I DON’T know of any woman who really wants to grow old. After a certain birthday, she enters into a battle with time, sometimes with a plastic surgeon by her side to strip back the years, reclaim the eyes, the chin — even her breasts and bottom of her youth. She would examine her face and body constantly, exercise daily and always be on a continued diet. Age is a fact of life, but why look it? Aging is a choice.
We were the same age but they looked 15 years younger. What lives they’ve lived have been erased from their faces along with the more obvious marks of age.
I’ve kept exploring my refusal to go along with being an older me, trying to negotiate with age. No dice. It just keeps marching on, like a soldier. But I am used to fighting and winning after blood-soaked rounds no matter what the adversary.
I’ve seen a psychiatrist, who on my seventh session, kept trying to cheer me up by dredging names of ancient doyennes, doddering writers, even fossil movie stars who were accepting aging better than I was. I kept shrieking, “who wants to be like them?” (No cripple wants to associate with other cripples). I told her they were lying! Old is closer to death and nobody wants to die. What’s to like, when there are no future compensations?
She let me sob out Niagara Falls and even gave me some Kleenex.
“You want to be young?”
Of course, I wanted to be young, I replied to this dense person. She went on with a killer.
“Oh, but you can’t be, older is what we get.”
My psychiatrist was 72 at the time. If she had been 40, I think I would have hit her.
I don’t think there is a trick in being young — it happens to you. The process of “maturity” is an art to be learned. By the age of 70, you have made yourself what you are and if it’s good, it is better than your youth. If it is bad, it is not because you are older, but because you have not grown. Yet, this is observed, hourly, and daily by the selling of youth.
Oh look young, be young, stay young…and with this mandate, millions of goods are sold and millions of hours are spent in pursuit of a youth that cannot be recaptured. The result of this effort is obscene in women, but pathetic for men. The women of middle age think only in terms of appearance, while the middle-aged men think only of youth in terms of virility. The cities are streets full of thin, massaged, made up, supported, dyed and overdressed women, with faces that are repellant hard and empty masks of frustrations. Although their ankles are slender and their feet perched on slingback high heeled shoes, they fool only themselves. And the obscenity of it all is that our advertising media has conned these women into using outward techniques of sexual allure to maintain their youth when they are no longer desired by men.
By the time a woman is 70, she is either wanted as a woman of 70 or not really wanted at all. She does not have to fool her husband or her lover, and she knows that competition with women, younger than she is not only degrading but futile.
At club gatherings, hotels and parties, the older women look identical. Their beauty creams and lotions have done well. But I wonder if all self-deception does not harm and if the price of one’s self is not lost. This wholesale perversity is the preservation of the flesh. The fight is not for what is gone, but for what is coming, and for that battle, intellectual curiosity and fortification of the spirits are paramount.
E-mail Mylah at firstname.lastname@example.org