It all started with a cocktail party conversation about the surprises Middle Age throws at you (hot flashes? Seriously?) and what to do about them – but it ended in everybody glumly deciding a facelift might be the only hope for a happy future after middle age sets in. Nobody admitted to having had any “work done” yet, not even the ones who had already nipped and tucked.
Ok, I admit it might never have happened without all the wine, laughter, calorie-un-conscious foods and the fact that there were only women in the room. I mean who makes lists at a party, other than a bunch of women slightly in their cups?
But, in the cold clear light of morning, I could see it was a pretty insightful list of female insecurities. The women’s ages ranged from 40 to 70 and everybody had obviously personally bumped into some, if not all, of the items on the list.
The List wasn’t all we talked about, of course. Politics, college graduations, parents or kids needing help, a crummy economy. Men and business were also high on the evening’s fare – no surprise there – but it all made me wonder if a bunch of guys at the 19th hole or the corner pub would ever have made such a list and if they did, would their insecurities look anything like ours. Would the list be so focused on appearance and sexual desirability as ours was, or would Power and Pelf be the hot topics? Or might something else entirely have them feeling vulnerable?
Be that as it may, the list was interesting as a bird’s eye view of women’s age-related insecurities – it’s no wonder Plastic Surgeons are all rich as Croesus. Here’s the list they said might send them to the Plastic surgeon… see what you think about it:
- Your husband leaves you for a younger woman
- You lose your job after 45
- All your sorority sisters look 15 years younger at the reunion
- A 26 year old is after your job
- You look in the mirror and your mother is staring back at you
- You’ve been divorced five or ten years and all the men your age are Mr. Wrong
- Everybody in your office starts treating you like Whistler’s Mother
- Someone introduced you at a meeting as a Legend!
- Your sex drive is looking younger than your face.
- Your trainer says you’ve got the body of a thirty year old, but there’s a 50-plus face sitting on top of it
- Your husband’s gone, your kids are grown, you’ve got money in the bank and you’re hoping it’s not too late to have some fun
- You’re in the public eye and aging shows on camera
- Your ex marries a woman younger than his bourbon
- You’ve fallen in love with a man who got born the year you graduated high school.
- You’re starting a new business, and Wall Street only funds the young and aggressive.
- You finally get contact lenses and can now see the terrible truth
- You’re in a PTA meeting and all the other mothers look as if they couldn’t order alcohol without an ID.
- Your husband’s new secretary is blond, beautiful and weighs less than you did at puberty
- There’s so much Restalin in your face you look like an aging basketball
Does Age = Vulnerability?
As you can imagine, we all laughed a lot as the list lengthened, but it was all too apparent that aging makes us feel vulnerable and that all the money spent on anti-aging face creams, botox and facelifts is not explained by anything as simplistic as mere vanity. If, in our media-driven world, youth and beauty are being touted as the essential criteria for love, business success, a great sex life and a confident self-image, it’s understandable that women (and men!) can be seduced into pursuing it at all costs.
But it does seem significant to realize that the deeper beauty that unfolds with age (and I do believe there’s quite a bit of that) is given such short shift that it doesn’t even enter into the equation. Aside from the fact that I’m not sure elective surgery is such a great thing to do to your body or energy system, I still believe aging gracefully has its merits and not everyone fares well with surgery or has the money to indulge in it. As a student and practitioner of varied energy-related Alternative Medical modalities, I have real reservations about cutting through multiple meridians and anyone over 60 knows healing is no longer as instantaneous and perfect as it once was.
The most brilliant doctor/surgeon I’ve ever known firmly believed that soft tissue doesn’t fare well with lasers – that lasik surgery often triggers brain tumors a year or two after – that any serious elective surgery after 65 causes the immune system to shut down temporarily, allowing the pathogens we ordinarily navigate on a day-to-day basis to infiltrate and get the upper hand.
I personally, have fared ill with surgery even in youth, so I’m planning to let nature take its course and hoping my good family longevity genes hold sway. But, I don’t have a problem with those who choose otherwise… from what I can see, it makes them feel great about themselves and maybe maybe that infusion of confidence and renewed sense of desirability is the biggest boon of all.
In the 16th century, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V ruled over a vast empire that included 12 modern European nations. Historians tell us he once said, “I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse.” We do speak different languages, one way or another, to different people in our lives and about different subjects. I can’t help but wonder if the language of insecurity for both genders has Plastic Surgery so near the top of the fix-it list. After all, these days men are media-driven, too, and age is a career issue for them, as well as for us. On the other hand, men don’t become invisible after 50 the same way women do, so maybe that tips the balance.
All thoughts on this subject gratefully received.
© Cathy Cash Spellman/The Wild Harp & Co. Inc 2014