Monday, 26 May 2014

"Who wants to look old?"

That was the question posed by someone vain on the paper-thin documentary I'm watching at the moment instead of writing an essay.

The person who came out with the offending line was some teenager's dad, who'd spent £14k on plastic surgery and hair transplants and teeth whitening. He looked like he was made of wax - but young wax. Freshly moulded wax, that had not yet been left out in the sun to melt. Who wants to look old, indeed?

I kind of can't wait to be old. I'll probably panic in middle age when everything sags, but it's not like I've got a tiny size 6 booty to lose. A bit of a complacent spread, bingo wings and dimpled thighs don't really bother me - I've sort of got those going on already. Whatever, I like food.

And I'm fairly ambivalent about my face too. Selfies irritate me and I wear make-up like warpaint, as an extra layer of protection if I need help to face the day. I remember wearing blood-red lipstick to my University Challenge heat, which I messed up - but it made me feel brave, a little separated from myself. Fearless. Hashtag fierce.

So, once the minor fear of aging has passed, I shall dance gleeful into my 50s. I shall wear purple, with a red hat that doesn't go, and definitely is not a reference to a poem. I will be as mad as possible, speak frankly about sex and drugs, and scare the kids into order.

I am far more worried about being successful than I am about being pretty. Who wants to look young forever? I'd rather look lived-in, experienced, with a face that can tell a hundred stories for every laugh line on it.

Why don't we want to look old, though? This is what worries me. And I think it comes down to the inevitable: death.

If you're busy looking good for yourself rather than for potential partners, it's not really about sex any more. And, if sex is not the driving force behind your actions, it's death. While I am aware my psychology here is generalising at best, and woefully incorrect at worst, hear me out.

We know so much these days. We know we might live to a hundred and ten, but we also know we can't live past hundred and twenty. Fifty is a mid-life crisis. After that, your best years are all gone, aren't they? Or, if not the best years - well, the bulk of them. Your body falls apart, bit by bit. And if you admit to looking old, to having had a life that's left its marks on your face, then you're haggard and tired, stressed and careless. Not taking care of yourself.

I think we run away from the simple fact of our aging because it's a reminder of the simple fact of our inevitable deaths.

Why bother with tans? With straight teeth and perfect eyebrows? If all we're doing is running away from our own mortality, making ourselves look instagram-ready isn't going to help us do anything. Life is short. So we'd better spend it doing useful things rather than preening and primping.

And that's why I can't wait to be old, really; because, I think, by the time I get there, I'll have done stuff worth talking about. Being old will be proof I've made it through this turbulent, tumultuous journey called youth. I'll have all the best stories to tell, and an old face will be an invitation for you to hear them.

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