Thursday, February 8, 2007

On looking younger

I watched an Oprah show this week that was all about women looking younger and looking their best. Several of the guests on the show were women who looked incredibly younger than their actual age. There were several “makeovers” and a discussion by a panel of experts about how women should dress, style their hair, and wear make-up in order to look their best by looking younger.

I am not comfortable with shows that promote “looking younger” as a criteria for looking your “best.” And I am not comfortable with shows that focus on looking your best rather than focusing on being your best and doing your best.

What do people mean when they say, “You look young for your age!” How does 60 look? How does 70 look? How does 80 look? Each age looks different for every individual. Why do we think that looking younger is a great achievement? We all look better on some days than on others, whatever our age. Looking younger than our chronological age is a matter of genes or a matter of cosmetic surgery. Neither of which says anything about our character, our intelligence or our integrity. Looking younger is not praiseworthy.

I do not want every face I see to look the same. Youth is beautiful but so is the face of someone who has lived a long life, with the trials and tribulations that life brings, and has survived with grace and dignity.

I want to see a face that has laughed a lot and cried a lot. I want to see a face that reflects love and is animated by a passion for living. I want to look into eyes that shine with inner light and inner beauty. I want to see wisdom and kindliness and compassion. My friends have lived interesting lives and have exciting ideas and are committed to living as fully as possible. Most of us are of a certain age and none of us look particularly young.

I do not think that presenting one’s self attractively is a bad thing. We don’t have to look at ourselves but other people do and we should make an effort to be presentable so other people won’t have to look at us looking our worst. I just think that looking young has very little to do with anything of real importance.

Love is a great beautifier. Louisa May Alcott

As a white candle

In a holy place,
So is the beauty
Of an aged face.
Irishry (1913) 'Old Woman'
Joseph Campbell

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