Pursuing Youth at All Costs
You shouldn't want to look younger than you are
The recent release of the fifth movie in the Scream franchise reminded me of that time actress Courtney Cox stood up and bravely announced she would be having her facial fillers dissolved. She further elaborated that she didn’t feel she looked like herself anymore, that in her pursuit to look younger, she ended up just looking like Caitlin Jenner.
Now I won’t be seeing the new Scream because *spoiler alert* it’s yet another instance of movie makers insulting and castigating their own viewers, but that’s an issue for another blog. Despite my irritation with the film itself, I was happy to see Courtney in the trailers… looking like Courtney. She does look older, make no mistake. But she looks like herself, and is, as she has always been, a beautiful woman.
Why is that not enough?
We see such disdain for older women in the US. And yes, it is primarily in the US. Turn on any show filmed in the UK and you’ll see women of varying ages and levels of attractiveness creating wonderful, engaging shows that people love. And they do this without preposterously long eyelash inserts or fish-like lip filler
But thanks to women like Courtney Cox, in recent years, women have stepped up their game and said, “no more” to things they have previously been silent about. It’s no longer acceptable to tell women to try to look thinner through tricks of clothing. It’s not okay to tell women that they need to lighten their skin tone or straighten their hair.
But for some reason, it’s still okay to tell women that they should, they must, try to look younger than they are.
Every single product marketed to women tells us it will make us seem younger. It will take ten years off, the face cream promises. You’ll like you did in high school, says the jeans commercial. And we all look at those pretty twenty-two-year-olds on television and we buy into the idea that we should want to look younger, act younger, and feel younger. But in all sincerity, why?
I had something of an awakening last January, when I read an article in Racked called, “We’ve forgotten how to dress like adults.” The title is perfect in describing the article’s purpose, but I was particularly struck by the revelation that in times past, the word “matronly” was a compliment:
“It was a very womanly elegant style; it actually worked quite well for older women. The Christian Dior New Look emphasized hourglass shapes with the wide skirt that flared at the hips. Granted, it was oppressive in its corseted waist and expensive with all the fabric it required, but it highlighted the fact that women have hips.”
I looked at the accompanying photos of times past and I was in awe of how lovely, how put-together the older women looked. They weren’t just stunning, they were different from the younger women. Of course, we have female fashion icons in their thirties, forties, and even fifties. But they all still dress exactly like their younger cohorts.
Jennifer Lopez dresses about the same as Jennifer Lawrence and for most of us, that’s just not possible. So with the fashion industry pretending women over thirty don’t exist, it seems we must create our own role-models of mature, matronly fashion and comportment.
I just turned 40. And I can tell you for certain I look better now than I did when I was in my 20s. Don’t believe me? Here, look for yourself.
On the right is me at my college graduation at the age of 25. This is what I considered dressing up. On the left is me at 38 while I was in New York for business.
Yeah, take that image in. I’m ten years older and twenty pounds heavier in the second picture. That’s right. Older and fatter. But which one looks better? Which woman looks like she owns herself and is ready to run her whole life with clockwork precision? Damn right, the 38-year-old.
Because I know how to put on makeup. I know what hairstyles look best on me. I know what clothing compliments my body and is right for the venue I’m attending. Most importantly, I know the image I want to project to the world.
Learning these things takes time, and they are lessons we as women cannot learn if we’re obsessed with staying who we were when we were in our 20s. I’m not afraid of turning forty. Or fifty, for that matter. Because even though there will be more lines in my face and, despite my best efforts, my body will become softer over time, I will only improve with age. I know this because I am the one in control of it.
I got a good laugh out of an altered photo making the rounds on social media: If Friends were made in 2022:
There’s a place for people who choose to look like this, and it’s called the Bravo network. For the rest of us, I much prefer humans who look like themselves. And I hope as Hollywood faces the realization that, yes, if you wish to remain viable, you actually have to listen to your audience instead of insult them… maybe we’ll see more actors who are allowed to look like people.
Even after the age of 35.