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America’s Youth Culture Shames Women for Growing Up and It’s Hurting Our Girls

obsessed with youth

 

Like every mom, I have a lot on my plate right now. Looking over this week’s schedule, I see that my older daughter has five softball games, one driver’s training lesson, and a fundraiser to attend. The 13-year old has a voice lesson, one dance class, nine hours of play rehearsal, and a birthday party. I have a meeting Monday night, and a work dinner on Wednesday. And those are just the calendar-worthy items. I still have to go to work and teach eighth graders how to read and write, make sure the softball uniform is washed, pay some bills, figure out why the cat is now hurling twice a day, and …what else? Ah,  yes. Feed the family – which means a trip or two to the grocery store. Most likely this will occur in my sweats and a t-shirt – and maybe I’ll sport a ponytail, if I’m feeling fancy.

 

At the grocery check-out, I am guaranteed to be greeted with glossy magazine covers with air-brushed faces reminding me that “youth is beauty.” Their articles will entice me to do everything possible not to look my age with the same recycled headlines I’ve seen for decades:

 

11 Foods That Can Help You Look Younger!

Hollywood’s Secrets to Younger Looking Skin!

How to Lose 10 Years:: 9 Tricks Dermatologists Won’t Share!

 

Sometimes I’m amused by their “revolutionary” findings. SMH! Who knew that drinking water and sleep was good for me? Sometimes my interest is piqued. Dr. Oz, is there really a mask that will rid me of the ubiquitous worry crease in my forehead? Sometimes I’m morbidly fascinated. (Insert celebrity name), what is up with that crazy plastic surgery?

 

Most of the time, though, I’m just fumed.

 

Fumed how America’s youth culture shames women for growing up. It’s insane – we are made to feel dissatisfied and afraid of, well, … existing and functioning on a normal space-time continuum. We are meant to feel bad that we have existed for another year? How does that even make sense?

 

And yet, billions of dollars are devoted to ad campaigns designed to make women feel unhappy about how we look, promising to turn back the hands of time if we were savvy enough to purchase their product.

 

A study of dating sites conducted by sociologists at the University of Michigan found that a woman’s desirability to other website users began to decline after age 18, whereas a man’s desirability as a potential date could peak as late as 45.  

 

I looked up some aging  studies, and I was shocked. In 2011, a British study found that men reported feeling old at age 58. When women were asked the same question, the majority of women reported that they started feeling old at age 29 (*weeping inside*). More recently, a 2018 study of dating sites conducted by sociologists at the University of Michigan found that a woman’s desirability to other website users began to decline after age 18 (my mind is exploding with thoughts about this statistic), whereas a man’s desirability as a potential date could peak as late as 45.   

Of course, we don’t need these studies to see the truth around us. Men with salt-and-pepper hair are called distinguished and respected, while women spend loads of time and money covering every gray strand in their attempt to still be “relevant” and heard.  At every turn, from Hollywood to D.C. to wherever you might life (in America, anyway), women are encouraged to hide their true age.

 

So, yes, back at the grocery magazine rack, I am fumed.  When shiny, young women (or distinguished older men) shame me for being older by peddling expensive products or procedures that promise to take years off our faces, I am absolutely fumed.  To fight our age-obsessed, botox culture, we as moms must stand together to try and stop the madness.

 

When we are faced with the soul-crushing message in advertisements and in popular culture that the aging process for women is somehow an anomaly that must be battled, our collective response should be, “Ain’t nobody got time for that” (yes, I am referencing that 2012 viral video, and yes, my daughter is cringing)…

 

But, it is true: Where exactly in my day am I going to fit in a multi-step beauty regime that promises to plump out my wrinkles if I faithfully adhere to it, morning and night? Ain’t nobody got time for that! If I am lucky enough to find extra minutes in my day, I certainly am not going to spend it in the bathroom with a .5 oz jar of $189 retinol serum. I am going to grab one of the books piling up next to my nightstand and indulge in a chapter or two.

 

We must make the time to continually share these truths with our children, especially our girls.

And despite this – we must make the time to continually share these truths with our children, especially our girls. Think what a tragic message our daughters are absorbing – if they buy into the values promoted by our youth-obsessed society, our teenagers only have a few more years before they “peak.” They need to be equipped to reject this nonsense better than our generation.

 

Grab your kids and watch this quick video with them: Evolution by Dove Beauty Campaign. I watch it annually with my 14-year old students, and I’ve shown it to my own daughters multiple times. In a time-lapse video, a model’s face is altered to make her look younger, thinner, and more beautiful. It’s a powerful way to pull back the veil for our kids about how our perception of beauty is distorted by the media.  It’s a great way to start the discussion of owning who you are and not letting the media hold us hostage to society’s definition of true beauty.

 

Most importantly, we must teach our children and ourselves that  ain’t nobody got time to accept the message that aging is wrong.

We do not have the time to hate the skin we are living in.

We do not have the time to be distracted from the beauty and joy we are finding in our children, in ourselves, and in the world around us to pause and panic about the very natural process of aging that is occurring.

We don’t have time – nor power – to stop time.  

As the Steve Miller Band told us, “Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future.” Moms know the truth of this statement as they watch their babies slip from cuddling in their Dora nightgowns into their high-school graduation gowns.  We don’t have time to let these precious few days slip away from us while we obsess about how old others think we are.

 

Take heart. I’m not saying we should throw out our moisturizers, stop wearing SPF, and buy a fanny pack. I am saying we should rock our laugh lines. Own our wrinkles. We are beautiful. Don’t feel like you have to take the time to make it look like you have lived less.  Live your life like you have lived more. Seize the day, my aging friends – especially when you are wearing your sweats at the grocery store.

 

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