June 19, 2024

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Wrinkles, and why they terrify my generation

2 min read

Sarah was my childhood neighbour. Our mothers were best friends. They were both whimsical and free, and beautiful, but rolled their eyes at the suggestion. Occasionally, as they aged, they’d pull their faces back slightly at the ears, or lift the loose skin that covered their eyelids. “I could use just a little bit of,” they would say, and tug, but they never did cut, or tuck, or fill. Now they are 74 and 86. They don’t exactly look young. But they are still, decisively — according to at least their daughters — gorgeous.

Our families became family, and Sarah became a nurse practitioner. After 20 years treating patients, at HIV clinics and Planned Parenthoods, she fell into something called medical aesthetics. Botox. Fillers. Lasers. Her job became the thing our mothers never did, and surely less virtuous. But for some reason, I admired it. I called her recently, because I’ve noticed my peers seem pathologically afraid of wrinkles, and finally asked her why she made the change.

“I never saw my career going this way,” she said. But she noticed that throughout her years in nursing, whether her patients were sex workers, drug users, menopausal housewives or pregnant teens, they cared most about how their treatment would affect their appearance. “I was working on getting their viral loads down, and they were worried about their skin,” she told me. “And I realised that women’s healthcare is inextricably entwined with how we look.”

I’ll tell you now what you already know: women have been idealised, and sexualised, for probably as long as we’ve existed. There’s a paleolithic figurine of a woman with massive breasts that dates back to 25,000BC, and we’ve almost certainly been worrying about wrinkles and saggy tits ever since. All of us, whatever our gender, reckon with ageing at some point. It’s a foundational fear. But something feels different now. It’s happening earlier.

The ‘Venus of Willendorf’ figurine at the Natural History…

2023-10-27 17:00:37

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