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My Aging Role Models

Why I don't buy Dove's "Pro-Age" campaign

Soon I will be fourty-seven years old. I see a few wrinkles under my eyes, and my eyelids are starting to droop. I'm starting to gray at the temples. I'm at that fork in the road - do I accept the aging process or do I fight it? Where do I turn for the answer? Why, Mom, of course. And Grandma and her sisters. And Aunties Melly and Puring. What would Mom, Grandma, or ________ (fill in the blank) do? Isn't that what we ask ourselves when we try to solve any problems in life?

Luckily, I have wonderful role models for the aging process. I remember Mom laughing her head off when my then two year old niece Anna loudly pointed out the age spots on her face: "Here's one," she said, "and there, and there, and there, and there..." Mom just laughed and told the family to listen to Anna to share the funny moment. She was enjoying Anna's innocence and mocking her own insecurities about her own blemishes. I had never noticed those blemishes before. That's probably because Mom never talked about them. She did have makeup foundation, which she used once in a while, so she obviously didn't like them. She also didn't like the white hairs that appeared when she was in her forties. She used to have me pull them out. So yes, for a while Mom resisted the aging process - it's only natural. But after a certain point, she seemed to let go. In her fifties, her white hairs became too numerous for me to pluck out. She could have colored her hair, but she didn't. And she used her makeup foundation only for special occassions.
Grandma colored her hair when I was a young girl. Eventually, however, she just let it go too. I grew up hearing stories about how beautiful she was during her youth. What strikes me now is how my family would talk about her beauty in the past tense as if she had lost it in old age - in front of her. In fact, to prove how beautiful she had been, they pulled out the old pictures instead of just pointing at her right there next to me. And it was okay. She would smile, enjoying the compliments about her youth. She would smile, accepting that physical beauty was part of her youth, not part of her present. It was just a stage. She would smile, because she had other assets to treasure in her old age - like her family, her love for cooking, her green thumb, her sewing skills, her love of grandchildren. She smiled while she aged gracefully.
Grandma and Mom have since passed away, but I still have role models in my aunts. Once my sister in law Amy, looking through an old family photo album, told my aunt, "Wow you were so beautiful!"
My aunt joked, "Yes, I WAS," emphasizing the past tense of the verb "was."
Amy, horrified at what she had accidentally implied, restated, "I mean - you ARE beautiful."
But my aunt was not offended - she was laughing at her own joke. And she was smiling at Amy's compliment about her looks during her youth. She was genuinely flattered. But that was then, and that's okay.
What I see in Mom, Grandma, and my aunts is an inner peace that conquers any insecurities about beauty. It makes them more attractive as people. I admire that, and I want to emulate it. I must admit, it's not that easy. Because I am an actress, closeups of my face have made me notice the age spots I hardly would have noticed otherwise. In fact, those spots are an annoying part of my career when I have to put makeup on them. Also, as with any other woman, it's hard to let go of the benefits of youthful looks. Sometimes I fantasize about lasering away these age spots and fixing my drooping eyelids. Times have changed and so has the acceptance of cosmetic procedures. But in the end, it's just not worth it to me. In fact, I feel it would compromise the inner peace and acceptance that I hope to emulate, as modeled by my older relatives. It would therefore make me less attractive as a person.
Really. Honestly. That's how I feel. When I look at aging celebrities injected with botox and collagen; and glistening from laser procedures, I see them as less attractive than my naturally aging relatives. I want to be attractive like Mom, Grandma, and my aunts. I'm vain like that.
These days, I see Dove's "pro-age" beauty campaign, and I don't buy it. Let's be for real. Physical beauty declines with age, no matter how much we try to deny, re-define, or fight it. And it should be okay. In fact, this effort to redefine beauty as being part of old age is anti-aging to me. It perpetuates an unhealthy obsession with physical beauty. Let it go. There are other things in life to enjoy. Youth was just a stage. More wonderful things are yet to come. That is what my relatives taught me.
- Liza Figueroa Kravinsky

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