The an entry on Time Goes By by Ronnie Bennet and then a follow on blog entry on Blogging in Paris by Claude Covo-Farchi has got me thinking about the aging process. It really isn't something I've ever really considered until recently. I certainly never thought of the need for bi-focals, the appearance of a second chin and the inability to drink wine like I used to was apart of the aging process, but by gum, it is! I'm getting older.
If when asked in their youth about what life will be like when they reach retirement age, nobody ever talks about what the aging process will have done. The focus will always be on where they are financially or how many children/grandchildren will be surrounding them. How many countries they have visited will be much more important at 20. Certainly that's what I would have spoken about when I was younger.
The wear and tear your body gets as we drag it through our lives is what is called the aging process. Had I known that it was going to start when I was 21 and pregnant, I would have never taken off my support bra, ever. Sadly my breasts never really bounced back after those two brief years of childbearing. I guess I thought they would. In my mind it was only older women who had problems with sagging breasts. I never made the connection between my current bra-free behaviour and the long term effects of gravity.
I love the sun and was out in it as much as possible in my teens. I never wore sunscreen. I may have put some on when I was working in the fields, but that would be it. Now the damage is done. The damage is deep and someday one of my little moles or freckles may do something strange and I'll have to have it seen to. That has already happened to my younger, fairer sister Kate. Now she has a self-imposed banishment from sharp sun for the remainder of her days. I don't know if I could stay away from sunshine. I do know that I am much more vigilent about sunscreen.
When we go diving, almost every single diving instructor is a smoker. Okay, they know the risks they take and the reduced lung capacity when they do that, but do they realize that your lung capacity diminishes merely by the fact that you're growing older? One day, they'll do a lung function test and either fail or not do so well as they thought. They'll put it down to the cigarettes and cut back or even quit, but the non-smokers will not have done so well either. "How is this happening?" they'll ask themselves. Its rough on people to be confronted with the harsh reality that aging happens to everybody.
Ronnie has been talking about ageism and the language that is used to sell things to make us look younger. The fact that looking younger is a prize we have to hold on to diminishes the face that we get when we get older. Why is looking older bad? Why are wrinkles to be avoided instead of anticipated? We've earned them! How to we create this change in attitude? I don't want to look 25 or even 30. I did that once. It was easy. I want to rejoice that I am still here, I survived my youth to achieve a solid middle age. I'd like to continue with the aging process thank you very much.
How often have we given the compliment that a new hair cut or item of clothing takes years off of somebody? How is it that when somebody says they look as though they've aged, they aren't being complimentary. They're small points, but it is still ageism. It is so ingrained in our culture, I don't know how we're going to fight it.
If we rant about the fact that we don't glorify elder faces, then perhaps we should start with ourselves. Develop our own aesthetic for faces that reflect the lives we are leading. Any solutions? Anybody?