Even though by the year 2015 we will spend $114 billion annually on "anti-aging" products, I have yet to meet a woman who actually wants to be younger.
As a lifelong beauty editor, someone who has written and read beauty stories in women's magazines for decades and who now writes a lot of beauty messages for companies, I'm tired of reading -- and writing -- that I should be something I can never be -- younger than I am.
I was in my early 30s, working at Allure magazine, when I first heard about the horror of wrinkles. How had I not known these little crimps of nature were the shame of society? Perhaps my Boston background was to blame for my embarrassing wrinkle ignorance. Was New England, the land of Puritans, oblivious to this natural disaster? Or just sensible?
Let me tell you the truth about growing younger instead of aging: It's impossible (no matter what marketers tell you). Keeping my "biological" age a secret makes me feel like I have something to be ashamed of, which I don't.
And why is "anti-aging" an acceptable term? (Never mind skin care, there's even an anti-aging clothing line now -- I can imagine it consists of yoga pants steeped in Omega-3s and resveratrol.) "Anti-aging" feels like anti-living to me, so repressive, like stifling a cough. The quest to be younger has become a social -- even societal -- sport, but we will all fail this competition.
Not only am I 52, I'm happy about it. Maybe I'm not as thin, smooth-skinned, or fearless as I was at 18, but I am more active, twice as engaged in the world, and just as curious. And I wonder, why does everyone assume it's better to be 18 than 30, 41 than 52, 65 than 75? Is it?
The women I talk to, no matter what their ages, just want to be the best they can be -- or better. They want to be as healthy as possible, and they're willing to eat kale for breakfast, lunch and dinner to get there. They are OK enduring what comes naturally with age; other requirements include a willingness to date bald men, the application of a sticky hormone patch, and either living with grey hair or touching up those roots every couple of weeks -- and they have a sense of humor about it. Just because a woman is willing to look better by tucking in her tummy as well as her shirt, doesn't mean she wants to go back in time.
Sure there are women who starve themselves, wear fake hair and inject their lips in an attempt to look younger. But instead of looking fertile, they look fake -- fooling no one.
Aging isn't so bad. The truth is I have developed a lot of great qualities in the past 30 years, among them: flexibility, a sense of adventure, and the confidence to live outside the norm. Some of you might be thinking that these are attributes we normally associate with youth. Yet I've acquired them by aging. Maybe it's not just beauty that's in the eye of the beholder -- but youth too.
A lot of what I admire most in my friends and myself only comes from being around the block -- a few times. I have an unconventional life, I've developed amazing relationships, I live by the ocean. My friends have happy kids, unexpected families, and they're not mad at their parents anymore. (Neither am I.)
You may be thinking that all this attention on youth is just semantics. Anti-aging advertising isn't telling us to BE younger, it's telling us to LOOK younger. Maybe that's true. But maybe that's worse. Can't we just look gorgeous, inspired... happy? Heidi Klum is turning 40 this year. Think she cares about looking "younger"? Honestly I don't even want to look 20 or 30 again -- much less be it.
I'm hoping marketers are waking up to the fact that our demographics are changing as well as our attitude. Just five years from now, more than 50 percent of our population will be 50 or older. There will be more old people than young people in this country. Will this mark the moment women everywhere stop measuring their happiness and looks in years?
I've been a good anti-aging soldier -- until now, I've had my cellulite scrubbed to bruising, I've lasered and lifted my dermis, endured shots and spin-a-thons, and tried so many skin creams as a beauty editor that I pretty much bid "adios" to my moisture barrier. But none of that made me feel as good as just being in my present life, happy in my own skin, something that paradoxically comes with age.