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The Outdated Construct of Ageing Gracefully and Why it’s Time to Let it Go

Despite the new era of Fake News in which we now find ourselves living, there is a lot of ‘truth telling’ happening across social media as well as in traditional media (the latter to a lesser degree I would argue).  The ever-increasing conversations around mental health, suicide, rape, sexual harassment, gender equality and diversity and body positivity are undeniably having transformative effects on the way certain populations identify themselves and others.  What’s not to love about that?  But, there remain innumerable ideals and standards imposed upon us that persist in drawing a line in the sand – you’re either THIS, or THAT, you look like THIS, ergo, you are THAT, you do THIS, therefore, you can’t be THAT.

As humans we seem hard-wired in many aspects of our thinking to lean towards such binary oppositions, to latch on to mutually exclusive notions that preclude any possibility of a sliding scale or spectrum within the constructs (whatever they may be) ourselves and others choose to identify with.

I’d only recently discovered a new Instagram fave, the12ishstyle by Katie Sturino, when my jaw hit the floor whilst reading comments on a post detailing her recent Botox appointment.

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Many of Sturino’s followers could have cared less about her regular Botox treatments, or simply ignored them altogether, opting instead to obsess over her earrings.  But for others, this post was construed as completely undermining every single body positive post that had gone before it.  The commentary concurred that @the12ishstyle “looked like all the other women now” (really???  Is that kinda like saying all Asians look the same?  cue, “I’m not a racist, but………”), that she had let them down and they were unfollowing, that her views on body positivity couldn’t possibly be relevant because of her choice to use Botox.

Ummmmm, WITAF.

Body positivity is acceptance and appreciation of all human body types.[1][2] It is a social movement rooted in the belief that all human beings should have a positive body image, and be accepting of their own bodies as well as the bodies of others.[3] The movement sets forth the notion that beauty is a construct of society, and poses that this construct should not infringe upon one’s ability to feel confidence or self-worth.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_positivity

As far as I can tell, there are no caveats in that definition, no proviso that says “well, I can be accepting of the bodies of others so long as they don’t have tattoos, or stretch marks, or coloured hair, or botox, or microbladed eyebrows…..”.  It is pretty irrefutable that beauty is a construct of society as the definition states.  However, the assumption that any ‘body mods’ a person undertakes are a result of chasing the prescriptive beauty ‘norm’ is a dangerous one that leads to massive generalisation and marginality in the way we understand choices people make around their own bodies.

I have very prominent tattoos, 3 of them.  There was not one single outside influence responsible for any of them except the death of my father.  I’m not a member of some underground counter-culture, gang, or punk band, I simply think they’re beautiful, and if I’m honest, I’m impulsive.  If I feel like getting a new tattoo, I’ll get one.  Life is short, do the damn thing.

I feel the same way about my botox treatments – which I’ve been having for around 7 years.  The initial impetus was nothing to do with a fear of ageing, of obsessing over ever-increasing wrinkles or a desire to look ‘perfect’, lord knows that’s never going to happen and I could care less.  The reason I choose to have Botox injections (or Dysport, whatever) is that my natural countenance is the very definition of Resting Bitch Face.  The muscles in my forehead pull my frown lines together so tightly, creating such magnificent ruts that you could literally crack an almond between my eyebrows.  I was sick of looking like I was perpetually furious.

Though, because we are so attuned to accepting other’s bodies, and hence the choices one might make surrounding said body, I shouldn’t have to explain this to anyone right?

Wrong.  ‘You do you Boo’ and everything that is fabulous and really quite poignant about this seemingly throwaway, viral phrase doesn’t seem to apply if you’re over 35 and heading down the road of Ageing Gracefully.

As au naturel and simplistic as Aging Gracefully sounds, it’s just another beauty construct, one that effectively marginalizes and throws some pretty negative shade on anyone that veers off the rather narrow path of what is ‘acceptable’.  Creating blueprints and constructs (which is exactly what ‘Aging Gracefully’ is) around what women wear, how they should behave, what they should look like and what they do to their own bodies, is DONE.  Really, really DONE.

