Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Obsession


Obsession

Over this past holiday season, I was told, no less than three times, that I should lie about my age. “I mean, you could lop off ten years, my dear”, said one well-meaning friend. Now I realize this is meant to be a compliment, but when you think about it, is it really? Yes, one is being told that one looks rather well for one’s age and that is a much preferable reaction to one’s appearance than a head-shaking, pity-filled stare. But at the same time, one is, in an albeit subtle fashion, being informed that one’s age has advanced to such a degree that one should really disown it. I’m never quite sure the best way to respond.

Personally, I don’t give age much of a thought. I’ve been known to pause a moment when asked how old I might be, not because I’m caught in the moral quandary of deciding whether or not to lie about it, but because I honestly don’t remember what it is. I take no credit for looking younger than I’m supposed to. I have no secret potion or practice. I don’t hang by my feet at midnight, nor do I consume inordinate quantities of oddly flavoured elixirs, delivered to my doorstep in the dead of night. I do try to take good care of myself and that includes slathering myself in sunscreen, a daily practice that I highly recommend, but when it comes to aging... I think the less we worry about it the better we feel, and perhaps, look.

The obsession, and it really seems to be an obsession, with looking younger is a peculiar one to me. It seems to have originated in Hollywood, a place not exactly known for offering up qualities worthy of emulation. Indeed, many Hollywood actresses seem to have succumbed to the surgeon’s siren call of eternal youth, which is strange since one would think an actress would require an authentic face before any other thespian ability. Personally, when I see a face so altered by cosmetic surgery up on the screen, I find that I can only see the actor or actress, never the character they are supposed to portray, which renders the whole experience rather irritating. I sit there remembering what they used to look like, and wondering why they appear so altered, and totally become removed from the story playing out on the screen.

Why do we hide from looking our age?
Is it vanity? Or is it fear?
If we erase what life has inscribed on our faces, do we succeed in convincing ourselves that time is not really advancing? When we look in the mirror and see our reflection as the enemy, doesn’t that create an unhealthy schizophrenia that carries with it the very real danger of not feeling, somehow, whole? Why do we feel looking a bit older is something we have to apologize for? Maybe I’ll feel differently when my jowls fall into my soup, but I don’t think so. It genuinely troubles me when I see how much time we waste worrying about aging. Valuable, irreplaceable time.

I suppose any hint of aging that our faces may reveal should serve chiefly as a gentle reminder that our time here on Earth in not infinite. But don’t we sometimes need to be reminded of that? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, instead of trying so hard to obliterate these inklings, we could instead choose to let them spur us on to the things that we’ve heretofore put on the back burner?
"Hmmm, do I see a fine line between my eyes?"
"I’m going to learn to speak Italian."
"Are those laugh lines beginning to form?"
"High time I went on safari."

Now of course, whenever any of my friends begin to grumble about how they look, I always urge them to get a dog, advice that is sometimes less than gratefully received. But, I’m serious. A dog loves you no matter what you look like. He really does, and that can work wonders on your self-esteem. A dog gets you out in the fresh air and gets your mind off yourself, which is always a boon to both your appearance as well as your psyche. A dog makes you smile and you have to admit, everyone looks better when they smile. I could go on and on about the benefits of canine ownership on the human countenance, and frequently do, but I recently came across an article that basically said it all for me.
Edward and I couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

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Painting above: Vanity, 1904
by Otto Friedrich
I don’t think the monkey is in there by accident, do you?


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33 comments:

  1. haha I agree totally, the canines keep us young; who looks forward to the early morning walk more, me or the pup girls? Though I have to say the Italians are the masters at embracing age; better even than the French; they appreciate the worked hands of a woman who has tended the garden, gathered the herbs, cooked the meal and caressed her husband with the same worn hands. Amen to that.

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  2. Okay I have 4 dogs...guess it's better than a face lift LOL! Lovely post....

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  3. "A dog loves you no matter what you look like."

    Sadly, as I'm finding out, cats are very status conscious, and in their minds high status requires money and breeding, yet, but also youth and beauty. Unfortunately, I'm screwed on every count.

    I'm glad you're holding out okay, although I did have a friend who literally looked 25 when she was 55, but, oh, how badly her last ten years have gone! Of course, I looked 55 when I was 25, so maybe I'll be hitting my own physical zenith any day now.

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  4. I agree with what you have written. However, as a one-time actor, may I just say in defense of the female actors who have multiple surgeries and lifts, and whatever that so many female actors seem addicted to, it's all about remaining a working actor. The truth of the matter is that producers look to the bottom line. Younger actors supposedly look better on stage and screen and thus, sell more tickets, so the only way an aging female actor can even hope to be cast is to keep her face and body as youthful as possible.

