Why are so many women afraid of ageing?
You’ve probably heard or even said this saying yourself: A lady never tells her age.
Growing up, I heard people say that it’s inappropriate to ask a woman’s age. The phrase got stuck in my head. Sometimes I would joke and say something like that, although I didn’t understand the meaning behind it.
I don’t know the roots of this saying, but Oscar Wilde once said, “One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. A woman who would tell one that would tell one anything.” Despite my love for Oscar Wilde, I don’t see anything wrong with admitting your real age.
We all get older, but once again, women have to pretend they don’t. So many women are frightened of someone exposing the great secret and finding out that they do in fact age.
Stereotypes about women hiding their age are slowly disappearing. But altering their bodies to look younger is thriving. You’ll see a woman in her late 40s, who looks like she hasn’t aged a day since her 20th birthday. Other women see these few exceptions and compare themselves.
But we forget that these beautiful young-looking women are an exception. They might have great genes, or they are rich and can afford personal trainers, nutritionists, and plastic surgeons. Regardless, we tirelessly try to replicate impossible beauty, and in this case, age standards.
Why are women afraid of ageing?
My friend and I were talking about our mothers and female friends, and their fear of getting old. She told me about her colleagues in their mid-twenties who regularly go through painful procedures to have smoother skin, and be as skinny as they were in their adolescent years.
I know that the problem is deeply rooted in Eastern European culture and women’s lives in general. So, I wondered—is it true that a woman’s greatest fear is getting old?
I don’t blame these young women for wanting to alter their appearance to look more youthful and flawless. They’ve been told that it’s the only way a woman can bring value to our world, and find love. If your looks are what make you precious, then you can’t lose them to the passing years.
I don’t want to sound hateful. I have nothing against the desire to look good. And I love taking care of my appearance. But it’s one thing to enjoy beauty procedures, and another to feel obligated to have them to feel worthy.
Ageism is what we should be afraid of. Age in our society brings a much heavier burden than a few wrinkles.
Ageism—or discrimination based on age—is more prevalent than ever. Life is changing as we speak; new technologies transform the way we work, communicate, and live our lives. For people who grew up in a pre-digital era, it’s more challenging to follow every new update. Therefore, when everything migrates online, some people are pushed to the outline.
92% of employees admit that they have experienced age-based discrimination at work. At the same time, only 10% of people in their sixties are employed. And according to the Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey, only 12% of women feel confident about their financial well-being after retirement.
But are we actually afraid of not being able to find a job, equally compete with younger counterparts, and ensure ourselves comfortable retirement? Or are we just worried about losing something as fragile as our looks?
I’m still young, and I don’t want to sound shallow by saying I feel old, or I’m afraid of getting old. But I am. My birthday was a few days ago, and every time before the big day, I feel the unstoppable speed of time. Each year it seems that I do and achieve less. Experience fewer new things, and sink into a routine.
I don’t know if I’m afraid of losing my looks or experiences. I always wondered if the fear of getting old is actually a hidden fear of dying. And I try to convince myself that death should be the least of my concerns.
But it’s not the dread of death itself. It’s the loss of all the things I haven’t done. And while you can’t control the course of time, you can try to hold onto your appearance and trick yourself into looking young.
The sad truth is, many people are dead way before their day comes.
In my culture, passing a certain threshold means that you lose new opportunities and your window to have fun. I look at my mother. She is active, but at the same time, most of her excuses begin with, “I’m too old.” She hates that her body is changing, but she’s okay with all the great things passing by.
I’m afraid of ageing, because I saw women in my family age. They tried to hide it, they stopped doing what they enjoyed, and they gave themselves to others. I’m afraid of losing my opportunities. I don’t want to pass 50 and start counting days to my death.
I remember my grandmother used to keep a dark dress in her closet. She said it was for her funeral. She also had a gravestone waiting for her next to my grandfather’s grave, with her birth date on it. I’ve never understood those traditions, besides saving money.
This heritage is still evident in my culture. But now, women are rich enough and free to stop the process. Young women in their twenties undergo painful plastic surgery, Botox injections, face stretching, and pealing, just to buy themselves some more time. Sometimes, I find myself looking at the mirror and analysing my skin; counting new wrinkles and blemishes.
I wonder why we do these things. Is it a culture that obligates women to look young and beautiful, or is it us, afraid of losing time?
I have nothing against people who choose to alter their looks. But I am against the culture that says that this is the only way a woman can be accepted. Women are racing with time and gravity. Because they are constantly told that only beautiful, young women can get a man and thereby prove their worth. If you let yourself “go,” your man will leave you for a younger, prettier, better woman.
Fear sets us against time. Life is a gift, but like any great thing, it comes with many challenges. Ageing may be one of them. But if we choose to accept these different stages of life, we could see how many positive things each stage brings.
Now, I realise that everyone decides the way they want to live their life. Do you want to race time and waste your best years fighting your own skin and flesh? Or do you want to accept that your worth isn’t about fewer wrinkles on a forehead, and that you can’t wrestle with death forever?
I’m trying to stop worrying about the time passing by and enjoy as much of life as I can. Because yes, I’m still young, but I don’t have to stop living when I get older.
I try to accept that each day my body is changing. I might lose my looks, but that’s why I choose to continually grow as a person. Because a personality will never fade.