Is It a Sin to Look Your Age?
One of my pastors was preaching from Genesis 12, and he came to the part of the story where Abram and his wife Sarai head to Egypt during a time of famine. The account highlights the cowardly moment when the patriarch asks his attractive wife to tell the Egyptians that she is his sister, which was technically true, but to keep their marriage on the Q.T.
In an attempt to help the congregation imagine Sarai's arresting beauty, the pastor said, "Sarah is about 65 years old here, and most of us don't think about 65-year-olds as objects of beauty." He paused for a moment, giving us time to think about the Medicare recipients in our midst, then offered his thoughts about the phenomenon. "It could be that in the ancient world, they had different standards."
On behalf of older women everywhere: ouch.
Is it really so difficult for most of us to think of older women as desirable? Or are we simply so used to seeing the distorted cultural images of mature "hotness" that we simply don't know how to look past them to see true beauty?
The older icons of physical beauty in pop culture are frequently portrayed one of three ways: sexually assertive cougars, physically obsessed fitness instructors, and plastic surgery devotees. The message of these images? Simply, it is is a sin to look your age. If hotness is something to which we should all aspire, old is c-c-cold.
It takes time, money, and commitment, along with a socially acceptable measure of narcissism, to maintain that desirable young appearance. Even so, keeping up (read: competing) with women a generation younger is the our culture's ongoing real time reality show. Actress Demi Moore's recent mental breakdown in the wake of her divorce to younger dude Ashton Kutcher was widely attributed to her fear that she was starting to look her age. (So is her first post-divorce ad campaign that shows the 49-year-old's face heavily airbrushed.) In response, Forbes contributor Anushay Hossein had this critique of the "old is cold" phenomenon:
Moore is a product of our youth-obsessed culture which teaches women from when they are girls that we are valued by our beauty. We are taught to stay young and thin at any cost, and there is no other industry that consistently reinforces that message more than Hollywood. It is clear that we are all buying and believing this message.
The fact of the matter is the film industry, in the U.S. and around the world, have pitted women against Mother Nature. It's an impossible battle to win and we all know it. But when women remind other women of that fact, like Demi Moore has, we blame and label them as unsuccessful, shower them with pity and disgust. We think they are "pathetic."
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