Tuesday, March 15, 2011


In the movie Last Holiday, lead character Georgia Byrd (played by Queen Latifah) thinks she has only a few weeks left to live, so she opts to take a vacation at a luxury hotel in Europe.

In one scene, a hotel employee offers Georgia a menu of spa treatments — massages, facials, seaweed wraps — but when she gets to anti-aging treatments, Georgia turns her down flat.

No need for anti-aging treatments if you're not going to be around next year.

Anti-aging. What a weird phrase.

Are we really walking around with picket signs that read NO MORE BIRTHDAYS?

We may not like aging, but do we really like the alternative?

At this point, you might be thinking, OK, Pam, you're picking the phrase apart much too literally. And you're right. (Though when I searched for an image to illustrate this post, I ran across this cartoon. Obviously I'm not the only one who's made that connection.)

But it's not like the products labeled anti-aging are really going to keep the years from piling up the way they do.

We're not really against aging as much as we're against the signs of aging... especially the more outward physical signs. And we'll do just about anything to ward them off.

I understand. There's a complex connection between age and self-acceptance. And it touches women in far deeper ways than our looks, since how we look is so closely tied to desirability, which is closely tied to our relationships, which are closely tied to lots of other stuff. (Which is why advertising works.)

In her blog Halfway to Normal, writer Kristin Tennant puts it this way:

The problem creeps in and takes up residence, I think, when our understanding of beauty is too narrowly-defined, and doesn’t leave room for the progression of life. Can we broaden how we see beauty, and be beautiful with grey hair? Can we see beauty in the stretch marks that formed when we carried our babies in utero? Can laugh lines (often known as “wrinkles”) around our mouth and eyes make us more beautiful, not less, because they tell a story about who we are and where we’ve been?
I'm working on developing that attitude. Which doesn't necessarily mean that I'm boycotting anti-aging products. But I'm laughing at the irony of the phrase.

And maybe that's a start.


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