No one can prevent old age, since we cannot stop the biological clock within us. However, by making the biological clock tick a little slower, we CAN delay old age. There is nothing vain or egoistic or narcissistic about defying old age. For years, we have been brainwashed to ‘grow old gracefully’. Why not refuse to grow old gracefully and fight it all the way?
From the beginning of time, men and women have sought various means to hang on to youth. In the past, alchemists searched for the elixir of youth and today scientists experiment with drugs and glandular extracts towards the same goal. From ancient Egyptians to modern geriatricians and from Goethe to Oscar Wilde, the thought of preserving youth has obsessed human beings.
More than men, it’s the women who turn to anything that can help them delay old age, like plastic surgery, health spas, beauty parlours, hair dyes, diets, hormone injections, anything, just about anything that can ward off old age just a bit longer. A woman’s face and form fades more quickly than a man’s. Old age cannot be held off forever, but it can definitely be deferred with the correct mental attitude in life – yoga, relaxation, sound sleep and a healthy diet. Going to beauty parlours is easy, but self-help demands dedication, application and hard work. Parlours are only artificial means and as such, only temporary and second-best. Parlours cannot really make the blood flow back into withered tissues (as Yoga can) or firm up sagging tummy muscles (as regular walks can.)
As I grow older, I find myself sorting through these images, looking for a connection, a definition, something to help me define ‘beauty’ in relation to time – and age. This is a difficult time for women to understand themselves because of media’s perception of beauty. They emphasise that these are the best of times; so naturally, we feel deprived when it isn’t so for us. On one hand, we’ve developed a modern technology of ‘tools’ like diets, exercise, cosmetics etc. to help offset many of the unappealing effects of age. If that isn’t enough, women’s movement suggests we no longer need to hide that once universal symbol of defeat viz. our birth date.
Gloria Steinem made history when she told us ‘this is what 70 looks like and it’s great’. It certainly sounds great. At long last, 70 should hold no terrors – and age itself should be laughed away. Science and living right have triumphed; but even with considerable scientific achievements, we remain children of Nature and still some women are on the verge of panic when they turn 70, almost haunted by age. Why should you fear or even focus on that streak of grey, that first drooping of jawline, that incipient sag on the neck? Isn’t age after all a synonym for growth? Age offers us richness, not deprivation of youth. We have grown up on stereotyped media images, eg.: rubbish like ‘size zero’. The face or body you see in the mirror, beguiles us with a false and misleading sense of who we really are. We don’t really see ourselves – our vitality, our wit, humour, our compassion, our vibrant personality. We totally miss the impact we have on others.
To friends, our attractiveness grows out of their perception of us, in all dimensions – in the way we move, the sound of our voice and the quality of our laughter. The flaws that seem so formidable when we see them in ourselves, diminish when seen in the faces of friends in the light of all other aspects. Which proves once again that attractiveness is more than just physical, that beauty without the spirit to animate it, declines to dullness.
So then, what is ‘beauty’? William Blake said ‘Beauty is exuberance’ and I would agree with that. Age need not wither us but only if we can face it up with vitality – exercising, so we can jump up from a chair at 70, sit cross-legged on the floor at 80, so full of spirit even at 90, all our wrinkles will be dimmed by our energy and sense of humour. If you feel beautiful inside, you will definitely look beautiful on the outside. So refuse to grow old gracefully, fight it all the way!!
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