Book Inspiration #4: “How I Look, For My AGE”

As you read through “The Invitation: Rich and Raw Conversations about Aging, Death & Dying” you will discover many inspirational ideas. You’ll also notice themes that will make you reflect about your own aging, death and dying.

One theme that came up in several interviews is How I Look, For My AGE. Not surprisingly, it was mentioned primarily by female participants.

Emily said, “For the most part, I think I’ve aged well. I am 78, but people tell me I look younger. How should I know? I look at myself, and to me, that’s what 78 looks like.

Gabriele, at 67, “I don’t have a problem with saying my age, and — I’m being brutally honest here — it’s because people don’t believe me. So it’s sort of a compliment, but I’ll probably get to the point where I look as old as I am chronologically.”

I also experienced it, especially in my 40s, when I was age-shamed for having lines and grey hair. Listening to someone tell me what I could buy and use to conceal signs of aging, I thought to myself, why would I want to do that? It frustrated me enough that I wanted to do something to explore this societal further, so seven years ago I started the interview project called “Our Thoughts on Aging” which evolved into this book.

Photo credit: Thomas Hafeneth via Unsplash

Photo credit: Thomas Hafeneth via Unsplash

How we look, for our AGE is a negative, ageist message that costs us extraordinary amounts of money. How much money does it cost?

According to Zion market Research, in 2015 we spent US$140.3 BILLION globally on anti-aging products, devices and services intended to hide and deny our age. It estimates that the anti-aging market will surge to US$216.52 billion by 2021 globally.

It also costs us our connection with other women and our sense of community. We are encouraged to compare ourselves to other women, to each other, me and you. It costs us experiencing connection, inclusion and compassion for each other. Let’s dismantle this unrealistic attitude about ourselves and each other.

Do you know how much money you spend on anti-aging products, services and devices? This includes what you spend on skincare, makeup, hair colour, clothing, footwear, accessories, magazines, fitness and diet, entertainment and recreation, etc. intended to help you conceal your age. We are the bread and butter for many of these industries.

Who are we trying to look young(er) for: Our employer, our colleagues, for our career and work, for our spouse, for family, for our community, for our self-image? It’s time to discuss these negative messages that deny our bodies, our histories and our selves. It’s time to talk about our fears of being devalued, loneliness, abandonment, and ugliness and how we spend money on hair colour, skin serums, fillers and polishers, and makeup to stay relevant. It’s time to challenge the anti-aging messages that impact us every day of our adult lives.

One thing we can all do to not say “How I/you/they look, for my/your/their AGE.”

Ageism is not new. Age-related stigma and ageist messages can easily become internalized beliefs about ourselves. If you find that you are scared of looking old or fearful of aging, consider spending time and money on personal growth work. With a therapist, counsellor or life coach, you can grow to understand the internal and external gremlins that natter to you about how (old, ugly, unattractive, etc.) you look. As you become aware of your personal triggers and self-limiting beliefs, you'll be able to shield off judgments and criticism, and abusive comments won’t matter to you. Self-acceptance and self-compassion are tremendous powerhouses against trolls. So is a supportive community of allies and friends, of all ages.

We need to start having conversations about our fear of aging: at home, with our spouse, at work, with friends, with our hair colour technician, with skincare specialists. The Invitation has a chapter filled with reflective questions and ideas for conversation starters.

In her New York Times article, Working to Disarm Women’s Anti-Aging Demon, Ashton Applewhite writes:
“Join forces against ageism the way we mobilized against sexism in the 1960s and ‘70s. For movements to have power, their members have to embrace the thing that is stigmatized, whether it’s being black, loving someone of the same sex, or growing old. That means moving from denying aging to accepting it, and even to embracing it.”

Join my colleague and friend, Allyson Woodrooffe, and me for a conversation about these topics and much more at our free webinar on Tuesday, November 21, at 7:30 pm ET (Canada) through Zoom. It promises to be a great conversation. Register today, there are only a few spots left!

 

Book Inspiration #3: “What’s still missing is the emotional piece.”

Photo credit: Les Anderson on Unsplash

Photo credit: Les Anderson on Unsplash

Brad is one of the youngest people who participated in the interview project about aging, death and dying, and he readily agreed to story his interview with me for this book. When we began to talk about dying, he spoke frankly and thoughtfully:

My parents feel that things should be in place when they’re older, for example, long term disability insurance and sufficient retirement savings. I think that’s how their parents saw it as well — that it is the parents’ responsibility to look after themselves financially as much as possible and not the children’s issue. But what’s still missing is the emotional piece, sitting down and having that emotional discussion, not the practical talk about coverage and financial issues.