I use Dysport to combat frown lines that make small children scared, does that mean I’m not ageing gracefully?  Apparently yes.  Obviously, whoever first coined that phrase has not seen me juggle my Mum Life with work, family, friends and a massive volunteer role in our community.  I’m the very definition of grace people, I’m literally a gazelle leaping across the savannah.  It takes more than blunt force and a stubborn temperament to keep all of those balls in the air.  It requires grace and finesse.

Visiting Dr Ellen Selkon at Clinic 42 is a refreshing experience in a safe, judgement free zone.  She is the fourth cosmetic medicine practitioner I’ve visited over the years, but the first one that skipped over the part where all of my facial imperfections that ‘can be fixed’ have been pointed out – I loved her immediately for this!  For me, Botox and the discussion around it are like anything – it all comes down to personal choice.  I choose it because it has had a profoundly positive effect on the way I feel about my appearance as well as my day-to-day interactions with others.  Put it this way, I don’t get asked ‘what’s wrong?’ multiple times per day as a result of a perpetual scowl that no amount of yoga and meditation was ever going to iron out.  

To answer the most common questions about Botox;

  • Does it hurt?  Barely.  Think tiny pin-pricks.  The needle is in and out in seconds and I feel no residual pain.
  • Does your face even move now?  It sure does, I pretty much have full movement and expression when I raise my eyebrows like everyone else.  The difference is in my resting expression.  The big furrows between my brows are much smoother and relaxed.
  • Is it an ongoing treatment?  Yes.  Each treatment lasts between 3-4 months and I always book ahead to keep on track.  Since I’ve been vigilant around maintaining a regular appointment schedule, I’ve noticed increased efficacy of the treatments. 
  • Will people notice?  Not if your Doctor is amazing!  Friends might just think your skin health has improved or that you look well rested.  You WILL notice though and that’s what matters.

It’s 2018.  We have more freedom, more options, more solutions to the minutiae of problems/challenges/minor or major grievances we face in everyday life and that is the beauty of choice.  Choosing NOT to judge others, choosing to focus on oneself without projecting personal agendas on others, choosing to accept and respond positively to the body image of everyone we meet……….this is what ageing gracefully means to me.  It’s not a measure of outward beauty, rather a mindset of self-acceptance and acceptance of others combined with the inherent knowledge of when to hold one’s tongue!  Commentary around Ageing Gracefully, even if prefaced with “I’m not judging those who do….”  is unnecessary and dated, and creates a very exclusionary dialogue which is, quite frankly, boring and one-sided.  If it’s your position that I (or anyone else) am not Ageing Gracefully because of Botox then perhaps you need a little reminder that it is in fact, no business of yours anyway.

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Melissa

I live in rural Auckland, New Zealand. Two boys, one big, one not so big and 2 boy dogs belong to me and I them. I love Coca Cola in all of its sugar-less forms and I love you internet. I take way too many pictures of my kids and collect them all here. This is what I am doing when I should be cleaning or cooking or doing other 'useful' things.

2 thoughts on “The Outdated Construct of Ageing Gracefully and Why it’s Time to Let it Go”

  1. How very timely that I should read this Melissa. I have just come home from a Caci clinic consult today. I always thought I wouldn’t go down that appearance medicine path, but well…I’ve got that resting bitch face too, just to name one problem! My bigger problem is – apart from the fact I’m not sure I can afford it, and what treatment can I actually afford, is what will people think?! What will my girls think?! I wanted to be one of those people who didn’t worry about these things but well, actually I do worry about them and I feel bloody old and in need of more than just a one session pamper. I need it to be just enough that I feel better about myself and just leave people wondering 😀 Ahh I need a little lotto win :/

  2. I was thinking about this earlier too as someone else was messaging me about it. I think that letting go of what other people think and making choices based on how you feel (or want to feel) is a big relief once you start doing it. Why don’t you talk to the girls about it? The more I talk about it the more I realise that in my neighbourhood at least (and you know where that is lol) many, MANY mums are also having Botox and whatever else done and they feel good about it. Also, I don’t think people wonder, most people are so inward facing and narcissistic that the thought might cross their mind for a second then they forget about it. Conversely, this is WHY we think people wonder when they are probably just looking past us lol – because we ALL are little narcissists and that’s ok!

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