The Beauty of Aging

Melissa DyrdahlIt seems that we talk a lot about the pressure facing our tweens and teenage girls as they are bombarded with messages about their appearance. We fear that they will develop unrealistic expectations about how they should look that will leave them feeling insecure and unlovable.

We know their struggle to fit some unattainable mold can spill into the rest of their lives interfering with their relationships and causing them to doubt their capabilities preventing them from reaching their full potential. We tell them to stop worrying so much about what anyone else thinks. We tell them to be the beautiful individuals they are. And yet, how different is it for us?

Though we’ve lived longer and perhaps think we know better, we still face those same pressures as we grow older. The messages we’re sent through advertising, movies and television leave us little room to embrace and welcome the changes in our appearance. We too are set up to have unrealistic expectations about what we should look like.

It’s as important for us to recognize and refuse these negative messages as it is for our tweens and teens. I love how Hollywood headliner Frances McDormand recently emphasized the point in an interview with the New York Times. She is starring in “Olive Kittredge,” a four-part HBO mini-series as a “frumpy, grumpy math teacher.” She explained why she’s not following the typical starlet path of trying to appear younger.

“We are on red alert when it comes to how we are perceiving ourselves as a species,” she said. “There’s no desire to be an adult. Adulthood is not a goal. It’s not seen as a gift. Something happened

Frances McDormand

Frances McDormand as Olive Kittredge.
Jojo Whilden/HBO

culturally: No one is supposed to age past 45 — sartorially, cosmetically, attitudinally. Everybody dresses like a teenager. Everybody dyes their hair. Everybody is concerned about a smooth face.”

Well, not everybody. Her own short hair on this late September afternoon was an impish chaos of dark and white patches and untamed tufts pointing every which way. She’d done nothing to disguise the lines around her mouth and eyes, and her brow furrowed readily and completely. She showed me.

“I have not mutated myself in any way,” she said. “Joel and I have this conversation a lot. He literally has to stop me physically from saying something to people — to friends who’ve had work. I’m so full of fear and rage about what they’ve done.”

I believe we need a definition of beauty that is ageless, one that encompasses the lines, the wrinkles, the sags and the bags as a celebration of experience and wisdom. At any age learning to love how you look is a gift to yourself. It gives you an irreplaceable confidence to reach for success and to enjoy life. So don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Be the beautiful individual that you are!

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