Since I’ve started launching and promoting The Invitation, this is one of the themes that often comes up. Young adults and adult children are telling me how the emotional piece is missing in these conversations. Their parent(s) don’t talk about the emotional aspects of aging, death and dying and they don’t know how to bring it up in conversation. Adult children want to, they are ready to, and they don’t know how.

So, here I humbly offer a few suggestions, and I also believe that even before you read them, you may have some ideas of your own.

  • One suggestion is to understand your own ambivalence, resistance and/or avoidance about discussing aging, dying and death with your children, spouse, parents, friends, and relatives.
  • Another idea is to read the stories in the book and notice what moves you, resonates for you, frustrates, aggravates, confuses, or makes you uncomfortable.
  • You might want to consider reflecting and writing down your own responses to the interview questions (they are included in the final chapter).

Let’s keep working on exploring and talking about these taboo topics, and having these conversations together. Let's work together to lessen this uncomfortable silence.

 

Book Inspiration #2. “I really hope they know how beautiful they are.”

Photo credit: Omar Lopez on Unsplash

Photo credit: Omar Lopez on Unsplash

I was moved when Lucy shared her thoughts about young women in her interview:

When I look at young women now, I marvel at their beauty. I really hope they know how beautiful they are. Also I notice how people need to be so made up today, with their nails, with their hair, with being waxed, looking almost perfect. That seems like such a hard thing today.

Lucy's words made me wonder. Her kindness and love towards those young women is beautiful and I don’t hear it often, not often enough. Yes, it must be hard to be a young woman today with the pressures to look smooth, polished and perfect. Between social media, photo shop and high definition everything, it can get quite intense. It is quite intense.

This singular aesthetic formula of “smooth and polished equals beautiful,” it is fantastic for marble tiles, sculptures, and silver cutlery, but for people? How was this aesthetic born? Because getting body hair hot-waxed or lasered off and polishing our skin with micro-dermabrasion or whatever really makes someone singularly beautiful? Give me a break. Beautiful is also lined, hairy, asymmetrical, and being unapologetically true to oneself. Let’s give it up for some complexity and nuance to our notion of beauty.

But it’s Lucy’s compassion and respect towards young women, the next and future generations of women, that I find especially powerful. There are many industries - makeup, hair, fashion, skincare, “beauty,” fitness, advertising, magazines - that diminish and devalue women, and instigate conflict between women. Their foundation is built on how women look, how we look to each other, how we look compared to each other, how we compare ourselves to other women. Look what it’s done to our relationships with each other, with our family members, relatives, friends, colleagues, between generations of women.

What can I do about that? What can we do about that?

We can tell young women they are beautiful without makeup.
We can be kind, accepting, and inclusive towards each other.
We can stop making critical comments about how other women look.
We can stop eyeing other women, doing the head to toe once-over (you know women do this to each other).
We can smile in greeting when we see another woman.
We can practice self-compassion.
We can acknowledge our flaws and imperfections.
We can be aware of how the hair, fashion, makeup and skincare products we purchase impact how we feel about ourselves and others, whether we buy it for the approval of others.  
We can notice when we are being sold the mask of fakeness.
We can model how self-acceptance and self-confidence comes from within, not from what we buy or do to our outer layer.
We can listen to young women and love them without the mask of perfection.
We can accept and love our aging selves, and the women who are older than us.

What's special about turning 50? A lot.

Our upcoming Facing 50 workshop came about when Allyson Woodrooffe and I talked about turning 50 years old. We both felt that moving into this decade was an important milestone.

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We have had our youth and young adulthood, and are now entering this thresh-hold between middle-aged adulthood and elderhood. What does it mean to leave our middle-aged years and become an Elder?

We noticed that there are few events with opportunities to discuss aging, especially for women who are faced with anti-aging everything. It’s time to acknowledge that moving into the 50s is something to be celebrated, not feared. It is an important milestone that hasn’t been recognized in our culture and one we need to, for ourselves and for the generations that follow ours. The negative stereotypes — Old Crone, Old Hag, Ageless Woman (I mean really, come on, ageless?) — continue to exist today, perhaps even more so. In the midst of ageism and negative attitudes about aging, we offer this workshop where we will explore this powerful decade in our lives.

We invite all of you who are approaching 50 or are in their 50s. Let’s connect in community and friendship, exploring our experiences and visions together. It’s time to re-frame this decade as a doorway into much more. Join us in Toronto on Sunday, November 12th. To find out more and to register, go to the Facing 50 event.