Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Lady at Trader Joe's

The 30-year-old+ San Diego ladies have gone from the ubiquitous blonde hair extensions, fake boobs and acrylic nails to a whole newfangled creature walking around with all the aforementioned fakey-ness, but now with botoxed foreheads, eyelash extensions, orange spray tans, overly bleached teeth and Meg Ryan's trout pout. Is this happening other places besides SoCal? Things here are getting out of control. I noticed one of these plastic, middle-aged ladies today while standing in line at Trader Joe's, and while I'm not judging - to each her own! - I'd like to make a social commentary on our craze for ageless beauty.

I know. Women age and our society doesn't accept it. Women are expected to meet a standard of beauty and when they don't, they're ignored. Women who've been told they're beautiful their whole lives are looking to keep the validation going as they age, or else become invisible. And other women who believe the barrage of media messages that say they are not beautiful enough are paying plastic surgeons and med spas so they might be lusted after now. We're bombarded with images every day that say your beauty is your self worth. And I don't know a single woman who doesn't want to be told they look younger than they are, or that they're beautiful and sexy. So I am not judging anyone. And I wear makeup and paint my nails and dye my hair and want to look youthful and pretty, too. So I too am in the trap. No mockery.

But message to the ladies desperately trying to look young: We're all aging; you're not fooling anyone with your botoxed domes and juvedermed lips. As comedian Bill Burr points out - you don't look younger with plastic surgery. You just look weird.

I remember an old Oprah episode where Raquel Welch was talking about aging 'gracefully'. She compared women aging gracefully to a game, and said women either choose to play the game i.e.,  they work hard to look good as they age/they don't just "sit around and do nothing" about aging. OR, they bow out of the game and completely give up on their looks, becoming what she calls a "spectator." Ouch - spectator to me indicates someone on the sidelines, someone invisible.

But ladies, are these our only two options? Play the game of ageless beauty with nips and tucks or become an invisible spectator? Can we at least look at the messages we women are sending and living? While I think maintaining your health and feeling good about yourself are key at every age, I think we need to champion a new cultural narrative -- one that tells women, especially young girls, that what matters is their minds, their role in society, and the beautiful wisdom they gain as they age. Ladies, our value increases as we age.

We spent last week with my parents, two fun-loving baby boomers who've been married for half a century and who have some great tales to tell.  In talking with them and hearing their stories,  I am reminded why aging is so cool. You get to mess up, and learn, and make come-backs, and teach others, and in the process, gain a ton of wisdom that seems to make all the ups and downs of life worth it. You have a story to tell, accomplishments to share, resiliency others can model, and you can use your time on earth to do some really amazing things.

Trader Joe's lady: Who do you think you're kidding? We can see that you're in your 40s, trying to look like you're in your 20s. It's a losing battle. I don't know you, but I wonder if you've acknowledged this game you're buying into, or the messages you're sending and living. I hope your life is happy and meaningful. I hope you've taught the littles around you that how you spend your time here matters and that it really is the inside of a person that counts. And an inside with some wisdom, a legacy, and a good story to tell, topped off with some well-deserved laugh lines is absolutely beautiful.

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