I think most would agree that today’s commercial ideal of beauty is all about being rich and thin and young. We are consistently made to feel less than with every product we don’t have, and we are promised to look like a supermodel if we just use a 12-year-old’s lip kit. The line between skin care, fillers, actual plastic surgery, and plain old Instagram and Snapchat filters gets more and more blurred, particularly with the rise of social media.
Daily, we are inundated with new products that promise to be the fountain of youth, new formulas that smooth fine lines, crow’s feet, and that dreaded word “wrinkles.” I recently saw Nicole Kidman in an ad for a new wrinkle cream and laughed out loud. Does anyone honestly think THAT’S why Nicole Kidman doesn’t have a wrinkle on her face? C’mon, kids, no one is that naïve. Now at 49, I get an occasional shot of Botox for a very angry line in the middle of my forehead and I’m comfortable with that. I remember when Botox came onto the scene and while I tried it once at the age of 36, I promptly stopped for a decade when I saw myself on a segment of Oprah with my eyebrows in two places, one of which was not even remotely where it should have been. (So choose your dermatologist wisely. Dr. Bank in Mt Kisco is a Master.)
Every year that passes there are more and more sophisticated and “scientifically proven” products to keep your skin looking it’s best. My regimen now includes more and more “steps” than ever before. I went from a soapy face wash and moisturizer in my 20s and cut to an elaborate 11 step process that morphs and changes with every new product on the market. I stopped using soap and creams and swapped them out for oils. I added serums and toners and “water-based” creams. I use vitamin C oils to brighten. I use hydrating masks to tighten. There is my weekly exfoliation powder, which mixed with water, makes a paste that sloughs off dead skin. I didn’t even think of eye cream until I was in my 40s and now there are six of them in my bathroom.
As I’ve aged, I’ve noticed how many products are labeled “anti-aging.” Without my knowledge or my consent, my conscientiousness about my skin has become less about health and happiness and more about staving off the inevitable—aging. How can one literally be against the thing we can’t escape no matter what? How is marketing anti-aging products, as such, a healthy message for women and perhaps, even more importantly, for young girls anywhere? Like all great frauds, we choose to believe these claims because we want them to be true.
For women especially, it has always been more of a crime to look one’s age rather than to be one’s age as if Botox and fillers and facelifts will turn back time. The more we choose to live in a millennial world, the more women feel as if their appearance is their only currency. In a time of Real Housewives and Raya, we are mistaking longer lifespans with longer “youth spans.” And that pressure is making older generations not just attempt to look younger but also act younger.
I want women to do whatever they want to their faces and bodies. For me, it’s not about the attempt (to feel good in your own skin) but the intent (to try and convince others, even yourself, that you can hold on to youth forever). While I don’t remember saying it, I have been quoted as saying “A mini-skirt is not Botox. It won’t take ten years off your face.” The addendum to that sentence is “neither will Botox.”
We have got to get to the real work of aging. It isn’t easy to age. It’s hard to look in the mirror and see changes take place faster and faster. It’s tough when your body changes shape. It isn’t as easy for many to lose that extra weight gain. And boy, does menopause suck. The only thing I want to be dry in my 40’s is a good gin martini.
Now is the time we need to speak openly about all the bad shit and fears we have associated with aging, In other words, we need the mid-life crisis in order to achieve the mid-life renaissance we so richly deserve. We cannot be in the middle of our lives, pretending to be some age we aren’t. We can use all the beauty products we like, have all the cosmetic work we want, as long as what we are attempting is to be the best version of ourselves and not the ideal of another generation, and certainly not the Supermodel with the Lip Kit.