Thursday, February 5, 2009


I was talking to a friend the other day about the inevitable changes in our appearance as we age. These changes were once very gradual—in my thirties and forties, I noticed the beginnings of a few smallish wrinkles, the slight shifting of mass from here to there, a few strands of gray in my hair. These days, the changes come more quickly, and seem more dramatic. Suddenly I understand that this is the process by which people get old.

In an attempt to come to some peace with the changes looking back at me from the mirror, I’ve been thinking a lot about why it is so hard to just let the process happen. Time and hard use leave their marks, and many of us are desperate to obliterate the evidence: anti-aging is a billion-dollar industry, from plastic surgery to the Olay Regenerist lotion you can find at any CVS.

We’re desperate to look young, to counter sagging skin, wrinkles, and the dreaded middle-aged spread. It has occurred to me that the emphasis our celebrity culture puts on youthful appearance is like admiring fast food. What we’re focused on, as we age, is the packaging.

It is what it is. All of the experiences we’ve had that have engraved themselves on our bodies have also engraved themselves on our souls. Those experiences have deepened and enriched our relationships, our creativity, our work—everything that makes up a life lived. It’s so easy to accept that deeper, inward part of getting older. And such a pity that in our culture we haven’t yet figured out how to see the outward-facing changes as equally beautiful.

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