Society keeps telling women that wrinkles make us ugly – and apparently, beauty is still the only criterion used to assess our worth. Our looks count more than men’s. And men’s knowledge and freedom count more than ours. I wonder when this is finally going to change – at least, I guess, not as long as brainless misogynists are elected presidents.
I’ve decided that this year and every year from now on, I’m going to be proud of the lines that have been forming in my face, and stop being ashamed of them. My wrinkles show that I have suffered and grown, that I am passionate and like to laugh.
Next month I’m turning 34. I’ve decided that I’m going to stop worrying whether I have begun to ‘look my age’ (note how emotionally charged this expression of a harmless fact of life has become, and how insulting it sounds to us), because it’s a fine age to be. I’m going to quit wondering when men will stop finding me attractive since they are so used to seeing only smooth, flawless skin on women well into their forties (even fifties, if they are so lucky to be selected for a starring role) every time they watch a movie or an ad. I’m going to stop worrying because I don’t need a man to tell me I’m beautiful before I can see it and believe it myself.
I’m not going to give in to the pressure to be thin, because the joy of eating good food and the love I have for my imperfect, but fully-functioning body are larger than my craving for attention and approval.
I’m going to stop spending any more time on things that cause me to lose sight of what actually matters. Our culture makes it way too easy for women to focus on our looks and supposed flaws, but I’m sick of us becoming as superficial as society wants us to be.
I have many dreams and goals, but winning a beauty contest isn’t one of them. I want to be wise and funny and kind. I want to write lots more stories and take lots more photographs and perfect my French and improve my Spanish and live in more places and travel the world and meet lots more people and volunteer at animal sanctuaries and read lots more books and make some silly horror shorts with my friends and be there for my family and friends and become a better listener and have many meaningful conversations and be a role model for my nieces and draw and handletter wise quotes and try out new recipes and open a vegan food van and teach all my favourite students online, from abroad. Yes, there’s a chance I won’t be able to tick every single one of these pursuits off my list, but I do hope I get old enough to experience most of them, and I definitely won’t let sexist, ageist society dictate how I’m going to feel about myself or what types of worries I’m going to waste my time on.
I’m going to stop thinking about how others might perceive me, and stop telling myself I’m not good enough. Instead, I’m going to appreciate the fact that I’m a healthy, living creature, able to enjoy so many things that are enriching and fulfilling and don’t require a specific kind of appearance.
Aging isn’t evil. It’s complex, it’s bittersweet. And it can provide you with the best of human qualities, those not yet known to the young: wisdom, kindness, patience, and serenity.
5 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolution”
So beautiful Lisa…I am going to share your thoughts…as every woman out there should read this… Be yourself…not how society expects and wants us to be. Xx
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Thank you Breda! 🙂 xx
Great post Lisa! I was fortunate enough I think to have a sneak peak (or maybe not) at this post and it was interesting to read from a man’s (debatable but let’s accept that for now) perspective Obviously, I can’t claim to know what it would be like to be a woman in an increasingly materialistic and superficial world (although I’m sure you’d agree the double standard has existed for decades if not centuries and was probably worse in some ways before) but you have beautifully presented the challenges faced by women as they, like all of us, inevitable grow older. I love that you’ve articulated how growing older offers women the riches of wisdom and self acceptance among other things which are sadly overlooked or under-appreciated by society. It would be great if, as the other poster commented, many more women read this post but I hope that men have the chance to read it as well.
More generally, I hope people have the fortune to read your other posts and writings and see your great photos which are refreshing and thought provoking. I hope you continue to share your gift of writing and photography and passion with the world and that your audience grows with time.
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Great resolution! I’m inspired by your affirmation and celebration of aging as a process that is about the person you are becoming not about the beauty and youth that society encourages you to think you are losing. You’re right! Wrinkles are the way your experiences of the world get etched into your body, and instead of lamenting them, we should love them. Instead of focusing on trying to erase them, we would fare better to focus on the marks we’re leaving behind on the world!
I think society’s general distaste for aging stems from (in the Western world especially) an underlying fear of death, and a denial of our mortality. Acknowledging aging as inevitable and an important part of life’s progression would mean admitting that we are going to die someday and then we’d have to work through that traumatic realization. All this emphasis on looking young, stopping the aging process, and the progression of time reinforces this fantasy that we will never die. It’s a distraction! And it only makes dealing with death and dying all the more difficult.
And I think you’re right, women especially are subject to this expectation of eternal youth more than men, which speaks to the ways our society values men’s concerns over those of women’s. It seems to be a way to take the focus off the aging of men’s bodies, to temper their feelings of anxiety, and vulnerability about their own finitude and project them onto women. And this also works to keep women frantically busy and preoccupied with their appearance, putting all their energy into fighting a losing and tenuous battle, instead of focusing on more important matters like being better human beings and making meaningful contributions to the world.
So keep doing what you’re doing!
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Thanks, Sara! I completely agree. I think our focus on preserving a youthful appearance, like so many of our seemingly important, but ultimately meaningless habits and pursuits (such as our preoccupation with status and recognition, or our accumulation of objects/ belongings), is really just a way of suppressing our awareness of our mortality and reflects our refusal to face the futility of our existence. Whenever we acknowledge this truth, we are bound to feel helpless and powerless, but it’s also a chance for us to gain a sense of freedom and embrace our individuality.