Forget Ebola, the lava flow that’s approaching residential areas of Hawaii, and the Canadian Parliament attacks. The recent transformation of Renée Zellweger’s face has people in a tizzy, thrown off by a look that’s very different from her “You had me at ‘hello’” days. As I read the harsh reactions, my own 40-year-old face smothered in extra virgin coconut oil and feet wrapped in aloe-infused socks, I asked myself what she could have done to spare herself this backlash. Actresses who let themselves age naturally come in for plenty of criticism, too. What’s a gal of a certain age supposed to do?
- Age is Just a Number…Or Is It?
While on the one hand I’m surprised by society’s collective response to age-related changes (natural or otherwise), I’m also conflicted. I see the fascination with women’s changing skin, bodies, and age as an unhealthy obsession disguised as gossipy curiosity–an obsession that also fuels the highly profitable beauty-industrial complex.
But I’m also well aware that my own forehead has become dry and that my mouth now has punctuation marks in the form of parentheses (which, as a writer, I kind of find cool), all of which I’m trying to manage with my daily coconut oil regimen. So I’ve bought into the youth obsession, too. While we all may say, and really want to believe, that the obsession with aging is silly and we should love the skin we’re in, most of us are trying to fight age ourselves. I know I am.
As I write this, my forehead is reddened from a furious rubbing of an apricot facial scrub I used during my morning shower. While I know the vigorous rubbing is stripping my skin of its hydrating oils, it makes me feel better to slough off the dead skin, each rub putting me closer to yesteryear when my dewy-skinned face smiled big for the camera and knew nothing of crow’s feet.
Even my relationship with coffee has gotten mixed up with my anti-aging efforts. I still love to drink it, but now I also appreciate the fact that I can use leftover grounds to create a concoction that will apparently help prevent the dimples in my butt from becoming more prominent. While I’m at it, I might as well mention that I’ve adopted the “less is more” makeup approach that involves wearing lighter shades so as to not make my features look so harsh (translation: old). And don’t get me started on those faint, light brown areas on my cheekbone that I’m pretty sure are my very first age spots. I hate to even think about them.
- Only in America
This anti-aging obsession is a cultural one, more common in the west and especially in the US. In fact, John Robbins’ book, Healthy at 100, he explains how many cultures embrace aging in a way that Americans don’t. The Abkhasians, who live near the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountain range, consider it a compliment to tell someone that they are “looking old today.” Can you imagine the response if you ever said that to a girlfriend? Friendship over.
I’m a product of this youth-obsessed culture just as much as poor Renée Zellweger, and like her, I’m fighting a battle that I ultimately can’t win. I find I’m a little ashamed of all my anti-aging nonsense, but at the same time I’m also giving in to it–and I admit that my arsenal of lotions and potions is comforting. Is there a happy medium between extreme plastic surgery and totally giving in to age? Is it possible to age gracefully with coffee grounds on your butt? I guess I’m about to find out.
Jennifer Lilley is a health/wellness and relationship writer who enjoys having her camera and the company of kind-hearted people close at hand. She blogs on her own weight loss and health site, Flabby Road. Find her on Facebook, and on Twitter: @JenSunshine.