Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Just for Girls: Keeping it Real

This will not come as a surprise to anyone, but the world we live in is full of monumenally fake people, liars, sneaks and cheats. Whats more, this kind of conduct is actually applauded and held up as good and something us women should aspire to.

Okay so what in the world am I talking about? Yesterday while in the waiting room at the doctor's office I was thumbing through a popular magazine. What struck me about all the ads for cosmetics in this particular magazine, was that the models had perfectly flawless porcelain-like skin. Not a wrinkle, not a mole, not a single natural looking thing about them. Then all the captions telling me its perfectly okay to flat out lie about my age, hide who I really am, and even be ashamed of the way I look and push myself to cover up the natural me for the uber-perfectly-balanced-skin-tone me. Of course none of this comes as a shock to me, but it struck me that these kinds of cosmetics ads seemed way more in-your-face and over the top than the last time I thumbed through a popular womens magazine. The funny thing is that in this magazine there was exactly 1 picture of a real woman. Way in the back, tucked in among all sorts of other miscellaneous stuff was a picture of a heavy set woman in a dress you'd find at any WalMart type store. She was standing in her garden, smiling. She truly looked more real and approachable than any of the porcelain-skinned women in the huge ads all through the magazine.

Now, I'm not someone who is against using make up or other various products to improve one's look. Myself, I have had very dark circles under my eyes since I was about 12 years old, and with the passing of time they just get darker and darker, making me feel like I look like Mom of the Living Dead. Do I really look like that? Probably not, but to me it feels like I do so I use a vitamin oil under my eyes to lighten up those Zombie shadows. It works, and I've seen a rather remarkable improvement since I started using it a few weeks ago. So I'm certainly not someone who is against improvements of this kind. But if there was a product I could put on my face that would take years off my appearance, that actually might creep me out just a little bit. I'm 44 years old and I dont want to look 20. It's not natural and it's not normal.

Its definitely not something new or unique but it also struck me again as I looked at those ads, that it is no wonder we have a culture obessessed with youth and beauty and perfection. Girls with eating disorders and older women that spend (literally) a fortune to make themselves appear 20 years old no matter how old they really are. Its a major headgame the cosmetics industry plays and the saddest thing of all is that it appeals to our vanity and pride and it works. It works to the tune of millions (maybe more, I didn't check) of dollars pouring into the accounts of these companies, and millions of women both young and old, fighting the battle of age. A battle they will lose no matter what they do or how much money they spend. There is no such thing as the Fountain of Youth. You will age and it will show in your face and that's just the way it is.

And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that! Oh I know, the cosmetics industry hires genius marketing people to tell you differently, but they're lying through their teeth and we all know it. So you get a few wrinkles, your upper lids get a little puffy (over the counter stuff does NOT work, do not waste your money), and your skin starts to sag a bit here and there. This is the very normal aging process and it happens to us all. If you can find a product (I use Bio Oil) that can help make the skin a little healthier looking then by all means use it, but to literally obesses over looking and staying young is just the saddest thing women could possibly do because it's a complete illusion, destined for failure.

We all know it when we see those cosmetics ads that these models don't really look like this. We've all seen the tabloid covers where the paparazzi have caught celebritries in the "caught without make up!" mode and many of them look vastly different without it, than what we're used to seeing. Years ago I was in the airport at the ticket counter and ran into a hugely popular actress from the show Melrose Place. The only reason I recognized her was because of her unique hairstyle and smile - but other than that - she was make up free and didn't really look anything like what she did on the show. It struck me how much more real she looked, without all the junk on her face.

So all that, to say this: don't waste your time, money and energy on a losing battle. These are precious resources us women have and where we spend them does matter. Not only that, the younger women around us see us as their examples of how to age gracefully, so lets be good examples to them, and show them it's okay to get older, without going fake.