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I seem to have reached an age at which my body is no longer socially acceptable. I realized that I was getting there when the skin on my upper arms morphed into crepe paper, the gap between my nipples and my navel increasingly narrowed and my buttocks started to move into territory previously the exclusive domain of my upper thighs. Actually I am delighted to have lived long enough to, in the words of the inimitable Dolly Parton, be “bagging, sagging and dragging.” But unlike Dolly, I have no wish to be “nipped, tucked or sucked.” My body, in consequence, is now to be hidden from public view.
Some of the apparent unsightliness can be overcome simply by wearing industrial-strength bras and “lift and tuck” jeans. But, it is much more of a challenge when it comes to skin. I have learned that it is not de rigueur to be in public with wrinkles and, even worse, to show crepey skin. When you are young it is okay to appear anyway you wish, and no negative comments are acceptable – that’s discrimination. The love of my life is quick to chastise me if I make a snarky comment when an obese woman walks by us wearing bright yellow tights. He is even quicker to “tsk tsk” when I forget my manners and audibly express disgust at the sight of a young woman’s buttocks hanging out the base of her shorts as she wanders through the grocery store. His reprimands remind me that under no circumstances may I body-shame or slut-shame. But it’s different for me. Sporting both wrinkles and crepey skin, I am a legitimate target of age-shaming. I am urged to take action.
Wrinkles, I am told, can be made to disappear and I can continue to look young. Of course, this requires either surgery, injecting my face with toxic substances or spending most of my retirement income on anti-aging creams and much of my day applying them. Upon reflection, I may prefer to adopt a Shar Pei puppy – the contrast might be helpful. The crepey skin is not so easily dealt with.
Like all aging female hippies, I am told daily from a variety of media that I can regain my confidence and appear in public only if I take measures to “reverse the signs of aging.” Numerous websites offer information and help. Crepey skin is described as a disease with its causes and treatments explained. After reading a number of such sites I have learned that the cause of my crepey skin is aging. What a revelation! And I have learned that there is a wide array of options to get rid of it. I can choose among laser treatments, ultrasounds, cool sculpting, fillers and a variety of topical treatments each guaranteed to make me look younger. Crepe Erase, for example, promises to allow me to stop needing to hide my arms because it has proven to reveal visibly firmer, younger-looking skin and immediately make me feel better. According to their advertisements I shall be able to confidently figure-skate after just a few applications.
Less direct messages are also common. Hollywood types who, in their 80s, have faces that have been subjected to surgical interference so often their skin glows (in a creepy rather than crepey way), their foreheads have shrunk, and their eyes taken on a shape eerily similar to those of my son’s cat. But “look how wonderful she looks” we are told, “so young.” Isn’t she marvellous! Alas, the china doll face look is not for me.
So what is a wrinkly crepey woman who does not wish to spend her remaining years in surgery or applying cream to do? The answer is found in women’s magazines. Here are endless articles on appropriate clothing for “the mature woman.” Not surprisingly such clothing hides those unacceptable signs of aging. Kimonos, for example, can be worn in hot weather instead of tank tops so that crepey skin remains appropriately hidden while remaining cool and dressed “age-appropriately.” Heavy duty makeup can be applied to cover the entire skin of the face, and special creams can be applied to the eye area to avoid wearing a mask in public.
I have been steadfastly ignoring all such advice. In fact, I have been ignoring it so much that even my iPad has started to intervene. First, I should point out that it is quite clear that my device is well aware of my age. For the past year or so, regardless of what I ask Google, it cuts into my search with endless advertisements for products and procedures designed to empty my bank account while promising to make me look many years younger than I am. After realizing that I am steadfastly ignoring all such advice, my iPad has clearly decided I am in need of more help. Recently, it has started to recommend senior living opportunities in the neighbourhood, and help for those suffering from dementia.
In response, my resolve to rebel has strengthened. I have recently purchased a number of sleeveless tops and dresses. I have resolved also not to dis any woman in yellow tights, nor to express my abhorrence of women who display their naked buttocks in the meat department. I will bite my lips rather than engage in any further body-shaming or slut-shaming. In exchange, I call for an end to age-shaming. I ask to be free of age discrimination as promised to me by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Section 15 (1). I herewith reserve the right to bare arms.
Katherine Covell lives in Vancouver.