The Problem With Aging Is the Problem

Collage detail

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?

Cosmetic companies eyed our sagging faces with greed.

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.

Agency Show

“Agency: Feminist Art and Power” Museum of Sonoma County 425 7th Street Santa Rosa, CA Curated by Karen M. Gutfreund

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.

 

Artist Sally Edelstein at 66 and a detail of her collage “How Old is Old”

 

10 comments

  1. Sally, best wishes with your talk. Women get bombarded at all ages about how to look better or more youthful. This is exacerbated by Hollywood being so hard on female actors as they age, looking for a younger face to play parts that an older actress is more suited. This is why I admire people like Helen Mirren, Tina Turner, Judi Dench, Meryl Streep who pushed and are still pushing the envelope. Thanks for doing this. Keith

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  2. I join many sending best wishes for you at the show and reception. It’s a timeless artwork and you have so much to say on the subject of women and aging. Carry on!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Age is is only a number. An irrelevant number…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I join the others in wishing you a great showing and reception! If I’m allowed a comment on you at your age, I’ll say you look really “intact”! LOL! I suspect more people of both sexes look better than the old stereotypes of the decrepit aged than not.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks!On both comments. I have never “felt” my age in all that implies, not give it much pause for concern and I think that can reflect how you look.

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    • Thanks for the compliment. Although never shy about stating my age, I have long just felt it was insignificant.

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      • I used to use the “if twice my age is still within the range humans can still live, I must still be youngish” way of establishing age perspective. Now, twice my age would set a new human record for longevity. Yes, I intend to live till I am 148! LOL!

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