“The case for laugh lines” and crow’s feet and forehead furrows and eye bags

31 May

Dominique Browning’s opinion piece on the front page of the Sunday Styles section was titled “The Case for Laugh Lines,” and covered the lines around your mouth, the sags under your chin, the wrinkles around your eyes, and all those other creases and crevices that grow exponentially as any body experiences changes and aging:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/fashion/dominique-brownings-argument-for-natural-aging.html?_r=1&ref=fashion

Browning explains a strange new kind of existential conundrum, having to now ask those around her “who are you?” rather than “how do you do?” Increasingly, it appears that too many of her peers (mostly women, but a few men too) are opting to dramatically alter their faces and bodies in the hopes of rejuvenation. But eventually, the reshaped face begins to droop and line just as the previous version did, leading to what….more surgery?

These new choices are so pervasive as to have altered the cultural standards of beauty, and all the expected modifications and adjustments that such standards require. “If you choose not to partake of the benefits of needle and knife, you are judged to be making a statement. You are taking a position against the current standards of beauty. ” To not believe that one must become something one is not is to declare oneself “different,” or, worse to some, “feminist.”

But, “feminism has nothing to do with it. Feminists worry why women still make only 77 cents to every dollar a man makes, not whether women are going broke on Botox. ”  Further, to insist that the concerns of feminism are still bound to the body and all its cultural restrictions is to keep feminism in a cage of reaction. And yet, how a woman is perceived directly relates to whether she makes 77 cents to the male dollar, to her safety on the street alone at night, to the tips she makes if she works in the service industry, to how far up the corporate ladder she is allowed to travel.

Browning suggests denial; and if that doesn’t work, a lot of whiskey.

But isn’t there a more productive way of dealing with the inevitable changes that a long and healthy life brings? How about good old-fashioned adaptation? Why must a woman’s choices be surgery or denial? Indeed, the argument itself is so incredibly fixated upon vanity as to be shameful actually. The concerns of a sagging neck or wrinkly eyes are miniscule when weighed against malnutrition, violence against women, death during childbirth, poverty, lack of hope, etc.

I realize that the “there’s a war going on in ____, and you’re worried about your neck!” argument can be achingly vague and simultaneously obvious and ineffective. But my point is, why have the inevitable signs of aging (which also means living/being healthy enough to die old) become negative signposts? How have we as a culture arrived at a place where an aging female face is met with dismay and disdain, feelings which are in turn relieved through needles and scalpels? And, as Browning also suggests, do these measures alleviate the individual’s concerns, or merely add to increasing feelings of discomfort and denial in one’s own skin?

 

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