Thursday, July 28, 2011

Promises, Promises

Maybe Mom is right: The more things change, the more they remain the same

At first glance, this contraption looked pretty ghastly. Imagine, I thought, women strapping on that device at night before bed. What in the world would drive someone to sleep in that? Then I read the fine print:
"removes complexional imperfections"..."prevents and removes wrinkles"... completely "natural beautifier"...
Sound familiar? Its core claim is the same as one today: "safe, effective and saves money too." The image is dated, but the message still sells. All the way to the bank.

Well over 280 billion dollars (billion!) pour into promises of clear, beautiful skin.*
It might be as close as the sidebar ad on our computer screen or the facing page in any magazine for women.

The lyrics of an old Dionne Warwick song flood my mind: "Promises, promises I'm all through with promises, promises now...."

Technology has advanced beyond strapping on a sleeping mask; Today we can create a mask-like appearance without the mask! Medical marvels now can craft what some crave: the perfect face without a trace of wrinkles.

They say it's true. Apply or inject enough product in the right places, and we can be rid of those pesky lines and wrinkles for good...or for a few weeks anyway. Call me crazy, but this claim sounds eerily similar to the directions for makeup of the deceased in funeral homes. They, too, have their products with cozy-sounding names (how does the Final Touch grab you?), offering the promise of perfection. May we rest in peace.

Can we make peace with the notion that we live...and we age? To live is to age. I come face to face, as it were, with this reality in the mirror daily. The way of wisdom teaches me: Each of us must choose the vigor with which we confront aging, or the grace with which we receive the gift of living another year. The choice is ours.

Some of the most beautiful women I know are over 70. Or I could say 90, though that is a short list. Their facial lines and wrinkles bear witness to a generous life and lively spirit. They are among the models I long to emulate, not the excessively-airbrushed cover girls.

I caught a brief interview with a famous 1970's/80's cover girl this week, and grimaced to see her distorted new look. She is in the club of the 'world's most beautiful women' and also happened to have thin lips which, apparently, was okay at the time, but not today?

"Just because you can doesn't mean you should," comes to mind.

I pray that my notions of beauty will be informed by a source other than fashion magazines and companies that stand to profit from our collective insecurities about who we are. Our identity is more than skin deep.

Oh, sure...I'll still apply my makeup -- I'm not going cold turkey--as we all have our favorite masks we don, even if they do not strap on. But I yearn to age gracefully and to find contentment in whatever state--or at whatever age--I am. Maybe one day I'll be able to speak the words as a reality:

For I have learned in whatever stage I am therewith to be content. Philippians 4:11

*statistic from 2009 Worldwide Cosmetic Market Industry Report


  1. Marita, I'm so interested in this! I'm concerned not just about how we negatively perceive the aging process, but also about what young women are doing to themselves to fit our worldy definition of "beauty".

    If you haven't seen this 1 minute video from Dove, you must check it out. I think you'll enjoy it!

  2. I use make-up, I take care of my skin but I embrace the ageing, all the way to my white hairs...
    I understand and accept those who don't (always silently wondering who they're running from, though), I just think people should know how to stop. That's it - an important notion - to Know where and when to stop contradicting nature and embrace the naturality and enjoyment of the process.

    After all "Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been." (Mark Twain)

    Wish you a nice weekend,