Age before beauty.

October 21, 2017 § 9 Comments

My husband, Ray, says there are no ugly young people, an exaggeration, but not a whopping big one.

Consider what the young have going for them. Smooth skin, and if it is tan, their skin has not yet begun to pay the price for that glow. Wide eyes, the lids fully open. Straight backs. Limber joints. The young body exhibits an appealing ease.

But old is beautiful too.

What I write next is mostly for women, the sex afflicted with the expectation of beauty.

This post will come as no surprise, but sometimes we only question the things we take for granted when we say them out loud or state them in print.

Physical attractiveness is not an absolute requirement for guys. Funny is just as good. Athleticism or smarts; those work too.

And for those with young-buck good looks, with age these attributes are seamlessly replaced by a growth in stature and authority, a good job.

I don’t know whether this is because women are more broad-minded than men, more willing to judge worth based on a range of positive qualities, or because men, as members of the dominant sex, have used their power to write the terms of their own attractiveness.

Either way, the fading of youthful beauty is judged more harshly in women than in men.

And we respond to this societal shaming. We try to mitigate or disguise each loss with something out of a jar that costs and promises much, but at best slows, or hides the process.

We are taught to lie about our ages. And everyone knows it is rude to ask a woman, how old are you? Why would that be if it were not somehow shameful, or at least embarrassing, to age?

And so we grieve the loss of elasticity in our skin—our necks are a sorrow unto themselves. We envy those who are still young and consider our worth to be less, and less, and less.

Youth is seen as the ideal, the default, the human being at its peak, when it is just a phase we pass through as we become our next, and often better selves.

As we age we are on our way to a different kind of beauty, a beauty that belongs only to the woman who has traversed time and gathered experience, an earned beauty that youth cannot have.

That beauty resides mainly in our eyes. If that trite, “windows of the soul” thing is true, the windows of young eyes reveal a simple, self-centered landscape. The look in young eyes is eager, surprised, or deliberately bored, and it is generic.

With time, we become, and our generic young selves become more and more individual as we gather experience, learn, seek, love and lose, and make peace with our own insignificance. All we know, all we have become, shows in our eyes.

And wrinkles? In our wrinkles you can read our dispositions. I have favorite wrinkles; the ones around my eyes. They are an exact replica of my mother’s. They come from a lifetime of smiling and laughter.

We can do little about the fact that time thins and loosens our skin, alters our stride, stoops our shoulders, but it gifts us with strength, resilience, modesty, and, as we grow into ourselves, it shows.

The beauty of youth is a gift. The beauty we acquire as we age is earned, and it is real.

Note: For a book that will recast your view of aging, read, “This Chair Rocks” by Ashton Applewhite. It did not deal with the issue of beauty in particular, but it made an overwhelming case for the continued value and relevance of the older person. It sure did cheer me up!


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