Lauren Hutton looks great, doesn’t she? She’s featured on the cover of April’s Elle, where the words translate to “Women Who Make You Want to Grow Old.” Hutton is around seventy. She looks fantastic. Sharp jawline, great hair, etc. Doesn’t it make you feel like you should be doing something more with your sad old self?
Before you make an appointment with Dr. Plastic, you should consider that Ms. Hutton really looks like this:
For the first photo, Elle airbrushed her to within an inch of her life because they’re selling stuff inside the magazine, which you’re not going to buy unless you feel uncomfortable. Advertisers cut you down for a reason. They use smoke and mirrors to undermine your confidence so you will give them cash. Of course, you know this.
It’s hard to resist, though. Recently I was getting my hair cut and colored. For all the niceness of the salon, the lighting is a bit harsh. There I sat with my silvery roots, jowls, and turkey neck staring back at me in the mirror. To complete the look, I had a broken blood vessel in my left eye.
I looked old. Is that a problem?
I’m serious. Is it wrong to look old? Is that some kind of crime for which we must castigate ourselves, writhe in shame, and vow to try harder?
Appearances are very important to humans. Animals have other means for judging who’s strong, who’s sick, or who’s to be feared, but we can only go on looks. Somebody told me recently that I look tired. I asked why she said that. She stammered, “You have bags.”
I am tired. That’s what happens when you run after a couple of toddlers for eight months. But maybe the bags are there naturally, and won’t go away after I get rested up. Will the world now assume I’m tired? If I go for a job interview, will I be seen as slow, unmotivated, or unproductive?
The answer, unfortunately, is yes. You may be awesome in every way, but still have a face that’s got a hundred thousand miles on the odometer. Society will then assume you are pointless, ineffectual, and stupid.
Until society grows up and gets a life, you’ll have to be ready for this. If you can’t fix the externals, or don’t choose to, work on the internals. We People of the Second Half must practice finding reasons to hold ourselves in high regard. We can celebrate triumphs other than looks, like the fact that we wowed everybody at a recent public speaking engagement, or we’re finally accomplishing our dreams, or we’re an amazing resource for our family or community.
The more unhappy we are with our aging looks, the more we deny ourselves the joy we deserve. Let’s aspire to be at peace with our looks. Let’s aspire to be free.