Get that needle away from my face!

By Caitlin Kelly

Having had four orthopedic surgeries in 12 years is enough to put you off needles for a long, long time, between pre-op blood tests, IVs and anesthesia.

So I’m not going to be reaching for the Restylane or Botox — face freezers or fillers that make you look calmer and younger — any time soon.

No needles in my face, kids!

Pretty Face
Pretty Face (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a recent column from The New York Times about how to age gracefully, without all the paraphernalia:

Some days it seems everyone I meet is afraid of getting old — or at least of looking as old as they are. Occasionally, I see women who have had so many face lifts that they can barely move their lips when they talk, let alone smile.

Business is booming in the anti-aging market. Plastic surgeons who specialize in lifts, tucks and fillers barely noticed the recent recession. Cosmetics with anti-aging properties fly off the shelf, and new concoctions appear almost weekly.

I admit to supporting the multibillion-dollar skin care industry with my long use of night creams, as well as a slew of daytime facial and body lotions that purport to “smooth out” aging skin while protecting it with sunscreen. I also color my hair, which in its natural state is now about 80 percent gray.

But I draw the line at injectable fillers and muscle relaxants, face lifts and tummy tucks. I’ll do everything I can to stay out of an operating room.

I’m with her on that. I also really like her emphasis on who you are are as you age, not just the shape, size and condition of our bodies and faces:

Youthfulness is not just a question of biology. People are perceived to be younger than their years if they smile and laugh a lot (be proud of those laugh lines!) and are generally cheerful and upbeat, the kind of people who smile at strangers and wish them a good day.

People often guess me as 10 to 15 years younger than my true age, which is pleasant. This week, a NYC cabbie guessed me 13 years younger, and young people looking at me in broad daylight (i.e. their eyesight is fine!) do so as well.

If people perceive me a decade younger than some of my peers, it’s likely a combination of things:

— I’ve never smoked

— I get a lot of sleep

— I disconnect, often, from technology to meet people in person, read books in print, get into the real world

— I minimize my use of social media (however hip) to recharge and reflect

— I enjoy my life, and have a wide network of supportive friends

— I only drink moderately

— I exercise 3-4 times a week, often outdoors in nature

— Genetic good fortune — my aunt, who died at 82, looked amazing (she might, having been a well-known actress in England,) have had “some work done” along the way.

— I have much younger friends, some even in their early 20s, and love being part of their lives

— I’ve never hit rock-bottom, terrifying poverty, the kind where you have no idea where your next dollar, or dime, is coming from. Terror and 24/7 anxiety will age anyone quickly.

Here’s a great post from Emma Johnson, aka Wealthy Single Mommy, a fellow New York journalist, who is 36, about accepting and enjoying how our bodies change with age:

In the past year or so I’ve noticed other first, albeit subtle signs of aging: The large pores. A second glass of pinot grigio at night and I wake to extra-dark circles and creping under my eyes. The cellulite that has hugged the back of my thighs since I was 12 has spawned and now also covers the front of my thighs. After two babies and four decades, I don’t expect to see a flat tummy again. Everyone knows bodies age, yet are surprised when it happens to theirs. Here I am.

And yet.

And yet for the first time in my life, I see something else that wasn’t there before. When I see pictures of myself smiling I notice the fine laugh lines, yes. There is something else in my whole face that is new. The same thing when I catch a reflection of my eyes in the rear-view mirror as I glance at my children sleeping in the backseat. I see the crow’s feet at the same moment and I see a pretty face. I did not see pretty before. It may have never been there, I’m not sure.

For the gentlemen in the audience, here’s a smart/funny column from Details magazine on the subject:

We now have a small army of male archetypes suffering sartorial midlife crises.

There’s the man still padding around dressed like the 28-year-old Silver Lake hipster—Vans, Daft Punk tee, thigh-hugging jeans—he was a decade ago. His proliferation is easy to understand, because his style requires no effort. Change nothing. No wonder he has numerous stuck-in-time siblings, like his urban-styled brethren.

