Have a look at this picture. Have a good hard look. What do you see?
I see a woman who has lived a full and rich life hiding behind a mask of youth.
Is this mask demanded of us? Do we place it upon ourselves? Are we so ashamed and afraid of getting older that we hide behind false youth and cosmetic procedures?
I took this photo recently whilst on a trip to Mexico. It was hanging in the Cultural Institute of Cabanas in Guadalajara. Undoubtedly the finest place for art in Jalisco. Once a home for orphaned children, it is now home to several art galleries. Unfortunately, I forgot to take down the name of the artist and I wish I knew the year that this was painted.
Once upon a time, growing old was seen as honourable. The elderly were revered and held positions of honour in the community.
Today Growing old gracefully is increasingly seen as a failure to make the best of yourself – and even shows a lack of respect for the self and or for others. Some might say that you have “let yourself go”.
One day when I was walking arm in arm with an Aunt, I would have been about 22. I can clearly remember thinking, “I can’t wait to get old…. I will be wise… I will be able to help people… I will be respected and revered”.
Now getting old is seen as a fate worse than death. For the first time in human history,
“The young have become a model of emulation for the older population, rather than the other way around,” Richard Harrison
The problem does not stop here.
It is not enough anymore just to have youth on your side. We don’t just worship youth, we worship the youth of the medias imagination. Now the pressure is on us to be a ‘perfect youth’. One that hopefully looks a lot like Jenna Kardashian or Barbie.
Recent studies have revealed how much this is affecting people – particularly girls of a young age. The Girls’ Attitudes survey has shown how body image worries affect many aspects of young girls lives – stopping them wearing the clothes they like, having their pictures taken, taking part in sport and speaking up in class.
The survey reports that 47% of girls aged 11 to 21 say the way they look “holds them back”, while 69% of girls age seven to 11 feel like they are not good enough.
A recent pilot study has found girls as young as 11 are seeking cosmetic surgery for their genitals. What’s going on? Andrew Trounson, University of Melbourne
When I was 11 I was obsessed with wanting to be Heidi and living on a mountain with goats, eating cheese and hard bread. I vaguely recall thinking I had two bottoms but that was the end of it. I certainly would not have know what a labia was.
University of Melbourne health researcher Emma Barnard says: “Pictures in textbooks and magazines are stylised or airbrushed, and there is a real lack of understanding about the real range of genital diversity.”
I am sorry, I must live under a rock, but how are tween girls getting access to stylised or airbrushed pictures of their genitals?
The desire to look picture perfect in today’s camera culture fuels this over-the-top approach to grooming and has extended to our genitals. The rise in pornography has also given rise to the desire for highly sexualised body shapes and images.
“The selfie has turned an extreme aesthetic that wouldn’t normally be acceptable; into something people want on a daily basis,” explains Melissa Gibson, a senior artist for M.A.C Cosmetics. “It doesn’t appear very natural outside of a photograph, but for some women, that synthetic look is now part of the appeal.” Some choose to make their exaggerated features more permanent with the help of injectables.
A recent study by the University of Macquarie has linked the time women spend on Instagram per day with the level of body dissatisfaction they experience. Women are also likely to experience more body image issues when they use social media to compare themselves to celebrity.
These cosmetic procedures have produced the term Rich Face. This is where women and girls are proud to wear their over exaggerated features as a badge of wealth. Much like wearing or showing off $500.00 bag or shoes. It is now a status symbol.
The most common cosmetic procedures sought out by teens:
If teens are facing this pressure, imagine the pressure on the ancient 30 plus-year-olds.
Did you know that Australia has leaped ahead of America regarding cosmetic surgery? Australians love plastic surgery. That’s $1bn-worth of love.
Roughly 500,000 cosmetic procedures were carried out last year. That includes 20,000 boob jobs, 8000 breast argumentations, 30,000 liposuction procedures and $350m dollars’ worth of Botox injections. (Reference)
The fastest growing area of cosmetic work is in non-surgical enhancements. In Australia, we know that procedures like dermal fillers for cheeks and lips, or anti-wrinkle injections such as Botox, are fast becoming the most popular choice for people looking to enhance their appearance.
In 2015, Australians spent over $1billion on non-surgical cosmetic procedures – up from $773 million in 2012. (Reference)
The top five most popular procedures are an anti-wrinkle injection, fillers, laser and IPL, breast augmentation and reduction and liposuction. At the same time, the cosmetic surgery industry is booming, eating disorders are the number one killer of any mental health disease in Australia. (Reference)
I am exhausted just writing this article. The pressure to keep up, look better, look younger is horrific.
Don’t get me wrong, I indulge in beauty procedures. I have my eyebrows tinted, my hair dyed, my body and facial hair plucked and waxed. I spend money on cosmetics and moisturizer. But how far is too far? When are we able to feel happy and safe in our own spotty, wrinkled skin.
What happened to the days when wrinkles and flabby skin were a sign of wisdom and respect. Why are we repulsed by the road map of life etched upon the faces of our elderly? I used to love sitting on my nanas knee and playing with her flappy skin and looking for the red lights on her arms.
Red lights which I now have.
Red lights called cherry angiomas or senile angiomas. Senile... that is a very strong word. I will continue to call them red lights.
What happened to the love of fresh faces and clean skin?
In 1970 – this was the face of cover girl.
Move into the 1980’s and 1990’s – clean and fresh becoming replaced by sophisticated party looks.
2000 fresh skin is still looking good……..
Fast Forward to 2016 and Cover Girl has its first guy as a spokesperson and we also begin to see the shift to contouring and shape changing in makeup.
2018 and Cover Girl is now fully into face shaping, contouring and full features.
What am I trying to say?
Fashion always comes, goes and turns around. However, what was once used to enhance the features you were born with, is now being used to distort and stylise your features into those that resemble cosmetic procedures. Actually into those that resemble a mask. None of this is bad in itself, as long as you have a good grasp of who you are and actually like who you are.
Returning the original photo. What happens to the woman under the mask?
What happens to her at the end of the day when the makeup comes off and when the procedures expire. Is she happy with the person underneath?
Thus comes the saying. BE happy in your own skin.
I have become a person obsessed with being happy in my own skin. I am not sad about getting old. I have worked bloody hard to get old and have the stripes and scars inside and out to prove it. I feel like a warrior.
I also at times feel insecure and flabby and bumpy. But I want to enjoy my later years and find joy in who I am within and without. I want my daughters and my granddaughters to feel safe and happy in their own skins. To know that they are beautiful because of the light that shines out of them and the brains and the thoughts in their heads, not the makeup on their faces. I want them to know that kindness, grace and mercy are worth more than youth and good looks.
Beauty truly is only skin deep.
Like a flower, the beauty of our youth will fade. But it will be replaced with many stunning sunsets, reflected in our wisdom, humor and grace. The joy of being perfectly at peace and safe in our own skin. Of rocking grandbabies and holding family close and being able to say, “It’s okay, this will pass. I know for I have been there”. You are safe and you are beautiful.
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