January 05, 2007

Aging, or ageless?

Unfortunately, there are realities we women have to face, one of which is that the world celebrates youth and its glowing tans, reed-thin dimensions and clear fresh faces. And most often, relationships are formed on first impressions.

Something Like Life
Jan. 5-6, 2007

TWO days before New Year’s Day I made a devastating discovery.

I was seated at my dresser putting on makeup for a trip to the mall when, to my horror, I saw tiny fine lines beginning to form around the outer corner of my eyes.

Eek! I screeched. Crow’s feet!

I couldn’t help but go overboard with the concealer and patted just a tad more than usual to try to erase the superfine indentations. They may not be visible to most people but as I scrutinized every inch of my face, the lines seemed to multiply and I started noticing a few crinkles forming on my forehead and—dear me!—laugh lines!

What a way to greet the New Year! Here I was feeling all chipper after having just survived Christmas, now looking like an old hag. Why couldn’t I look like one of the Witches of Eastwick instead?! Sexy, looking youthful, all spruced up and ready for Jack Nicholson’s taking!

I blended the concealer ever so gingerly to make sure all spots and lines were covered, or at least visibly minimized. As I swept the foundation all over my face, then applied the rest of my makeup, I calmed down a bit, secure in the vision of beauty that lay in the mirror before me. I was young again!

It was one of those times when I wished I were a man instead. Notice how crow’s feet, eyebags and a lined forehead make George Clooney even more handsome? Remember gorgeous George romping around the first two seasons of ER when he was thinner and in his early 30s? And now at 45, despite the rounder heavily lined face, he is the Sexiest Man Alive of 2006, according to People magazine.

I couldn’t help but think that this is one of Nature’s cruel jokes on women. I mean, women’s lives are already so much more difficult with pregnancy; do we have to look like crones as soon as the lines start crisscrossing our foreheads and our cheeks start sagging into jowls? On the other hand, as males grow older, graying hair makes them look distinguished fine gentlemen. Even wrinkles on their faces make them appear respectable.

I know it sounds silly for me to fret over a few hardly visible lines around my eyes. Haven’t I always said that 40 is the new 30? So I may feel young but my complexion appears to be having difficulty keeping up with me.

Unfortunately, there are realities we women have to face, one of which is that the world celebrates youth and its glowing tans, reed-thin dimensions and clear fresh faces. And that most often, relationships are formed on first impressions. Judgments are made on one’s appearances instead of one’s character. Have a male CEO choose between a clueless pretty young thing and a woman with a matronly appearance and demeanor, and you can bet whom he would choose to hire as his secretary—yes, despite the latter probably having better qualifications and experience for the job.

Once time starts marching across our faces, it’s time to book the Botox, ladies! Not that I would undergo those toxic injections myself. Besides, on a journalist’s salary I wouldn’t be able to afford them. Still, if I had enough funds, would I have Botox to freeze age in its tracks, albeit temporarily? Hmmm....

Of course, I have no one to blame but myself. In my youth, I worshipped the sun and used tanning oil on my face and entire body quite liberally. Being quite fair in complexion, I would have to sunbathe for two days under the noontime sun just to get a golden tan. Heck! No one talked about skin cancer and melanomas back then!

Once I reached 30, however, and all scientific studies talked about the horrific dangers of sun worship on the skin, I junked my annual summer sunbathing ritual. I went into overdrive trying to protect my face, especially after a therapist at a skin care center told me that my face was suffering from sun damage. The closeup photos of my complexion didn’t look too appealing—it was red and splotchy. I was now condemned to face a lifetime of moisturizers and inspecting the SPF on each sun block on every cosmetics counter.

So like many other women, I have joined the growing numbers in buying expensive facial products in a bid to keep wrinkles at bay. This is no easy task, mind you, as there are many brands which purport to be the best and the most effective antiaging, anti-wrinkle, line-correcting cream ever to arrive at a beauty counter. Just think of the millions of jars of this stuff that is sold by the minute everywhere in the world. The quest for the fountain of youth in a beauty jar is merciless. Women spend huge amounts of money every year in an almost desperate attempt to beef up their skin-care regimen.

Of course, you could say, “Why bother with all that gunk for our faces?” Can’t we just all relax and simply age gracefully like, say, Susan Sarandon or Katharine Hepburn who kept on working despite being afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. Kate was a real beauty, a diva even, right until she passed on.

Well, a popular facial soap brand last year began a campaign for real beauty...putting fat and old people on their print ads and billboards. The “ageless” ads showed a smiling woman with white hair and a creased face. Despite this, we know for a fact that cosmetologists and plastic surgeons will still be booked back-to-back this year in an endless round of treatments for women conscious of their crinkly crow’s feet, burgeoning puson, sagging bottoms and deepening laugh lines. And women’s magazines will not stop putting the same youthful anorexic-looking models on their covers.

The reality is, all women want to be young, thin and gorgeous despite their accomplishments, their fine character and the praise they have garnered for their success.

Despite studies that show none of these beauty creams come close to fulfilling all their youthful promises, we will still keep buying them in the hope that one would prove to be the real deal.

And if by any chance I win the lottery tomorrow, perhaps I too would make a beeline to the best dermatologist for a fixer-upper.

(My column, Something Like Life, appears every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror.)

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