Rethinking Aspirations

We’ve all seen countless ads on television with sad women with blemished skin being shunned from social events or unable to leave the house because of a zit, or, worst of all,
not being able to participate in the fun because they’re too old. Their wrinkles are showing. Enter, magic remedy for aging --targeted at wrinkles and fine lines, patchy skin and blemishes and that terrible sag of gravity pulling you to earth. Instantly our hapless heroine is back in circulation, amazing young, flawless skin and ready for anything. People are amazed and astounded and she’s self-assured and happy. She can now return to life having suitably banished age...for a time.
In a skincare ad featuring actor Kajol looking quite unnaturally blemish free, she says her flawless skin can be attributed to her taking care of her skin long before she got older. So if you didn’t take care then, at 40 plus you have only yourself to blame for looking older. Magazine covers featuring Helen Mirren or Judi Dench are considered revolutionary but they actually feed the same fears. Its okay to be 70 if you’re amazingly beautiful and an ex-super-model but to be 48 and wrinkling is just you being lazy and not taking care of yourself.
This subtle blame game, paired with hundreds of product solutions (so there must be a problem), have served to create a culture of shame around aging. Conversely youth is celebrated and aspirational. Which if you think about it, is hilarious given the inevitable trajectory of every human life from birth to death. We all disregard youth when we have it and dream of what-could-have-beens in our later years.
Most advertisements for skincare around the world have begun to actively shun the term ‘anti-aging’. But no matter what the new packaging around the term, there is a sea change required in the way we celebrate age, or rather legitimize other ages than the twenties. Getting older should not come with fear of being ostracized or of losing friends or popularity. Being old can look a number of different ways and the lines around our eyes and mouth tell many stories of what we experienced. There are scars that have particular significance, that are the stuff of memories--that summer you learned to cycle, or the one when you burnt yourself cooking for that special family diwali, or the terrible accident you lived through and survived. These badges of a life lived are worthy of celebration; to want to erase them forever with an anti-blemish cream is both pointless and sad. We have the past we have and our present holds the marks of it.
Right now we have no daily commutes and exposure to pollution and are eating better because we’re home all the time and there isn’t much in the way of alcohol (notwithstanding long lines!) or snacks on which to binge. With a chance to improve sleep patterns and develop exercise routines because we can’t get out, many of us might actually have better-looking skin right now. But this won’t last and is not a sustainable way to live. As lockdown proceeds and we see each other in close-up, as people forego makeup because there is no one from whom to hide reality, is it time yet to accept the way we look?

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