The prospect of writing about a woman "aging gracefully" has always given me pause. The term itself sounds as if one is lingering on each landing of a descending staircase, waving elegantly. The descent is what i do not like.
Aging, I feel is more of an ascension; I like that it is an "ing" word. It denotes a process that is alive and happening, growing up and getting closer. Now, we all know what "closer" may mean, but I think of it as moving toward the essential: what was there in the beginning and will be there in the end. We spend a lot of time in between trying to mask our age, hide it, reshape it, but it usually looks just that way...an altered state.
I have tried in the last decade to abstain from value judgments of those who choose plastic surgery. I don't know enough about it to even remark. Sometimes the results are startling to the untrained eye, but many times I'm sure I don't notice what has been done. For me, though, I am actually interested in the process of aging as an unfolding of some mystery. When I was little, someone told me that when you age, you turn into the person you were all your life. My grandmother, although possessing beautiful skin, had a sort of permanent grimace, that she called her smile. It did things to her face that said a lot. My mother, whom I didn't get to see age past seventy, had a twinkle in her eye that stole your attention immediately.
Each time I travel to another country and encounter another culture, when I return I am struck by the degree to which American culture is led by the media and not the lives and inherent beauty of its general population. This is not to say that everyone subscribes to this view, but it is safe to say that the popular cutlure has no room for real wrinkles. We are the specialists in no lines, no map, no history and this includes the history of many other lands. My favorite state of mind is when I am not made to think about myself from the outside in. The fact is, this is a fool's errand. Through a series of events early in my life, I found that the message I got about "vision" is that you will never truly know what you look like to others, because it is your consciousness and your critical eye that are looking in the mirror. It is simply a measure of one's own compassion for oneself, which we all know is the first step to compassion for others.
It seems to be that the challenge is to be the embodiment of whatever is happening in your life at that moment. Sad faces can be extraordinarily moving and beautiful. Happiness is a message, not a look. Making it more difficult, the movie industry in the United States promotes a lineless, motionless look for women of all ages that is, ironically, so nonthreatening that it is scary. But not "scary" in the way we want in the movies. Not in a way that would wake us up, kick us in the butt, and say, "Hey! Get on with it!"
The knowledge that Bobbi has shared begs the question of how palpable can beauty, enhanced or not, be without acceptance of oneself at every stage of life. I am interested in this question. I also applaud those who hold up different approaches to beauty. It is a big world and there is room for us all. A deeper understanding can only lead to a greater appreciation. The effects of our actions are written on our faces. Why not tell countless stories in many languages?
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
living from the inside out.
came across the new book by makeup artist Bobbi Brown the other day at work called Living Beauty. it's full of the typical makeup and skin care tips (with some nutrition and wellness tips thrown in for balance), but i picked it up primarily because it focuses on aging, and there are a few profiles of famous women highlighting their views on beauty and aging. some good little nuggets of wisdom in there from Susan Sarandon, Vera Wang, Lorraine Bracco, Marcia Gay Harden and others, but my favorite part of the entire book though, was the foreward by sassypants Debra Winger. i liked it so much, i typed it up for you here: