22 May The 7 Signs of Aging
First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – Cover date 15 May 2023
There was a time, I imagine, when no one knew what cellulite was or that it was bad. (We’re talking about that harmless skin condition that gives a dimpled look to your thighs.) Given most women have cellulite, those dimply thighs were probably referred to originally as, well, “thighs”. Because this is what normal legs look like.
Then some clever chap (I bet it was a chap) noticed it arrived at a time in a woman’s life when she might be feeling vulnerable (which is all day) and decided they could be described as “problem thighs” and immediately whipped up a cream that may or may not make them “better”.
My money, by the way, is on the cream not making an iota of difference but don’t let me discourage you from taking some quality me-time to rub pleasant lotions on your good self.
Do not, however, think a tub of anti-cellulite cream is an appropriate gift for another lady. Stick to presents that are less judgmental.
Similarly, no doubt, “the 7 Signs of Aging” were invented (or “identified”) a few decades ago by someone who wanted to shift some pots of goo, and now everyone selling pots of goo is totally on board.
The official list goes: 1. Fine lines and wrinkles. 2. Dullness of skin. 3. Uneven skin tone. 4. Dry skin. 5. Blotchiness and age spots. 6. Rough skin. 7. Visible pores.
Not meaning to be picky but I’m pretty sure 5 is also 3. And 4 is also 6 and 2. I guess 7 is a magic number and we should be grateful they didn’t count “lines” and “wrinkles” as separate horrors.
But where does this disdain for aging come from? Why is a wrinkle less attractive than the smooth? How come we don’t welcome softening and folding as proof we’ve been blessed with a long life and we know stuff? Why isn’t looking old aspirational?
In caveperson times, of course, we learned to view youth as attractive because our primary focus was to be on the lookout for a mate we could make babies with. Young meant fertile, symmetry meant health. But that was when we lived very short lives, and procreation was both imperative and largely unavoidable. The major point of women was to be fertile and make new humans.
But we sold up and moved out of caves a long time ago. We live longer lives – much longer than required for making and raising babies. I’ve already spent more of my life now not being of childbearing age or ability. We can even choose to not make new humans at all. We have plenty of time to offer the world more than the possibility of children.
And yet we are still encouraged to view youthfulness (aka fertility) as the thing that makes someone attractive. When really, we might want to evolve past seeing women for what they might contribute genetically, and instead what we offer intellectually, creatively and socially.
I have my own version of the 7 Signs of Aging. The first sign, of course, is that you no longer give a fig about what other people think.
You also have more time now the kids are gone, often more money (same reason), plus more wisdom and experience which we’ll count as 4 and 5. Number 6 is “less patience with bozos”. And the 7th sign of aging is that our faces are a bit saggy. And aren’t we blessed to have lived long enough on the planet for gravity to have done that.