This I Believe

Elizabeth - San Diego, California
Entered on August 11, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe that aging naturally and aging gracefully are synonymous.

I spent the better part of my life in the Northeast, raised by a mom who decided to let the gray hairs claim their territory and whose two beauty products consisted of Oil of Olay lotion with a past due expiration date and a tube of terracotta lipstick that she wore a handful of times. While this made dress-up infinitely more fun at friend’s houses, it has left me with the profound idea that we are meant to feel comfortable in our own skin.

When I was 28 years old I packed up my car and moved from New England to Southern California. The city where I settled was like most cities, in that it had a weekly paper that contained listings for local music shows, art events, movies and a sprinkling of articles geared towards local politics. But unlike the papers I grew up with, this paper also contained a multitude of ads for different plastic surgeons. These ads ranged the gamut from breast augmentation and liposuction to laser surgery which has the magical ability to remove hair, erase spider and varicose veins, or fix one’s eyesight.

It was only a matter of time before I realized that many of the people in my midst were patrons of these businesses. I became aware of the pencil thin scars behind a person’s ear or skin on foreheads that refused to wrinkle despite the owners’ changing facial expressions. I once saw a woman, maybe in her sixties, with huge scars down the undersides of her arms, a recent surgery to remove the fat in her underarms, I was told. I couldn’t help wondering whether these centipede-like scars were an improvement on the fat.

“Getting work done,” as the expression for cosmetic intervention goes, seems to be the norm here Southern California. But I for one can’t help seeing it as a symptom of a society where we are fighting nature in order to mask some deep fear of the inevitable. We grow old, we age, we die.

When I do find myself in the presence of a woman with gray hair and crow’s feet, a very rare occurrence, I feel I am in the presence of beauty. I know it is naïve and overly simplistic but I trust these women. I feel that their life has let them in on some wonderful secret knowledge, that there is more to who we are than our outward appearance. Their acceptance of the natural ways in which their bodies have changed over time is a mesmerizing beauty in and of itself.

I believe that the signs of age should be welcomed and cherished. That they are proof of what we have learned and seen. That when we attempt to erase these through botox injections, cuts of the knife, and whatever other new procedure lies on the horizon, we are getting rid of the very things that act as signs to remind us of what has shaped our lives and how we may learn from our pasts.