Women, certainly in the U.S., are judged harshly when we’re not deemed sufficiently  thin, perky and unwrinkled — which rules out plenty of us over 40, let alone 50.

It also focuses way too much attention on the size of our hips or ass when we really need to focus attention on the size of our paychecks and investments for retirement.

Active, curious,open minds and generous hearts are every bit as important — and generally far more within our control — as the inevitable ravages, and sometimes really lousy luck, faced by an aging body.

Some of the coolest women I know live in my apartment building, like M. who’s 80 — and feels about 60 — with fab clothes and a pompadour, a booming laugh and a spirit that still kicks ass.

I want to be her.

When you look in the mirror — especially those of you over 30 — are you happy with what you see?

31 thoughts on “Get that needle away from my face!

  1. It’s sometimes weird to see myself and know I look middle-aged. I never thought I’d get this far! I’m not really sure what to make of it, but overall I like the idea. The thinner skin, the fine lines, and the gray hair are rewards for passing a durability test.

    It helps, though, to keep your life centered in something resembling the “real world.” When I worked in wealthy West LA, it was harder to keep a sense of perspective. There are reasons, I think, to stay away from a certain type of culture if you can: it distorts what you think is normal and expected. It helps to some extent to spend only so much time with youth and glamor-glorifying media. They make you think you have to look perfect, as well as have a lot of stuff you don’t need.

    1. I bey you look great — because you have a sense of humor and perspective. Better that than a faces swelled with godknowswhat…

      I see the stick-figure women with ropy arms here, size 00…all bones. I guess their husbands like it. I think they actually look grotesque, so they don’t really bother me.

  2. I’m still ten years away from asking that question, but I’m eating healthier, I’ve lost weight, and just walking to and from classes gives me a lot of exercise. Plus I don’t drink or smoke and I enjoy life. I think I’ll look okay in 10+ years.
    By the way, I’ve read the manga “Pretty Face” and it was one of my favorite series at the time I read it. I was so sad that it ended after only six volumes. It was a real treat seeing it here on your blog (but you might want to let people who don’t read manga know how the reference relates to plastic surgery. Saves them the trip to Wikipedia).

  3. I think it is important to grow old gracefully. I especially want to be a good example for my daughter so when she commented that she wanted her belly to be flatter I told her that I don’t talk negatively about my body and she shouldn’t either. What matters is that she is strong and healthy. I notice things lately that I feel better on days when I avoid processed sugar. That is what I focus on, how I feel instead of how I look.

    1. So important! Daughters really do look to their moms for guidance in how to be a woman…strong and healthy is key. Pretty is nice. Thin is fine. But kind and smart are also really essential.

  4. Ha, this whole aging thing has gone far beyond our grandmother’s day. I just turned 76 and, with some minor modifications, I feel the same as I felt 10 years ago. That old cliche, “You’re only as old as you feel,” hangs around because there’s real truth to it.

    Am I happy with what I see when I look in the mirror? Nowadays, it’s all relative. I’ve given up wishing I would see my 30-year-old self. Now I see what I see and try and accept it. I still don’t go out without makeup, and I see that as a sign that I’m not ready to give up yet. I don’t die my hair but that’s only because my hair is salt-and-pepper and looks okay as it is.

    Last year, when I turned 75, I considered it a pretty big milestone and wrote about it on my other blog, “Ramona’s Voices”. It’s here:

    Good conversations here. It’s always fun!


    1. Well, we all (if we’re lucky!) are living much longer…and often in better health.

      I feel pretty much as I did a decade ago (I’m 20 yrs your junior) but I have much less patience for bullshit and I do have somewhat less physical stamina for insane amounts of work. I am determined to work less and earn more.

      I have a photo from about 15 years ago and I was a lot thinner — like 30+ pounds. I do want to shed that weight but I won’t go crazy doing it. Life is tough enough in some ways as it is.

      Thanks for commenting — and glad you’re enjoying the conversation!

