Something about “anti-aging” rubs me the wrong way. It’s negative, like being anti nuclear power plants, anti gun control, or anti big government. Being anti means that we’ve drawn a line in the sand and stand ready to to fight anything that crosses it. It means that those who don’t agree are the “other.” We don’t have to look very far to find evidence of what I call “grandma wars”—women who choose to color their gray versus those who don’t, and those who have work done taking exception to those who don’t. In other words, those who are anti-aging pushing against those who society has deemed as aging “gracefully.”
If pitting us against ourselves wasn’t problematic enough, there’s a more insidious side of “anti aging.” Although the term most often is used in conjunction with products and procedures that make us look younger, what gets my dander up is that in applying it to how we want to look after 50, the subtle meaning is that we’re against not only looking older but also anti everything associated with growing older.
If we actually stopped aging, we would miss out on perhaps the richest and most beneficial era of our lives because we’d fail to grow into our wisdom years. Poets and philosophers are right. Wisdom comes only from having lived long and well (i.e. having aged). In today’s world, it’s all about instant gratification. But there’s no shortcut to wisdom. We must be strengthened by meeting and overcoming the obstacles that come our way in our early decades in order to draw from that strength as we age. We’ve all had grandmothers, older role models, mentors, and various other village elders who nurtured us through our early hard times. Where would we be without them? And where would the upcoming generations be without we who are now taking these wise women’s place?
Too, if we held back the clock we would miss out on our most powerful years. Despite what society would have us believe, older women are a mighty force. We can all name women in their 60’s and beyond who have wielded incredible influence on us. In the larger scheme of things I don’t think the strength of Jane Goodall, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Dame Judi Dench can be overstated. You simply can’t reach their stature without putting in the time.
Instead of buying into the notion of anti-aging, I propose that we drop the “anti” and just think about aging for what it is—another stage in the life cycle. This will free us from feeling like we’re fighting a battle that we ultimately cannot win. It will provide a positive structure for deciding how we want to approach the issue of our changing appearance. But it will allow us to appreciate those positive aspects of aging, gaining wisdom and power, that we’re entitled to as women who have lived long and well.