OPINION // Ageing Gracefully
Look forward to being a confident, more intelligent older self rather than fearing the frown-line.
As an adolescent growing up I was never mercilessly plagued by acne. I engaged in enough sports that I was never obese and while a few – read many, including but not limited to Barkers, Dirty Dog sunglasses, skirts over pants combos – of my clothing choices were questionable more often than not I wore at least one cultural signifier that assimilated me with everyone else. Ultimately then, I was never ostracized for any form of physical impediment and apart from becoming increasingly involved in the fashion industry haven’t concerned myself with the minute details of appearance. Until recently.
While applying the Olay I adopted as routine – after occasionally ‘borrowing’ from my mother became daily application, became purchasing, became an obsessive need for refreshed skin – there in the mirror angrily glaring back at me, above my nose, between my eyes and therefore smack bang in the middle of my forehead, was a wrinkle. My first non only-there-when-I-squint, serious wrinkle. A bevy of senarios entered my conscious: from the first wrinkle it’s a slippery slope into leather-face territory, that although my hair is extremely short it will become immediately plagued by shades of silver and I will begin to resemble my high school history teacher who with a grey buzz-cut and appropriately snarly personality was more military enforcer than Elizabethan enthusiast. I went online and did this to this photo:
and got this:
and then I freaked out (although my face is still suspiciously remiss of wrinkles in the above image).
A lot later I started to approach this question of ageing in a more rational manner. What does it mean to age? How does one age gracefully? And two ageing-affirming arguments piqued my attention. The first is best articulated by long time columnist for The Guardian, Angela Phillips, here when she – offput by the whingeing of similarly aged women about appearance – argued that being respected by peers for ones profession and personality was far more preferable than being an indecisive teenager or 20-something who was still trying to figure out how they wanted to appear at the same time the world uses their appearance to define them: “that doesn’t mean we don’t care about our appearance. It is just that we no longer have to use it as a flag to wave in order to attract attention to ourselves. Frankly, I look back at my teens and twenties and shudder. Why would anyone yearn for that age of constant anxiety? Is my bum too big? Will anyone love me? Will I manage to have babies before I am too old? Will I ever get a job that I like? Will he leave me? Youth sucks – I’ll take maturity any day.” And in one foul swoop Phillips puts most of my quarter life crisis concerns to bed.
The wrinkle in question is a frown wrinkle; a frown wrinkle because I’m an argumentative, confrontational person. I am just as happy arguing politics as I am the relative merits of the male leads in Gossip Girl as long as there is a worthy adversary and as long as I win. It’s obnoxious and as I age it is going to be a problem. To grow old gracefully, one actually has to be, well, graceful. Phillips touches on this by suggesting people need to be comfortable in their own skin, but it’s more than that. It’s looking and acting like a classy person worthy of the maturity bestowed upon them. George Clooney v. Johnny Depp:
While George Clooney acts his 50 years by starring as presidential hopefuls, moving from acting to directing, wearing extremely well cut suits and his grey hair on his sleeve, J-Depps over there, well, it’s probably for the best that he’s devolved to animated kids films so that we get exposed to his fashion sense as infrequently as possible. Same goes for Cate Blanchett against Courtney Love (probably too easy, but anyway):
Courtney I know you were a rock star but don’t you think it’s time to put the pre-pubescent coloured hair-dye away?
Ultimately as long as someone is a physical representation of their confident selves age is insignificant. It’s when that construct fails that a single wrinkle or grey hair means everything.
- Courtney Sanders