Questions of aging

Western culture frames aging as a bad thing, and one that we must tackle through the purchase and use of products. Buying stuff to look younger means using material we wouldn’t have needed if we’d been ok about aging in the first place. Make-up, hair dye, skin products, botox and I have no idea what else – but it all clearly has a carbon footprint, creates waste materials and reduces our confidence in ourselves.

It would be better for the planet if we could just get on with getting older and not feel like we have to disguise that totally natural process. If we respected age, then signs of aging would be no issue at all.

One of the issues here is that aging can reflect all sorts of things about our lives and personalities. How your skin ages will be different if you’ve spent a lot of time in the sun, or haven’t. Smoking affects how we age, so does diet. How much fat you carry affects how lines show in your face. Habitual expressions settle into our skin.

It would be better, I think, if we were all less worried about the fact that we age, and more concerned about how we age. The face of a person who has lived well, and richly, and who looks like their body has been lived in, should be something to enjoy and celebrate. The way our lives mark us should be something to take pride in, not feel reduced by. It’s good to have character and be distinctive, and there is far less to be said in favour of looking like a Ken or Barbie doll. We need to give ourselves permission to be real mammals, not plastic toys.

For some people of course, that aging process doesn’t go so well because of what appears in their faces. I know several people who I don’t much like, whose middle aged faces are starting to show those sneering, unkind expressions that are part of who they are. The reasons I don’t like them are, increasingly written all over them. There’s a certain amount of justice in this. The only way to avoid aging in this way is to not go round covered in unkind facial expressions.

Equally, people I know who tend towards kindness, laughter, compassion, and concern are clearly aging with faces that show these things. It doesn’t matter how old and wrinkly they get, their faces will be an expression of the kinds of people they are, and I will always find that lovely to look at.

For some of us, the lines in our faces will be caused by pain and grief, by loss and suffering. I suspect the face I’ll be taking into my latter years (assuming I get there) is going to look worried.

And for some of us, aging won’t be a thing. Accident, illness or violence will account for us before we have chance to get old. It’s worth remembering that getting to grow old is a blessing not everyone experiences. Most of us would prefer whatever state our faces wind up in, to no face at all. If our culture wasn’t so inclined to death-denial, we might be able to talk about this more, and view aging from a different perspective.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “Questions of aging

  • Brendan Birth

    I definitely agree that we should stop trying so hard to cover how old we are or look. Age is not necessarily a bad thing!

  • emberbear

    I’m 55. I am happy to report that I have smile lines around my mouth and eyes, and deep worry lines on my forehead. Such is the nature of life, as you say. No one comes through it unscathed, and it would make no sense to be happy all the time or, indeed, worried incessantly. Life: (I believe this is a quotation from Kurt Vonnegut) We are all here to help one another with it, whatever it is. Another interesting blog, Nimue, thank you.

  • Jessica Triepel

    Nice post! Good job!

  • Christopher Blackwell

    I admit there are things about aging that I wish were different. But then consider the opposite of not aging. That is being dead. But how bad, or how good getting older may be partly a matter of attitude. I am constantly amazed to still be here. Even among the rich, and the famous, you would be amazed how many of them are dying much younger than I. I will be 74 in November.

  • emberbear

    Hi Nimue, this is a response to your entry on magic and writing. Fascinating. It ties in with your thoughts on ageing in a way. So, as I said, I am 55, and over the years I have become acutely aware of the different waves that come along roughly every seven years. You probably know about the waves anyway, but maybe you don’t know yet that it is unwise mix mysticism ( except in very gentle forms of meditation, as I see you do) and parenting until your child approaches adulthood. You mentioned being a parent in another blog and I am sure you are a very nurturing and inspiring one. I think you will find that as your child becomes older the magic will return in a new form of its own accord. And a big thank you for all your writing and your favourite blogs list. They are all fascinating and this evening I have been particularly enjoying Kitchen Witch. I had never made the connection between burdock and burrs before. D’oh!

  • emberbear

    Sorry, typo, ‘unwise to’. Also, not a criticism. I know you’re not because you had walked away anyway of your own accord. But are you enjoying the very real magic of supporting the growth of a young being ? For me, it has been an amazing experience so far, though tough at times. I would love to see a post on your thoughts. One thing I know for sure is that you will have exposed your child to the greatest gift of all after constant parental love – nature!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: