My name is Dianne Norton and I want to encourage you to make the best of the rest of your lives. And before you shout ‘patronising’ at me I also want to know how you make the most of your lives or what’s stopping you from doing so . . . or maybe you just don’t want to . . . or there’s something that really makes your hackles rise. Mine do – regularly – how’s this for starters?
The 7 Signs of Ageing are excerpts from an essay in my book – ‘Defining Women: mature reflections’ click here to see it the bookstore.
L’Oréal advertises products as attacking the ‘seven signs of ageing’. A quick ‘google’ of the ‘seven signs of ageing’ elicited 98,000 websites. So what are these blatant portends that identify us as old women?
Apparently most women (surveyed) consistently identified seven relevant signs of ageing.
1. Fine lines and wrinkles
2. Rough skin texture
3. Uneven skin tone
4. Skin dullness
5. Visible pores
6. Blotches and age spots
7. Skin dryness
. . . so anything below the shoulders – or above the hairline – doesn’t matter. Well that’s good news isn’t it?
. . . and L’Oréal ends every advert with that unctuous (‘unctuous’, appropriately, is defined in the OED as ‘having a greasy or a soapy feel’) ‘because we’re worth it’. What exactly are we worth or perhaps more to the point, what do they think we are worth? Presumably the answer to the latter is that we are worth the extortionate amounts it costs to buy their ‘anti-ageing’ products. They obviously think we owe it to ourselves (and perhaps to anyone who has to look at us) to spend money on products that they claim will halt nature in it’s tracks. ‘Anti-ageing’? If ever there was an oxymoron – that’s it!
1. The numbers game
Two interlinked things that really make my hackles rise are the media’s – mostly newspapers’ – obsession with labelling people by age, usually in a completely irrelevant way (will they still be able to do this under the new age discrimination legislation?) and the widespread practise of relating the way a person looks to their chronological age .
‘Woman, 63, in fall from Scottish peak’ trumpeted the Wimbledon Guardian. We read this and instantly dredge up a stereotype of this 63-year-old woman. What on earth, we are meant to reflect, was such an elderly woman doing up a mountain? An interesting fact about this particular story was that only a week later, in the same mountains, a young man was killed in a fall and the press barely noticed. What the press is doing when it uses this device is pandering to our lazy minds or saving themselves the trouble of telling us more about the person and the event in the belief that giving that chronological age automatically gives us a true picture of the person involved.
My second bête noir is that statement, or one of its many variations ‘but you don’t look old enough to be . . .’ and we react with giddy pleasure no matter how hard we try not to because we have been programmed to believe that this is a compliment. However, if we do or don’t look a particular age it implies that there is a standard against which we can be measured and if there is a standard what is it and who sets it? Now people who make these remarks are, on the whole, well-intentioned which stops me from making one of several replies that springs to mind. ‘Oh’, I’d like to say in a deeply apologetic voice, ‘I’m so sorry. What am I supposed to look like?’ Or it may be more acceptable to say ‘but this IS what 66 looks like’ or ‘but this is what grandmothers look like nowadays’. As I have not had plastic surgery or any other transforming ‘procedures’ does it not go without saying that what I look like is me at 66 and every other 66-year-old will look like them and, thank heavens, none of us will look the same!
The whole thing about broadcasting our ages – even if the expected coyness of days gone by which made it extremely ‘bad form’ to mention a ‘lady’s’ age, is changing – or telling us we don’t look our age, is that it denigrates us as individuals. It dumps us into the miasma of stereotypical people who are not worthy of individuality and should be faceless and invisible (about which, more anon).