Sunday, February 01, 2009

Dodging the OL

I’m reading How Not to Look Old by Charla Krupp, and it has really gotten me thinking. The trouble with “looking your age” is that the standard for what a certain age looks like changes every year, it seems. I would also venture to guess the average 40-year-old in some places in California looks a lot different than the average 40-year-old in Maine.

The book describes expensive, middle-of-the-road and cheap ways to look younger, going into extreme detail about everything from make-up to clothes to Botox injections and laser peels. The more I read the book, the more I become uncomfortable. It’s not that I don’t care how I look (I obviously do) and it’s not that I can’t use some tips (I obviously can), but the question that came popping up was, “Where do you draw the line?” The book uses the abbreviations “OL” for the Old Lady look and “Y&H” for the Young and Hip Look. It may seem natural not to look OL when you’re, say, 50, but when you’re 80, are you going to be under pressure to look Y&H? At 80? I dare say there are some folks (the book’s author included) who want to carry this Y&H thing to the grave, but give me a break! Is the ideal situation to rid our society of anyone who looks OL? My mother is 85 years old, and she looks 85 years old, and if she started trying to look Y&H, I would freak out. Oh, sure, there are simple things you can do to improve your appearance, but I would term those things “looking up to date,” not trying to look younger. Fashion can change dramatically in a decade, and a modern pair of glasses frames can change a look dramatically (as my sister learned when she tried her frames on Mom one day).

If you’re high maintenance, says Krupp, “The Frazel laser is a non-ablative tool that targets cells under the skin to regenerate collagen production. It is designed to work in six sessions, at a cost of $1,500 per session. It produces results but leaves you red-faced and swollen. Recovery after each session can take up to a week. It is not a permanent solution, lasting roughly only six months.” I flipped to the chapter on buying jeans.

I don’t know how many other 54-year-olds occasionally envision their lives at 80, like I do, but my first goal is not to be Y&H. It is to be healthy, comfortable in my own skin, able to get around and be independent, to have energy, and to look decent enough that I don’t scare young children. I think most of it lies in attitude. To keep my insatiable curiosity, to get excited about the wonders of new technology, to be able to keep up with important current events, to read, read, read - these are what I wish for myself as I age. To keep my brain and body active. To dress appropriately for the situation and my lifestyle in a way that I feel good about myself. To be able to keep laughing and singing and quilting. To learn something new every day. When you think about it, all these things seem appropriate to wish for at any age, including 54.

I think it’s a little bit sad that we have been allowing ourselves to feel society’s pressure to look years younger than we are, because if 80% of 54-year-olds suddenly looked 40, I would not look like 54 anymore; I would look like 65 in comparison. Thanks a lot, guys.

There’s something to be said for that adage of aging gracefully with acceptance. That is not giving up; that is reality. There is a fine line between “letting yourself go” and understanding what age you are, what age you feel, and what kind of lifestyle you need to live in order to get (and give) the most in your life. I think I’ll get a new pair of jeans that fit me better and look modern, but I’ll leave the collagen treatments and injections to others. I want to spend the rest of my precious life fighting fear and injustice and intolerance - not fighting the aging process.


Charla Krupp said...

Hi Carol. Thanks for reading my book. Every woman, of course, has to do what is comfortable for her depending upon who she is, where she lives, and what she does. The standards of looking good in the fashion world of New York City are not the same as anywhere else in the country. So, you need to take the "low maintenance" solutions and not be bothered with Fraxel laser. That is why I have high, medium and low maintenance action plans. This book is a bestseller because each woman can appropriate what she needs from it. That said, we all need to take care of ourselves and not let ourselves go, or it will effect our confidence, self-esteem and ability to change the world. Okay?
--Charla Krupp, author of HOW NOT TO LOOK OLD

Carol Tiffin James said...

Charla Krupp: Thanks for your comment. I actually did not intend for this blog entry to be a critique of your book, "How Not To Look Old," and I'm sorry if it came across as somewhat a negative review. On the contrary, I have gotten some useful tips (in the low-maintenance sections, of course, as my blog is entitled Journey to Simplicity) and have already bought a couple of your suggestions at the end of the makeup chapter. I also applaud your chapter on hair, giving options for going gray or not, thereby avoiding the mistake of assuming all women want to color their hair as they age (since I gave up coloring a few years ago) and your recommendations for products for gray hair are appreciated by this reader.

I used your book as a stepping stone to organize my thoughts on our society's pressure for a youthful appearance, the same pressure that makes your book a bestseller, because most women are struggling to figure out how to go about it, some not even questioning the necessity. Your research is well done and detailed, but I was disheartened to learn about the (apparently) many women who do use the high-end maintenance, and I know I sound terribly judgmental, not my intention, but it seems like such a waste of money for such little gain. As you say, each to her own.

Thanks again for your comment. As I said, it is not your book giving me problems; it is what I learned from reading your book that is frustrating for me.

Carol Tiffin James

Cuidado said...

Ouch! I age naturally and gracefully. No dyes make up or chemical anything for me. I love me the way I am.

Carol Tiffin James said...

Kudos, Cuidado!