  5. I have been blessed to grow up surrounded by women who, like you are comfortable with their different aging bodies. My mother is one of few among her friends who is letting her hair grow grey, and I spend my Saturdays at home at the local knitting store with women aged 30-60s, all of whom have led different and exciting lives. They are gay, straight, black, white, African, Filipino, Mexican and American. I’ve loved getting to know each one of them and been inspired by them!
    Thanks for this post and inspiring others to love and accept their bodies! And keep hanging with younger people! I feel my relationships with older women are such a gift and I bet your friends feel the same!

    1. Thanks.

      Odd to be “the older woman”…she said, looking behind her. 🙂

      I find my younger friends enjoy having someone with a bit of wisdom or advice (esp. work related) without the pressure or expectation of their mothers.

  6. while there is no doubt i look different and it’s clear i’ve lived life, i am happy with what i see, never really get bothered by my age, just wish i still had the energy i once had, but happily to trade that for understanding and experience )

  7. Great post. I missed your insightful posts while I was on hiatus from cyberspace.

    I read just recently – in Cosmo of all things (don’t ask, I was desperate) – that the “vogue” in Paris is to let those wisps of grey show…as it indicates you have much better things to do then sit for hours in a salon. Anyways, youth is fleeting, beauty is forever 😉

  8. Years ago, when I was still, ahem, young. . .I read something Maggie Kuhn, head of the Gray Panthers, wrote about living among the old. She said there was no way she would ever live in a Senior Citizen complex like Sun City, where there were no young people. She couldn’t imagine having or wanting to live in a place where young people weren’t welcomed. They added so much to her life and, she hoped, she could add to theirs. Besides that, they were more fun than those crotchety old people. (ad libbing here–it was something like that)

    I knew then and there I would be the same kind of old person she was. I’ll never be a Maggie Kuhn but I will be someone who loves life, works for causes, and is perfectly comfortable talking to young people without talking down to them.

    There is a senior citizen park near Myrtle Beach that doesn’t allow children to stay overnight! Apparently they can come with their parents for a short visit but they’re outta there when the sun goes down. What a sad existence that must be.

    1. I was talking to one of my editors recently at a Big Women’s Magazine…and she was talking about inter-generational friendship.

      It had not occurred to me that this is unusual.

      But it might be…I see women in my apartment building my age (and much older) who seem to hang out only with their age group. It’s true that people in their 20s or 30s have little understanding of what life is like 40 years later, but how else do you find out? Some people are not very close to their older relatives, if they even have any.

  9. I find it an indictment on the shallowness of western society that age is viewed as a disability – that women in particular are pushed to cosmetic proedures to look youthful. Men get it too, particularly relative to baldness (though that’s not so bad of late, given that bald is fashionable).

    The reality? We can help ourselves best, I think, by healthy living and diet – and by accepting that, yes, sure time passes. But so what? That old adage about being only as old as you think you are is, often, quite true. I don’t feel any different, myself, to what I did when I was 30…and that was 20 years ago.

  10. Renée Camus

    I’m fortunate to look younger than I am too, so I have no problem admitting my age. People are usually very surprised to learn that I’m 43. It’s good too, because I’m essentially restarting my career, a difficult thing at this age. And I probably wouldn’t look quite as young without dying my hair regularly (the purple probably makes me look younger too, I’d guess). I certainly don’t feel like I’ve been on this planet for 43 years, and I definitely credit many of the things you listed for helping me look younger (ie: I don’t drink or smoke or ingest caffeine). I also never had children, which I think makes a big difference. As you mentioned, “terror and 24/7 anxiety will age anyone quickly.” 😉

    1. I don’t have kids, and I see a big difference in some of the women I know who have. I have one friend my age, who has one autistic son whose behaviors have created great challenges since birth, and she looks a decade older. Stress will do that.

      1. Renée Camus

        Yep, I noticed Barack Obama’s hair when he was reporting about the Shutdown. His hair is very gray now. I remember noticing that with other presidents too. Instant stress=instant gray!

  11. Steve

    Heck, if I’d have known I was going to live this long I’d have taken better care of myself. I’m only 57, my wife says I don’t look a day over 60 and I feel like 80.