    Of course, it doesn't really work very well after one or two procedures... they often become obsessed and turn themselves into freaks.

    Still, when your profession requires you to stay young in order to get work, stepping onto that slippery slope is often started with just having a "little bit of work done."

    It's enormously sad that our society doesn't put any value on its aging population. This is the year the first of the Baby Boomers hit 65. I read somewhere that 8,000 of us born in 1946 will become 65 every day of 2011!! In a few years, the senior population will continue to grow. More often than not, once you hit a certain age, you apparently become invisible. I wonder how the "kids" will keep ignoring us, when there are more of us than there are of them!

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  5. What's the old line attributed to George Orwell ? " You're born with the face God gave you but by forty you've got the face you deserve ?". Kind and beautiful.

    Love the point about dogs. For some folks laughter is a state of mind. For others a brief interlude. For dog owners laughter is a constant. The intangible something that turns a house into a home.

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  6. Every time I have a friend that complains about not being able to find a good man. I tell them to just get a dog. It is so fulfilling to know that your dog really loves you no matter what. He loves you if you are in a good mood or a bad one. He even tries to cheer you up when you are sad.

    I have friends that don't have dogs (not very goo friends because all my GOOD friends have dogs) but friends that say....oh...you are so nuturing....I don't know how you take care of all those dogs.

    What they never can seem to understand is that these dogs give me so much more than I give them. Yes, I care for them and feed them and take them to the vet...but they love me, unconditionally. Taking care of them is easy...because I WANT to.

    My only complaint is that one of my dogs is so beautiful....it is discouraging that she wakes up so pretty every day and I don't.

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  7. I'm past the worrying about my age thing. In fact, just last week, I had to ask WT if I was 53 or 54. I honestly couldn't remember. Turns out, I am 54, and my mind is indeed showing it.

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  8. Lovely blog, wonderful photos. Very nice!:-)
    Stina

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  9. I don't think there is anything wrong with someone telling you that you could knock off 10 years from your age when telling people how old you are. It's just a fact of life that some people age better than others and we are all aware of it, like it or not. Did you ever notice how the British actors don't seem to spend so much time worrying about keeping themselves so young? They seem so much more content with being natural, and I wish more Americans were that way.
    I miss my dog, she loved me no matter what, now I have cats...they love me too, but it's not the same!

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  10. Pamela, you've done it again! Hit the nail on the head.

    I think age is a matter of attitude. There comes a time, if you live long enough, that you are proud of your age, as am I. Oh how I wish days had 48 hrs. so I had time to get all of the things accomplished that I dream of doing.

    As for Eloise, she is the pride and joy of my life and gives me a laugh each day with her antics. After all, dog is God spelled backwards.

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  11. Wise words as ever and I so agree about dogs love being so unconditional. I have had dogs since I was ten and cats later in life, wouldn't be without either.

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  12. Wonderful!

    I find it always interesting that the Brits don't seem to have such a penchant for facelifts and such as we Yanks do. I find it rather refreshing to see a woman with a few wrinkles playing an attractive woman. Are there just more parts to play - or are they more comfortable in their own skin?

    Well-written, Pamela. Thank you.

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  13. I very much notice that British and other European actors seem more authentic. Not everyone looks as though they could model. Its strange to me, as you say, how altered people look in Hollywood movies and TV and does diminish my ability to sink into the story, I find most of the faces look strange, tight and awkward, yuck. Glad Edward is keeping you aired and active.

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  14. All I could think of as I read this beautiful post was "I like you so much!"

    P.S. We will be getting a dog soon!!!

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  15. Just loved this post! So happy to have found your uplifting blog today...and I think I need a dog!:)

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  16. Excellent Pamela, I giggled several times reading this post, just what I needed. you are totally right all down the line, but you know what, I still wish I looked younger!
    Sharon
    xx
    PS Do you think horses work as well as dogs?

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  17. I totally agree, and I will try to remember the advice about dogs when I get to the point of despairing about my face!
    Funny thing about actresses, really -- as the vanity seems to undo the humanity. An overly tweaked (and equally worse, plumped) face makes me cringe.

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  18. Amen to all that. I need a facelift...but I'd rather get a dog.

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  19. I think when our country was first colonized by Europeans, youth was highly prized for being physically & reproductively necesessary. Passed down thru generations, no longer so vital, it turned simply into a prejudice against older people. So people fear becoming an object of less desirability in society. It's a stupid concept. You are right about the dog.

