Monday, May 2, 2011

No end to old age and death (stating the obvious once again)

There has been an uptick in suicide amongst middle-aged women in recent years. Studies are being conducted. . .sigh. I think the answers to "why?" are so obvious as to be ridiculous. Hmmm. . .let's think for a second and come up with a few:

Not being young is seen by this society as a pathology, not a fact of life. This pathology can be fixed with plastic surgery, injections, and by "miracle creams."If we do not fix it (being old and looking old) we should be unhappy.

Menopause. How come nobody talks about this? Menopause obviates the fact that we are, in fact, dying. Yet, we do not discuss this fact of life. We do not openly discuss the realities of what menopause does to our bodies nor how it makes our bodies feel. It is a private matter, not fit for public discussion. Sadly, this cultural secret keeping causes a lot of personal suffering, and I'd venture to say that many women who are going through menopause feel scared, uncomfortable, sad, and wouldn't mind talking about their feelings. The treatment is usually hormone replacement therapy, and if one has any feelings about the experience,  it will be suggested you see a mental health professional. Our minds and bodies are treated as if they are separate entities, having little to do with one another. At the same time, we are being told that mental health issues are now diseases. Is this all a bit crazy making? Yes.

Positive role models for women of experience and wisdom are few and far between, the exception, not the rule.

Too many women wind up alone at middle age. The amount of women I know and have known who have partners who are now with women significantly younger than they are is noticeable. What message does this give us? I don't have to spell it out.

I don't want to make it seem as if aging is not an issue for men. It is. Facing the realities of aging, the aches and pains, illnesses, our bodies not being able to do what they once did as well or as easily or as quickly (or not at all), and finally realizing, that yes, we are going to die, well, at some point we come face-to-face with that, all of us.

Though a painful reality of being a human being, we are becoming so removed from death that it has become increasingly terrifying for people, in my estimation. Our health care model is one where where everything is done to extend life for as long as possible, instead of helping people come to terms with change.

We accept it as a fact that aging is a bad thing. It is not. The wisdom that can come with experience is invaluable, but we have devalued it. There is nothing inherently disgusting, horrible, or ugly about having wrinkles, or saggier skin. We have been told that it is indeed a fact that the signs of age should be abhorrent, for they are signs of impending death, and the loss of virility and fecundity. As we are both body and mind, believing that being miserable, horrified, repulsed (etc.) is simply logical is simply not logical.

As I write this, I know that I, too, have been brainwashed into believing all of this. The logical part of me says, "No!" to all the negative messages this society has ingrained in me, but another part of me indeed does agree as I step into the shower each morning, or reach for that bottle of hair dye. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror by accident and shudder inside.

I see beautiful middle-aged and older women every day. I want to ask them how they feel, but it is a private matter. What  a shame.

Image note: Hans Memling "Portrait of an Old Woman" c. 1470-72

I originally posted a photograph of Joan Rivers, but she's too easy a target. Women like her are not the problem; they have a problem, as she says, “Plastic surgery has everything to do with how a person feels about him or herself. There is no such thing as too much." Sadly, tabloids show photographs of folks like Joan Rivers, and compare them to people who use plastic surgery in in "appropriate" moderate ways. A little Botox, one facelift, a nose job. . .that's okay.

My mother had a facelift a year before she died. I can imagine that in ten year's time, if she had lived, she would have wanted or needed another, if she hadn't started to come to terms with the fact that she had "lost her looks", as we say. Could she have become comfortable with not having her looks be as important as she thought they were? Yes, her looks were very important to her, but if she had had a role in life where her insides were as important as her outside, this may not have been the case.

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