In a culture that worships at the altar of “all natural’ and “no additives” the same can’t be said of our aging women.
If positive portrayals of aging promote the idea that defying aging is the only way to age successfully, negative stereotypes can remain strong.
Last week I turned 67.
I am far from my expiration date. I defy anyone to dispute that fact. Instead of reversing the signs of aging let’s reverse our perception of aging as a decline or as something to defy.
So how old is old? How we choose to view aging can be within our own agency.
Please join me on Saturday, April 9th, 2022 when I will be talking about my collage on aging, “How Old is Old” at the Museum of Sonoma County, as part of their Artists Talk for the exhibit “Agency Feminist Art and Power.”
A reception will follow and for those in the Bay area able to attend I would love to meet you.