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  20. Age - so what? I am 54 and look 54...and I don't care. My best friend always lies about her age, which is ridiculous - she's 56 and looks it, so when she tells someone she's "in her forties" they look at her with raised eyebrows.
    If I were going to lie about my age, I'd lie UP, not down. I'd rather have people saying, "you look GREAT to be 74!"
    And you're right - dogs don;t care. All they want is someone to love...and have that love returned. And get Beggin Bits every now and then.

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  21. Great post as always .... just how bad would one need to look to hang by one's feet at midnight, I wonder!

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  22. What always makes me smile is that there is a line - not sure where it is - beyond which people start boasting about their old age. What does age matter as long as one keeps a young mind?

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  23. You had me at woof! :-D

    Terrific post, Pamela.

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  24. I love this! In a ski shop, getting my bindings adjusted, I had to ask my daughter what my age was. I’m in my mid 40s and have a close friend in her late 20s and another friend in her early 50s. The rest fall in between, and I always forget birthdays.

    Age does not matter except to kids and to criminals. I never post my exact age on online because of identity theft.

    The Onion did a spoof about a “35 year old actress dies of old age.” The judgment is frequently harsher on women than on men, especially for romantic leads.

    Here’s to dogs over face-lifts: woof-cheers!

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  25. Interesting thoughts! My birthday is Friday and I was thinking of saying my age. One of my favorite stores has a discount for anyone over 50 and they ALWAYS ask me if I'm over 50...which is a HUGE compliment to me! So now you have me thinking! lol I sure don't hide my age! I'm happy with who I am ...and where I am in life! ♥

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  26. How true on both marks.... my Wire Fox Terrier has given me a permanent smile.

    The comment on Vanity reminded me of an Octavio Paz poem from the early 1960's called "The Other"

    He invented a face for himself.
    Behind it,
    he lived, died, and was resurrected
    many times.
    Today his face
    has the wrinkles of that face.
    His wrinkles have no face.

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  27. I'm at an age where I begin to forget my age...maybe I should get a dog to remind me :)
    I can hardly believe this year I will be 54...my mind got stuck somewhere at 18!
    Lovely post and painting my dear..

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  28. This post was ideal for encouraging us to accept and embrace what is inevitable. Do I worry about growing older, sadly I do. I never thought I would either. What hurts me most is the perception of others towards me. It's as if I am not who I once was because I'm over 50. Much harder to get quality jobs and there is a feeling you pick up from others; how you are treated. Dog ownership is one thing besides being a parent that brings real joy to my life. My dog does make me laugh and smile each & every day. Thank you Pamela, I think I needed this post for the New Year.

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  29. I say this all the time. I don't get it. Even as a little girl I liked the way old people looked. Just tonight we were watching Blue Bloods and I said why not let Tom Selleck have a secretary who is 50? After a while all the young blondes look alike. Oh, and does he color his hair? Geez, men are doing this too!

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  30. I just discovered your great blog & loved it. I'm just new into blogging & have just finished off my own blog on fashion & interior design.
    scrapbook-melissah.blogspot.com
    I had a lot of fun putting it together. I would love your feedback on it if you've got a spare minute.
    x
    Melissah

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  31. How very true- saw your blog as you're a follower of Wilf the Pon discovers France, so had a peek at your blog and just adore your dog Edward- what a gorgeous face.
    We just got two new doglets, Maud and Millie, from the dogs-home after Christmas, and I decided apart from my own arty- crafty blog, they might want their own doggie blog- hahaha- why not !!- you can see them on the link http://maudandmilliesblog.blogspot.com/

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  32. Pamela,
    I am so perplexed by the mass population fixation on aging...it's quite sad and strange.
    And, now that I'm well into my forties I seem to be so much more aware of it on one level and then like you, when I have to state my age, it doesn't seem possible I own that number...oh, except on mornings where sleep eluded me the night before, I didn't drink enough water or have any fresh air!

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  33. Oh i so agree, time wasted indeed, we all are who we are. Our faces are part of the map of our lives, the good bits & the bad, all those lessons learnt, all those moments passed. I too forget how old i am & sometimes have to stop & work it out, my children laugh and think it is a ploy! Lovely to finally get back to catching up with your writings. One of the only things i struggle with getting older, the times habit of running away with itself x x

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I love to read your comments! Each and every one! Though I'm always reading your comments, I may not respond in the comment section. If you want to write me directly, you may do so at pamela@pamelaterry.net. Thank you for reading!