“What am I if I’m not sexually attractive – am I anything?” ~Ella Dreyfus
Aging is terrifying! I have to tell you, the older I get, the crueler the whole thing seems. It’s that evil bastard, time. It just goes too fast. I hadn’t thought about it much until recently, I guess I’ve been on sort-of an extended holiday in denial, conveniently avoiding the whole thing. But lately, the damn holiday has started to sour. That bitch in the mirror is part of it. Every time I look at her, she points out another disagreeable development. The fine lines and spider veins on my face, which I was previously able to pat away with some night repair serum, are deepening and spreading, I’m starting to get that chicken-neck thing and my jawline is getting so doughy that I’ll probably be developing jowls in the extremely near future. The sagging is not limited to my face either, my arms are looking like they’re getting ready to do the bat-wing droop, my thighs are turning to jelly-bags and my butt is slipping down the back of my legs. Yeah, not pretty.
Anyway, when I noticed all this happening, I panicked and frantically started to exercise, diet and spend money, like a bargain hunter on a perpetual Black Friday. I was on something like a anti-aging binge. I spent more of my savings than I care to admit, and racked up obscene amounts on my cards, trying to stave off this evil scourge. And you know what? It’s not going to stop. It might be something to do with my tendency to be a bit of a fighter, but if old-age wants me, it’s going to have to drag me out kicking and screaming, because I’m not going willingly! Does that make me courageous, or pathetic? I don’t know, but presumably, my frenzied race against corporeal decay will last until I accept the inevitable and finally understand that I am actually mortal and there is not a damn thing I can do about it.
So, why am I? Wait, I’m going to say we, because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Why are we so petrified of getting old?
You probably already know this, but I’m going to say it anyway, and I’ll keep on saying it until the scales are tipped. Here is the answer: It all stems from patriarchy, consumerism and the disempowering representations of women in the media.
Like this: Consumerism is propelled along its voracious course by media images. These are images of youth and perfection (you know the ones I’m talking about, think Victoria’s Secret – The New Shapes of Very Sexy commercials), and they are designed to make us feel inadequate and dissatisfied with our current state-of-being, so that we rush out and buy products designed to remedy all that depressing personal angst. And guess what? It works. When I see those Victoria’s Secret commercials, I get this vague feeling of self-loathing, because I look over at my husband and he’s practically drooling over those new shapes of very damned sexy, and I know it’s ridiculous, but I want to him to be drooling over me like that, and then I remind myself that I’m fifty years old and that my body is never going back to anything near the new fucking shape of sexy. And then I get angry at my husband, but it’s not his fault that the media are telling him what sexy should look like…
In his article, The Body in Consumer Culture, Professor Mike Featherstone of Nottingham Trent University argues that advertising is responsible for causing people to become so “emotionally vulnerable” that they continuously scrutinize themselves for physical flaws, which are no longer considered natural.
“Notions of ’natural’ bodily deterioration and the bodily betrayals that accompany ageing become interpreted as signs of moral laxitude…Within consumer culture it is hardly surprising that ageing and death are viewed so negatively.” ~Mike Featherstone
I’m pretty sure husbands were happier with their wives as they aged (back in the halcyon days before it was okay to shove ‘as good as naked’ young nymphs in everyone’s faces), because they weren’t constantly and relentlessly barraged with reminders of how far their wives had strayed from the ideal shape of sexy. No wonder Viagra sales are booming…
I haven’t talked about patriarchy’s involvement yet, I’ll talk about it in my next post. For now, I’d love to know if anyone else can relate to my feelings on this?