How The Media Doesn't Let You Age
"This is a plea to the marketing and media industries to give older women a break. Stop basing everything you do on the assumption that we're all embittered old hags, spending every waking moment yearning for lost youth. Do not think for a moment that we believe the manufactured myth that ageing is a problem to be solved, and please stop treating the entirely natural process of ageing as though it is a crime, a personal failing or a disease with a cure – it isn't.
The quest for everlasting youth is a plot device as old as time. Women in fairytales – the wicked queen in Snow White, the wicked stepmother in Cinderella, the wicked fairy godmother in Sleeping Beauty – are thoroughly wicked (obviously) and meet bad ends because they prize beauty above all else. Each character is fearful of growing old and gripped by consuming envy of a more youthful women. These stories all conclude the same way, and there is grim satisfaction in knowing it will end in tears, which it does, every time.
Is this where it starts then, the idea that older women will endure anything to remain young? I suggest you read the stories again: the survival rate is zero. Everyone ends up old, unloved and damned. There is no escape. Age and decay will find you eventually and you'd all be well advised to leave that Faustian pact with a cosmetic surgeon unsigned.
There is the most bleakly misguided programme I've seen in a long time: Channel 4's How Not to Get Old. It's a depressing hour of playing on insecurities and perceived imperfections. A 40-something woman is talked into having blepharoplasty because she believes that "saggy" eyelids are the only reason she is single. Of course you're 'encouraged' to go through with surgery if you're shown CGI pictures of you without the 'flaw' you're convinced has blighted your life. If we were in any doubt that being old is unacceptable, the programme contained the statement: 'No one wants to go out with an old woman.'
What is wrong with accepting that an ageing body can be a beautiful body? That just because we're past 50 and haven't done the rounds of the cosmetic clinics we haven't failed in some unspoken duty to forever fix ourselves at 30?
There is a loveliness in older faces too, in the strength and character that life and experience have given us. In more enlightened cultures, the older generation are venerated and valued for their wisdom and experience. Middle age in our own culture used to be seen as the time we passed on what we'd learned and made peace with ourselves. That time seems to have gone. These days it's a brave middle-aged woman indeed who is prepared to stick an untampered-with face above the media parapet, and as a result we are losing any representation of what "normal" middle age looks like.
The pressure on our generation to look young is robbing us of the opportunity to experience one of the many benefits of middle age: contentment with who we are. We must not allow ourselves to be talked into believing the fairy story that ageing – and time itself – can be stopped." - via The Guardian