The Anti-Aging perspective wields tremendous influence over our culture. If you are over 50 and you look at yourself in the mirror the first thought that comes into your mind is most likely related to the anti-aging worldview. The idealization of youth is ubiquitous so it is hardly surprising that we would find it between our own ears as well.
Some people, of course, go much deeper into the world of anti-aging than momentary worries about crow’s feet and graying hair. Women, in particular, are strongly encouraged to eliminate or at least disguise the signs of normal human aging. Wherever there is worry, insecurity and fear, we also find people and companies who are eager to exploit those emotions for their own gain. These are the merchants of fear and they never seem to run short of the next great “hope in a bottle” that will defeat aging forever– only $59.99 for a limited time only!
Traveling in my usual circles I don’t often encounter people who make their living provoking fears about aging. Recently however, one such merchant of fear did catch my attention. He is an MD and his practice seems to consist entirely of promoting and providing his patients with “aesthetic medicine.” I took a close look at his website and felt a wave of revulsion sweep over me. It struck me as a combination of flagrant fear-mongering and cheap commercialization. Then I saw a picture of the doctor in question– male, officious and, it seemed to me, he looked quite old.
Now around these parts we accept aging as a virtue, as a time of growth and development so saying that someone is old is not perjorative. Indeed, elders are viewed with respect here at ChangingAging.org. That’s when it hit me this old-looking doctor was, essentially, preying upon the fears of young women to sell them treatments that do not work.
How can I say that they don’t work? Easy– look at the picture of the guy who is selling them. If his nostrums actually worked, he would be using them himself and he would look as young as the models in his advertisements!
I reached out and advised this doctor to do just that.
He took offense. He deemed my comments on his aging to be entirely out of bounds even as he freely advised women that they needed his services if they were going to hold back the terrible ravages of their own aging.
I wrote to him:
“We are both old people. Is it not wise for us to be kind for ourselves? Embrace your age!”
Ashton Applewhite got involved in the back and forth and offered these wise words:
“Beauty and aging co-exist. And if you’re not aging, you’re dead.”
I reminded this doctor that:
“My pointing out that you look old is not an insult! It’s a compliment. You and I are getting older every day. Enjoy!”
This exchange seemed to kind of blow his mind. I honestly believe that he did not know how to deal with a positive view of aging. The idea that aging could be a good and honorable thing also represented a clear threat to him and his business. If he came to embrace his own aging, how would he be able to continue flogging his anti-aging potions to emotionally vulnerable people?
And yet, every single day this anti-aging doctor and I both wake up— one day older.
The day will come when he will no longer be able to credibly espouse the bunkum of the day, when his young, fearful patients will be repulsed by his flabby, wrinkled skin and he will know the truth. On that day, we will be here, journeying into our own old age, and he will come to our door and find it standing open. And he will be invited inside, invited to join us all on a shared voyage of discovery.