Friday, January 19, 2007

60 Is Not the New 40

Enough with this already.

Raquel Welch was all over the info-tainment airwaves yesterday, ostensibly because she has recently been named a spokesmodel for a large cosmetics conglomerate, but also because at age 66 she is still a hottie. This is what passes for news these days.

Anyhoo, Raquel is just the latest in a long line of celebrities and authors touting the agelessness of the American female. We can all stay forever 20 or forever 40, whichever the case may be—as long as we have a bank account that matches the size of our vanity.

I’m not sure how we got here, but after years of struggling for the right to vote, equality in the workplace, blah, blah, blah, the American woman’s greatest concern now boils down to the fact that she is not allowed to gain a single ounce of fat, grey hair or wrinkle as she passes from 25 to 65 to 95.

Welch readily admits that at 66 she doesn’t physically feel like a 25-year-old or even a 55-year-old. (Science has yet to discover a way to moisturize creaky bones.) But “everyone can have Botox or collagen,” she says.

Seriously? Everyone?

I appreciate that in the rarefied air of Hollywood and the upper income brackets, spending $3,000 a pop on an injection of botulism is a drop in the champagne bucket. But for the rest of us, that amount represents mortgage payments, daycare for our children, or food. Another economic chasm opens in America—the rich get tummy tucks, the poor get spare tires. Every woman is not able to keep up with the Welches or the Sharon Stones or the Heather Locklears, just to name a few of the celebrity female role models constantly thrust in our faces as “Over 40 and More Fabulous Than Ever!”

Most of us can’t afford not to age. But why do we even have to try?

No one is aching to get older. No one is, pardon the pun, dying to confront their own mortality. But why do we make the process so much more difficult, so much more painful—particularly for women—by insisting that we can stop the passage of time, or at the very least slow down its effects? Why do we hold a 65-year-old to the same exacting beauty standards as a 25-year-old—standards, by the way, that most 25-year-olds can’t even achieve?

I’m not promoting that women let themselves go to pot. I have nothing against staying fit and healthy and active; I am not interested in freeze-drying my current hair and clothing styles for the next four or five decades. (Memo to Queen Elizabeth: Wispy bangs. Give them a try.) That’s just maintenance. What I am opposed to: feeling like I have to compete against deep-pocketed women with fragile psyches who’ve been nipped, tucked, injected and chemically-peeled into decades-younger versions of themselves.
Not all women get caught in this trap. Some feel empowered and emboldened by the wisdom and experience that come with age. Some pride themselves on their intelligence and wit, not their brand of shoe or lipstick. Some feel good about themselves even on bad hair days. These women don’t watch “Access Hollywood.”

But a good many of us are stuck on the youth-obsessed merry-go-round, wasting precious time and energy on maintaining appearances.

I want off.


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