Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Over this past holiday season, I was told, no less than three times, that I should lie about my age. “I mean, you could lop off ten years, my dear”, said one well-meaning friend. Now I realize this is meant to be a compliment, but when you think about it, is it really? Yes, one is being told that one looks rather well for one’s age and that is a much preferable reaction to one’s appearance than a head-shaking, pity-filled stare. But at the same time, one is, in an albeit subtle fashion, being informed that one’s age has advanced to such a degree that one should really disown it. I’m never quite sure the best way to respond.

Personally, I don’t give age much of a thought. I’ve been known to pause a moment when asked how old I might be, not because I’m caught in the moral quandary of deciding whether or not to lie about it, but because I honestly don’t remember what it is. I take no credit for looking younger than I’m supposed to. I have no secret potion or practice. I don’t hang by my feet at midnight, nor do I consume inordinate quantities of oddly flavoured elixirs, delivered to my doorstep in the dead of night. I do try to take good care of myself and that includes slathering myself in sunscreen, a daily practice that I highly recommend, but when it comes to aging... I think the less we worry about it the better we feel, and perhaps, look.

The obsession, and it really seems to be an obsession, with looking younger is a peculiar one to me. It seems to have originated in Hollywood, a place not exactly known for offering up qualities worthy of emulation. Indeed, many Hollywood actresses seem to have succumbed to the surgeon’s siren call of eternal youth, which is strange since one would think an actress would require an authentic face before any other thespian ability. Personally, when I see a face so altered by cosmetic surgery up on the screen, I find that I can only see the actor or actress, never the character they are supposed to portray, which renders the whole experience rather irritating. I sit there remembering what they used to look like, and wondering why they appear so altered, and totally become removed from the story playing out on the screen.

Why do we hide from looking our age?
Is it vanity? Or is it fear?
If we erase what life has inscribed on our faces, do we succeed in convincing ourselves that time is not really advancing? When we look in the mirror and see our reflection as the enemy, doesn’t that create an unhealthy schizophrenia that carries with it the very real danger of not feeling, somehow, whole? Why do we feel looking a bit older is something we have to apologize for? Maybe I’ll feel differently when my jowls fall into my soup, but I don’t think so. It genuinely troubles me when I see how much time we waste worrying about aging. Valuable, irreplaceable time.

I suppose any hint of aging that our faces may reveal should serve chiefly as a gentle reminder that our time here on Earth in not infinite. But don’t we sometimes need to be reminded of that? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, instead of trying so hard to obliterate these inklings, we could instead choose to let them spur us on to the things that we’ve heretofore put on the back burner?
"Hmmm, do I see a fine line between my eyes?"
"I’m going to learn to speak Italian."
"Are those laugh lines beginning to form?"
"High time I went on safari."

Now of course, whenever any of my friends begin to grumble about how they look, I always urge them to get a dog, advice that is sometimes less than gratefully received. But, I’m serious. A dog loves you no matter what you look like. He really does, and that can work wonders on your self-esteem. A dog gets you out in the fresh air and gets your mind off yourself, which is always a boon to both your appearance as well as your psyche. A dog makes you smile and you have to admit, everyone looks better when they smile. I could go on and on about the benefits of canine ownership on the human countenance, and frequently do, but I recently came across an article that basically said it all for me.
Edward and I couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

Painting above: Vanity, 1904
by Otto Friedrich
I don’t think the monkey is in there by accident, do you?


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