    1. My son recently said that I looked my age, but that I looked good. Whatever that means. I’ll take it to mean I’m human, but I’m hanging in there. What more could we ask?

      1. I wonder what it means, indeed…It asks us to think about what 50 or 60 or 70 — or 27 or 43 are *supposed* to look like.

        The 80 yr old neighbor — spoke to her yesterday. Turns out she’s 89. Good heavens, time flies.

  12. So complicated, this question. Well, at a glance I do. I like that I’m aging well. Like that i look younger than I am. Know that I live well. Treat myself well. Live a healthy lifestyle. But, if I look in that mirror too long everything starts to morph before my eyes like one of those fun-house mirrors and suddenly I see myself in a different light: I see details I think i need to work on and what looked fine a few minutes before, suddenly is unacceptable and usually results in clothes flying everywhere because nothing looks right…. I do think it’s important not to just give in thinking, oh, I’m over 40, or 50, or 60… I can stop trying because aging happens. it’s smart to know what to expect, so you do not have unrealistic expectations, but not smart to give up entirely. There is a ton you can do as a person to halt the feeling of being old/looking old. And without drastic measures, Because this balance is hard to do: learning how much food you need to consume as you age, what types of foods are good for you and not good for you, and how much exercise is really necessary, and actually acting upon it, I think many people do give up, using their advancing age as an excuse. Love your post and you are an awesome role model for women and self-confidence.

    1. That’s very kind of you! I still need to lose a lot of weight — and doubt I will get all of it off, as I’m unwilling to completely forgo alcohol or dessert, even on weekends. I am willing to do more exercise, so am focusing my effort there.

      My mother and I don’t speak, so any advice on this is coming from female friends my age, all of whom look great without the whole Botox drama. The major difference I see is needing to be **meticulous** about grooming — hair, nails, pedicure — as what’s cute and funky at 35 or 45 looks disheveled and ratty as you get older. I sort of like having to be a little more attentive as I usually fly out of the house without a hairbrush…

      It really is helpful for me (although my building can feel like a senior citizens’ home) to be surrounded by men and women in their 70s and way beyond, who dress well and enjoy life, even with canes, walkers or surgeries. I think if I lived surrounded by 20 or 30 somethings, that would be weird.

  13. I made peace with my face before puberty. It seemed sensible. My paternal great great grandmother (one of twelve) died in 1988 aged 102. Her sisters lasted a similar length of time and I grew up with four grandparents, a couple of grand-uncles and aunts, one great grandma, my great-great grandmother and a handful of her siblings. I’ve always known that barring major accident or illness, I would be here for the long haul.

    I’m fine with the laughter lines, the odd scar and the general state of my skin (far from flawless). I suppose I could lose some weight if I put my mind to it, but I’m reasonably strong and healthy, so I’m not too worried. The only thing I’d consider changing is the encroaching grey hair. I noticed the first one the week I turned thirty. If it gets much worse I may consider dyeing it for the first time in my life at the ripe old age of thirty-two.

    I think women who are stunning from the moment they enter the world and spend their young life trading on their looks rather than what is underneath find the ageing process more of a trial. My maternal grandmother was 5’10 and built like a supermodel. She never went under the knife for anything cosmetic to my knowledge, but the diet, early morning exercises, skincare regime and hair appointments were non-negotiable, and leaving the house without matching lipstick and nails would put her in a really foul mood for the rest of the day.

    I have my dad’s genes, the same beauty marks as my great great grandmother (which I guess is a bit odd, but they suit my face), strong cheekbones and a basic make-up kit and comb in my bag. I can paint my face in under ten minutes while standing on a crowded bus, and once painted my nails on the tube en-route to an interview (it was that sort of gig). So long as my sense of humour holds out, I’m sure I’ll survive the wrinkles.

    1. A sense of humor helps a lot! There are women who look a lot younger (Botox, surgery, etc) but have no joy or wit to them, so who cares?

      I’m the sort who always leaves home without a hairbrush or lipstick. I can’t fathom women who spend all their money and energy on their external appearance. Exhausting and expensive. I love to look good but I won’t spend all day achieving it.

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