Beauty Has Become Skin Deep

We are all cognizant of the fact that beauty is associated with youth.  When did this association begin?  Well, one could argue that it has always been true.  What has not always been true, however, has been media’s influence on our perception of ourselves and what we feel we need to do in order to fit media’s definition of beauty.

In previous articles, I have focussed on our youth oriented society.  I have reflected on how those Clairol ads that came out in the ’60’s not only spoke to our mothers, but to us.  As small children, we also heard, “wash that grey away and “he” will start to pay attention to you again.”  I know those are not exactly how the ads went, but the intent of the ads were that.  And so  we grew up with this idea that grey was for losers and hair coloring helped women look younger and thereby win their man, the day, their self-esteem.

Interestingly, female vanity makes us want to look good, but it is this same vanity that might make us hesitate to mess with our faces through plastic surgery (minor through botox injections or major by going under the knife).

When I see the ads on television today, in which this tired jowly looking woman stares back at me and then the next picture shows this very same woman looking ten years younger, air-brushing and make-up aside (note it is always a still picture), I wonder how that image affects the younger ones looking at the same ad?  Clearly in a way that makes them think it is acceptable for them to mess with their faces.

Over the past decade, botox and facelifts have gone mainstream. Now the ads state that if you are going to go under the knife, it is better to start earlier, because then there is less messing around which in turn allows the whole process to look more natural, and, boom, the industry has captured younger women.  Thus, of late, it has become “in” for younger women to get botox injections and or face lifts.   This in turn allows the older women less of the stigma hoop to jump because now it really is no longer associated with age, but with looking good and “feeling good about myself.”  If the young are doing it, hey, I am not doing it because I am getting old.  I am doing it because it is the THING to do!

And who wouldn’t want to remain beautiful or have a chance at beauty?  But then again, beauty defined by what criteria?

As k stated in an article entitled “Trends in the Beauty Industry Over the Past 10 Years”  in

By spending billions of dollars exhorting anti-aging products and using super-skinny, airbrushed models and celebrities to pitch them, the beauty industry has created An Ideal Woman in the minds of anyone who watches TV or picks up a magazine. The Ideal Woman is thin with flawless skin, no matter her age. And she has drawerfuls of products that miraculously make her that way.

In this day and age, beauty goes hand in hand with youth, so yes, I believe it’s a distorted image for women. So many people are obsessing more than ever about their jowls falling or lines appearing. It’s turning people to cosmetic surgery.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS – 2010), 9.9 billion cosmetic interventions were performed in the United States in 2009.  Of these, 85 percent were non-surgical.  The largest consumer group for these procedures were white women between the ages of 35 and 50.  The second largest was white women between the ages of 51-64.  And the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS – 2009) reports that there was a 537 percent increase in the numbers of Botox procedures performed between 2000 and 2008.

I am not necessarily thrilled at the sagging of my features.  Yet, I do wonder how much of that has to do with media influence.  How much has that to do with my own fear of aging and being pushed aside.  Moreover, I have seen too many women totally destroy the way they look by going under the knife or who have this unnatural look induced by Botox injections. Ultimately, without these interventions, one might look older, but one might be more beautiful in their aging face than in their plastic one.  Certainly, the beauty reflected in the naturally aging face would have to be more than skin deep.

I would love to hear from readers as to what you think about this new wave at staying young.

Aging: The West’s New Pariah

Portrait of old woman sitting by a window.

Image via Wikipedia

The other day I was speaking with a very successful 50-something realtor and I asked her what she thought about aging.  Her response: “The topic depresses me.”  Hmm.  That sounded like a very familiar answer.  “Yes,” I replied, “The way our country has dealt with the aging issue has been rather depressing.  But you and I are at an age when we can still effect change and can re-create a paradigm that has only been in place for approximately 50 years.”

Prior to World War II, the elderly remained at home, surrounded by their families, participating in the day-to-day activities.  After World War II, our nation focused on mobility and youth as the image it wanted to project.  Not a lot of room for the elderly within that picture.

So what did we do?  We created a band-aid fix: the retirement/nursing home.  It certainly is one way to deal with all the ‘old’ people “left behind” in our fast-paced ever forward looking society where “New!”, “New!”, “New!” gets shouted out every time one turns around.  But as any of us who has interacted with these homes knows, the isolation and humiliation that can be caused by being in a space that is not your own and being taken care of by strangers is, well, depressing.

This is not to say that individuals do not make friends in these homes or become very close to their caregivers.  As with everything, there are many scenarios that can occur within one picture.  However,  one has to wonder at a system in which those employees who interact most intimately with the resident by helping them get dressed, showered, toileted, and fed are also the lowest paid in the hierarchy.

One outcome of our society’s focus on mobility and youth is that many of us have gone into denial about our aging process.  Baby boomers and older are spending a lot of time trying to look and be younger whether through plastic surgery or keeping fit.  I don’t think it is bad to remain youthful and strive to remain active in our day-to-day life.  What I have an issue with is the co-opting of the image of youth as the only game out there.

Another outcome is that the health industry has started to focus on the aging population and is doing everything to keep the aging process at bay to the extent of now referring to aging as a disease –“Is Aging a Disease?”

Aging a disease?  I always thought that aging was part of the cycle of life, a cycle we see reflected in everything around us.  The tree blossoms in Spring, leafs out in Summer, starts to loose leaves in Fall, and stands starkly against the Winter landscape.  Each period has its own special beauty and we don’t usually associate this normal process with disease.  Wow!  Ultimately, I believe that our buying into the idea that aging is a disease will allow a whole new branch of the pharmaceutical industry to — do I dare say –blossom, but I don’t know that this will keep the “bogey man aging” out of our lives.  It will just push it back by a number of years and I think the jury is still out on whether this is a good or bad thing [see: Aging: The New Financial Industry]

Nope, folks, aging is part of the process of life and the sooner we acknowledge this, the more empowered we will be to create an older age to our liking.  Does this sound like a negative statement?  If it does, know that this is how much you have been “brainwashed” into looking at old age as an anomaly rather than a normal part of the cycle of life.

In all aspects of our society, there is a reverence to youth from advertising to the image that the e-world projects, to the products that are sold, even to the way we parent.  But by allowing advertisers, for example, to tell us what we want, how we want it, and when we want it, we do a disservice to ourselves and those who are still oblivious to the aging process.

Here is another article that speaks to this “Aging Successfully

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