Friday, June 3, 2011

The Benefits of Aging Naturally

The other day Dominique Browning's article The Case for Laugh Lines appeared in the New York Times, eliciting a variety of responses from readers. Browning's article, which is a real delight to read, focuses on the cosmetic surgery fetish, the fight people put up about aging, the surgery they choose as a weapon and the frozen and sometimes tragic faces that result.

In her article, Browning suggests we have gone to far in our attempts to deny the imprint of time on our faces and bodies. As the model Daphne Self noted in my last blog here, cosmetic surgery does not stop us from aging. I tried to post a comment to Browning's article and included some lines from Passing for Young, one of the songs in my musical revue, but the comment never was posted. I must have transgressed some New York Times posting rule, but I do not know what it was. This is part of what I was trying to share from the song.

Once upon a time not so very long ago
Blacks they passed for white and
Gays they passed for straight
And speaking in the latest tongue
Ringing all bells that can be rung
I’m going to pass for young.
What, is it wrong? No way!

70’s the new 50
60’s the new 40
50’s the new 30
Turn back the clocks!
Botox! Restylane!
Body shaping liposuction
A little nip, a little tuck, a little surgery
And you’ll evade time’s tyranny.

Look at my face
Does it sag or does it flap?
If wrinkles give me character
I say, erase, erase!
I don’t want to look like Rumplestiltskin
Even if it rhymes with Paris Hilton!
I’m going to pass for young because
70’s the new 50
60’s the new 40
50’s the new 30
Botox Restylane
Body shaping fat reduction
You can have a little liposuction
Turn back the clocks!

The two happy people in the photo above haven't had any work done. They are just aging naturally. When I get too myopic about the peculiar views of our culture, I like to remind myself that most people on the planet are aging naturally. They are not getting cosmetic surgery. Their issues about aging are quite different from those of the frozen face persuasion. Organizations like HelpAge which focuses on age discrimination and poverty and Global Aging which focuses on human rights for older people are two of the organizations that address some of the issues that affect many older adults on the planet.

Here we are, fortunate beings who are growing old in places that are relatively affluent and peaceful, compared to many places on earth. We have the opportunity and freedom to use these later years for personal and spiritual growth, community engagement, social change and creative expression. It's a shame to waste that freedom by constricting the potential for these years to an obsession with passing for young.

Accepting aging as a natural part of life is life-affirming. Aging naturally has the potential to increase our contentment and positive self image. I'm not trying to talk you out of a face lift or coloring your hair. Those are not my choices but I'm not intent on limiting your choices. I'm just suggesting that outer appearances are only one aspect of human life. I'm suggesting that the wrinkles are just fine and that we appreciate the real richness that presents itself in later life and make good use of it with a fair amount of joy and gusto.

I decided a couple of months ago to drop some weight. One of my old friends emailed me awhile back and told me that he had decided that he'd rather be a skinny old guy than a fat one. I kept thinking about that comment and decided I agreed. I don't want to be skinny but thinner. I have lost about 10 pounds so far by eating less and eating fewer carbohydrates. I am enjoying the process and it feels good to be getting lighter. I've noticed when I look in the mirror that my face is finally acquiring more wrinkles, especially when I laugh or smile, which I like to do often. All I've done is live 70 years, which is saying plenty.

What are your attitudes toward aging naturally? Would love to hear about them.

Artist's Life update: just sent in my application to Oregon Literary Fellowship. It would of course be wonderful to receive a grant from them. I'm enjoying working on three projects--my musical revue A New Wrinkle, for which we are creating a promo CD, my book Songs of the Inner Life, and a new book project on inspiring elders. These will keep me busy for at least 2 years. What are you working on?

And the sun is finally out today!

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading your commentary on aging naturally. Seems it's often the people who choose to have surgery who receive the publicity.

    The photos of those two women were quite striking in our previous piece here.

    I've written several blog posts on this topic and will continue to do so periodically. One post is "Redhead Aging Naturally." Another, a tribute to Phyllis Diller's 90th birthday a few years ago included some commentary from me about the fact she succumbed to facial surgery.