Monday, 21 January 2019

Growing Old Gratefully - The Anti-Ageing Debate

A woman with long blond hair pictured from behind wearing a cream cardiganThere have been a few social media 'challenges' recently. The 10 Year Challenge, The Puberty Challenge and The Ageing Challenge. The first is fairly self-explanatory; you post a picture of yourself now and a picture of yourself ten years ago, to see how much you've changed. In the second, you post a photo of yourself now and one from your youth, to illustrate what puberty can do in terms of features, mood and fashion sense. The third is particularly brutal; you post your first ever social media pic, and your most recent, to see how much you've aged.  These are all variations on a theme and have been interpreted very differently by those taking part.

The question I'm asking is; is it okay to care about how we age? Or are the signs of ageing something we should celebrate and be thankful for as indicators of wider knowledge and a life well lived? Lots of celebrities have risen to the 10 Year Challenge and first I'd like to share a few very different examples.

Caitlyn Jenner and Katie Piper posted probably the most thought-provoking side by side images. Caitlyn's featured an image before her transition and one today, with the quote; "Be authentic to yourself" and Katie Piper posted these images showing the horrific effects of the burns she suffered and how far she has come. Both illustrating that the signs of ageing aren't that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.

Mariah Carey posted an image of indeterminate age, illustrating in the comment that she has no interest in ageing, or time passing, whatsoever. Which is a great outlook to have on life.

Many celebrities, such as Reese Witherspoon and Tyra Banks, presented beautiful shots, illustrating how little they had changed over 10 years. This one from Reese Witherspoon invited a lot of comments asking what her anti-ageing secret was.

It seems some stars were enjoying illustrating how well they had survived the ageing process, with Madonna and Kate Hudson's photos being so similar, even the poses were almost identical!

Some of the more comedic stars, however, were not taking the challenge as seriously. Amy Schumer was predictably light-hearted about the whole thing, with a hilarious image, replacing her 2009 self with a still from the film Monster, starring Charlize Theron.

A post shared by @ amyschumer on

Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family also went for a comedy slant, with this comparison of himself and Myrtle Snow from American Horror Story.

What all these individual posts show are that there are many different attitudes towards ageing. A lot of the celebrity posts I've seen seemed to be celebrating how little they had aged, which I can understand if you work in an industry that is fixated on looks and attractiveness. Some had a story to tell, and this life experience seemed to be behind the more relaxed approach to ageing. It's certainly provided food for thought. Anti-ageing is a massive industry. ranging from creams and lotions, to pills and potions, not to mention many expensive surgery options. There have always been divided opinions on how much people should care about ageing and these challenges have raised the debate once again. So is it no longer acceptable in a progressive society to care about crows feet and age spots? The debate often centres around whether or not fighting ageing is tied to being attractive to the opposite sex or 'seeking approval' and it can be seen as shallow in a world where there are more important things ot worry about, but I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. 

In my case, one of the important factors is that I want to look like me. Stress, health issues and general life all take their toll and, personally, I feel the way I look is part of my identity and I want to hang on to it. I've got nothing against ageing, but like putting on weight, or any other change to appearance, it isn't something I want to embrace. It's not that I want to change the way I look, I'm happy to accept myself, flaws and all, but I want to stay as I am for as long as I can. Especially when you have children, your identity can get a bit lost, so I feel there's no harm in trying to hang on to the bits of your physical identity that you can, if you want to. Some people like to age gracefully, let the grey hairs shine, and the wrinkles wrinkle. It's absolutely right to be proud of your laughter lines and careworn features, but it's also ok to be yourself and if that means you want to look how you feel comfortable, or spend your spare money on treatments to preserve the way you look now for a little longer, that's totally fine too. The whole point of being an individual, is to do what makes you feel great and sod everyone else.

A small brown bottle with a pipette in the foreground, and a sprig of eucalyptus faded out behind.

I'm in the middle of the anti-ageing debate, though. I am, of course, grateful for the life I've lived and am aware that I am lucky to have had a relatively care-free existence. There are more important things to worry about, and spend money on, so I am happy to let many of my ageing features shine through. The scars from childbirth are a good example, and I've also never dyed my hair. I considered it, back in 2013 and even had it cut short, to make it easier, but I decided I would rather let the white hairs free than commit to a lifetime of effort and expense, because I am basically really lazy. However, I do really appreciate good skincare. Partly, because I like to look my best and partly for health reasons. I try to eat well and exercise because it is better for my health and I suffer from very dry, eczema-prone skin, so I look after it and any improvements to my outer appearance are a bonus. Conversely, I associate looking tired and haggard with not being at my most healthy, so it's a warning sign for me that I should be trying a bit harder.

Although I prefer a more natural approach, I would never judge anyone for using lip-fillers, botox, or any other beauty enhancers, if it makes them feel better about themselves. I've always believed that if you've earnt it, you should spend it on whatever makes you happy. I think for some it's like a hobby and  it's usually harmless, provided it's done safely and within budget. There are lots of reasons why people want to hang on to their youth. If I'm completely honest, mine is a little bit because it will never stop being funny when people ask my husband if I'm his daughter and I'm more than happy to preserve that comedy for as long as I can. The expression on his face is absolutely priceless and it never gets old. Maybe that makes me a little shallow, but I'm worth it! 


1 comment

  1. I guess no-one really wants to look old and haggard, or worse still feel it, but the alternative to growing old is dying young and while that might have seemed attractive in my youth, now I’m older, not so much! Especially as I don’t feel old, (more that young people seem so immature), my teenage daughter however finds it hilarious when the checkout person in the supermarket, presses the “clearly looks over 25” button without a moment’s hesitation! I try to eat healthily as it helps your hair, skin and nails and I often part with my (fella’s) hard earned cash for a miracle pot of anti aging cream but unless I went back in time and cloned myself, I don’t know if they actually work. I do draw the line though at any invasive procedures, I don’t even like taking aspirin. I do think though that we should be grateful we’ve managed to hang on for so long and embrace the liberation that not giving a damn what other people think and also the bit of invisibility it brings. They don’t say youth is wasted on the young for nothing!


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