Thursday, January 24, 2008

Out With The Old, In With Botox

I wouldn't consider myself a hip dresser, particularly when I look back at high school and realize that my imitation prep actually made me look more like an old-school librarian than any of the authentic preppies I went to school with. These days I tend to go for the classic tailored look, preferably vintage if I can get it.

But while I've tweaked my appearance, particularly in the last half year, I've never worried about looking old. You might be thinking, "She's not even thirty!" but really, people my age do worry about looking old. You might notice that the women in the anti-aging cosmetics ads (Olay Regenerist, Neutrogena Microdermabrasion) are probably no older than 35 anyway. And there are more of those cosmetics available these days anyway. You used to buy them in department stores from Estee Lauder or Clinique, and now they're in CVS or even the health aisle of the grocery store.

But it doesn't stop at wrinkles. These days, a woman needs to go to the gym, do yoga, eat organic food, dye their hair, and undergo cosmetic surgery--in order to stay young. I used to think this really only applied to the women in Hollywood, who, with the exception of Diane Lane and Susan Sarandon, usually see a career tank after their 30s.

Today, I passed this piece about the effect of aging on women's careers. Natasha Singer writes:

IN a new self-help book called “How Not to Look Old,” chapter headings in screaming capital letters warn readers of the dreaded signs of aging that are to be avoided at all costs.

“NOTHING AGES YOU LIKE ... FOREHEAD LINES” admonishes one chapter introduction. Another chapter cautions: “NOTHING AGES YOU LIKE ... YELLOW TEETH.”

Nothing, apparently, also carbon-dates you like GRAY BROW HAIRS or SAGGING SKIN or RECEDING GUMS, according to the book written by Charla Krupp, a former beauty director at Glamour who writes a column for More, a magazine for women over 40.

The book is the latest makeover title to treat the aging of one’s exterior as a disease whose symptoms are to be fought to the death or, at least, mightily camouflaged. But the book offers a serious rationale for such vigilant attempts at age control, arguing that trying to pass for younger is not so much a matter of sexual allure as of job security.

...

“Whether we want to admit it or not, in male corporate America we would rather have a cute, sexy 30-year-old working for us than a 50-year-old with gray hair who has let herself go and looks out of it, not in the swing of it, like a nun,” said Ms. Krupp, a blonde who blurs her age by personifying her advice about donning highlights, bangs, heels and sheer lip gloss. After all, nothing ages you like dark lipstick.

...

“Ageism is one of the last frontiers of discrimination where people think that a way around it is not to be seen to age, but we would never say that women should try to look or act more male in order to avoid sexism,” said Molly Andrews, a psychologist who is a director of the Center for Narrative Research at the University of East London.


And what I find interesting about this is that the ageism discussed in the piece really only applies to women. Bill Clinton has his famous white hair, but no one starts doubting his ability to keep up his career because he looks "old." Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is slammed for looking like what she is: a woman in her 60s.

Men are praised for their longevity in the boardroom; grey hair makes them "distinguished." Women must dye greys, lest they lose their "freshness." For example I know a wonderful woman who, although her own hair is pure white at this point, still dyes it reddish-brown. She's not fooling anyone, and I think she'd look a lot better if she just let it go natural. Her sister's hair has gone white, and she looks stunning. It's silly to pretend, in my opinion.

And yet, America clamors for youth. And while I perhaps can't convince everyone else to just accept that we all get old, I'm going to personally fight it. If my hair goes grey, it will stay grey. If I get wrinkles, I'll get wrinkles.

At one of my previous jobs, I worked with a woman who had a ton of wrinkles all over her face. But I thought she looked great. All of her wrinkles were the kind made from smiles. She is a fantastic woman, she's been a teacher, a softball catcher, and still goes whitewater rafting every year. When I look at her, I don't see an "old" woman. I see a woman who's lived a great life, and still is. I hope someday I have a face full of wrinkles that mark me as having an extraordinary life too.

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