Gray Hair & Wrinkles Mean We’ve Arrived!

by Anne Mason

We put so much effort into toxin free living, why would we then inject it into our faces? Let’s embrace these badges of experience and wisdom instead of trying to diminish, mask or erase them.

My girlfriends and I enjoying a day out in nature together––sans Botox, facelifts or make-up.

The topic of Botox, facelifts and aging has come up a lot recently in my circle of women. I’m almost 49, and my circle of friends includes thirty, forty and fifty something women. Like most anyone, I had encountered or knew women who had had cosmetic surgery or botox injections done, but I’ve only recently become aware of how widespread a practice it has become. And I’m quite shocked.

I’ve apparently been completely out of the loop, but I had been under the impression that the plastic surgery trend had peaked in the US in the 80s/90s and was on the decline. And while I was aware of the practice of injecting something into one’s face to reduce lines and wrinkles, I had the impression it was primarily employed by Hollywood actresses and occasional Ladies who Lunch.

Not so.

Botox has become an increasingly common procedure even offered at beauty salons and spas, and women of all walks and ages seem to be jumping on the bandwagon. I recently learned that women I know in their thirties have been getting routine Botox treatments. And I hear it’s now recommended that women even in their twenties get started on this procedure, ostensibly to prevent wrinkles from even developing in the first place in the normal course of a lifetime of smiling or furrowing one’s brow.

What the….?

I had no idea what Botox actually was. I wasn’t even aware there was any difference between that and collagen injections. There is. Botox is what actually causes BOTULISM! It’s the toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria which causes the flaccid paralysis which leads to the respiratory failure associated with botulism food poisoning fatalities. People now pay to have this poison injected into their faces to paralyze the facial muscles in order that they don’t move and cause wrinkles.

I can’t really even believe that I’m typing that as if it’s a normal thing. Isn’t this insane? Isn’t this another huge warning sign that our culture is heading in the wrong direction? And even more bizarre, many women who engage in this practice are the same women who advocate for organic, non-GMO food, and who strive to live as toxin-free lives as possible––for themselves and for their families.

How can we resolve this disconnect?

I understand I haven’t walked in everyone’s shoes. I also understand I’ve been blessed with an appearance I’m content with. I’m a pretty healthy, active, and fairly fit 48 year old woman. My parents raised me with an emphasis on physical exercise and health, and I’m sure that’s served me well as I’ve gotten older. And I live in Northern California, where it’s conducive to be outdoors a lot, breathing in the fresh air and taking in the healthy sunshine. All good ingredients toward physical health.

However, I’m still trying to get my head around this idea of trying to look younger than we are. Especially for a married woman who has already had her children. Why would I want to look younger than 48? I am 48!

I know this isn’t the norm, but in my 20s and 30s, I looked forward to reaching my 40s. My younger self felt that by 40, I would have reached an age of legitimacy. An age by which I had gained enough life experience that I would have enough of a clue to be able to own my space here on Earth. That I would legitimately have a say about how things are done. That I would finally touch what it must feel like to be the respected elder in the society.

“Female Empowerment” is a popular slogan these days. A forty something year old woman paying someone to inject paralyzing poison into her facial muscles in an attempt to look younger than her maturely wizened self seems anything but empowered. It suggests she does not want to be who or where she is in life. It suggests she regrets her life’s experience. It suggests she wishes she were younger.

I enjoyed my youth, and I enjoyed my twenties and thirties. But I think most women would agree that there is a unique pleasure in reaching one’s forties. I think we kind of catch up to ourselves as we shed the maiden self in need of approval, protection, acceptance. Women in their forties stop caring as much about what others think or want them to do or be, and they begin to inhabit themselves more fully. Women in their forties take their life’s experience and apply it to new endeavors, new careers, new companies, new directions. In my and many of my peers’ experience, the forties can be a lot of fun. We’ve taken enough turns around the sun to know what life’s about, and we start really enjoying and understanding this human female experience.

I don’t want to return to the naivety of my youth, when life was more overwhelming, and decisions more fraught with worry or anxiety. The future is now, and I embrace all that’s led me here. I regard my gray hair with reverence and respect. I consider it powerful. It represents my wisdom and experience. My smile lines and crow’s feet indicate a life fully experienced, felt and lived. My forehead lines indicate years of expression and contemplation. This is what I bring to the table. This is what demonstrates my authority. My age. My experience. My wisdom.

I am not the virgin maiden anymore. I am a mother and a wife, a homeowner and a business owner. I gave birth to two kids and breastfed them, and it shows. My tummy is not as taut or flat as it was before motherhood. My hips are wider. My breasts are saggier. My body has done the beautiful job it was blessed to do. Why would I want it to look as if it hadn’t been through that blessed experience and rite of womanhood passage?

This life is a process of growth and stages and development. I perceive the three distinct stages of a woman’s life––if she’s fortunate to live long enough––as the archetypal maiden, mother, crone. The fertile maiden brings a supple body and a fresh and hopeful naivety to the table. We need her. The mature mother brings a capable body of experience and honed purpose to the table. We need her. The crone brings the wisdom of the years of maidenhood, motherhood, grandparenthood and beyond to the table. We need her.

But if all we’ve got sitting around the table are maidens, mothers trying to be maidens, and crones trying to be maidens, how far can we go? How powerful can we be? How can we move forward into the future, when we’re desperately clinging to some illusion of the past? If we want to be treated with reverence and respect, we must behave like grown-ups. We should allow our physical selves to reflect the experience we bring to the world, and we should embrace the power in that. And stop injecting poison into our bodies in order to look like little girls.

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