First: We are now starting every article with this bit from the NY Times today: "Two models-turned-psychotherapists argue..." Second: Those models-turned-psychotherapists argue that it's okay — nay, natural — to feel bad about getting older.
Begins the New York Times piece, grimly,
Aging is an indiscriminate leveler. You might have been a shapely bombshell who made heads turn. You might have honed your intellect and résumé and let looks take a backseat. Still, most of us will pass a mirror one day and wonder who is that stranger with the droopy eyelids. It would be easy to dismiss worries about such an aesthetic concern as weak. But two models-turned-psychotherapists argue in "Face It," their new guide for women, that struggling with changing looks can be no less daunting than dealing with a financial loss, a demotion at work or a divorce.
And rather than fight it — which could bring on an "existential crisis" — the doctors say that we need to admit that aging is the Elephant in the Room. It's okay to feel bad about it. Says the piece
Admitting that appearance matters can be painful for women who feel "slightly insulted by the fact," Dr. Diller said. Wasn't feminism supposed to make promotions and ceiling-shattering the attention getters, not a taut brow?
Well, neither, really: It was supposed to give women choices. But there's one very telling line in the piece, I think. "Such dread [of aging] isn't about vanity per se, but has more to do with a loss of potential and questioning one's place in the world." The larger issue, then, would seem to be that a certain uniform standard of physical beauty is still equated with these emotions.
But I don't want to say this is about youthfulness; I'd argue that, at this point, it's more complicated than that. Take the Real Housewives of Orange County, a group which valiantly fights the dying of the light as much as a matter of course, as any other fighting population I can think of. These women don't telegraph "youth," exactly — their grooming, their dress, is different from that of younger women. Their look, ironically, is as age-specific as Merrills and Eileen Fisher, it just projects a different, higher-maintenance aesthetic. I'd argue it's not as much about looking young as looking like you care, a lot, about how you look, no matter what your age.
The truth is, real feminism would mean the freedom to make your own choices about how you age, and not fear censure either way. And ideally, genuinely finding beauty in different stages of life. This may be sentimental, but I'll go ahead and tell you that it brought a tear to my eye when my dad told me recently that he found my mother (a staunch natural-ager, by the by) "even more beautiful" than when he met her 30 years ago when she was glam young thing. I'm not sure what the ultimate point of the piece was, save that "droopy eyelids" are depressing, even to Helen Mirren. But I choose to clutch that story to me and remember that, at the end of the day, plastic surgery is really expensive.
Appreciating Your Value As You Age [NY Times]