50 Shades of Greying: Ladies, Time to Retire the Compliment “You don’t Look Your Age!”

Gender

50 Shades of Greying: Ladies, Time to Retire the Compliment “You don’t Look Your Age!”

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

D

ear all, especially women,

I regret to inform you, looking your age is now a cognisable offense. If you are blessed with a fountain-of-youth genetic makeup, you can go back to giggling at cute cat videos. The rest of you gather up so that I can feel sorry for you.

Sorry I forgot, you are used to disappointing the world for having the audacity to look your age or perhaps even older. You get so much free advice on skin care, hair care, and exercise regimens that’ll make you look like your own daughter, you are now thinking of stringing them up and using them as festoons for your neighbourhood.

Your visits to salons are so tragic, you can actually hear sad strains of the violin play in the background. The facial lady claims your face has as many fine lines as the terms of conditions of an app she’s just signed up for. She further insists the only way you can seek redemption is by letting her peel off your face to reveal baby-soft bleeding skin. You comply because you don’t want to hurt her feelings. You lower your eyes in shame when your hairstylist picks up strands of your greys from your scalp like he’s picking up dirty underwear from the floor. He shakes his head from side to side in disgust and then suggests a hair colour that’ll change your life.

Your life does change because now you have a bank balance that’s considerably lower. Of late your bank balance had been rather busy taking care of others’ feelings. Just the other day you were introduced to the wonders of “self-doubt soaked in rare oils mined from Chechnya and then ground to fine paste with tiger testicles” facial rejuvenation drops by the plucky girl at the skincare counter at the swanky store. When she was finally done with milking your udders of gullibility, you left with a cargo ship full of lotions and potions that’ll work 24×7 to restore your upper eye, middle of under eye, top half of your cheeks, and a part of your face you’ve never even heard of, back to their lost glory. It’s only much later you realise you were supposed to pick up nightwear from the store.

A few hours later when you try eating the dartboard that you mistook for a pizza, you text your friend to ask if the miracle diet of two-and-a-half carrots with three spoons of rice a day she recommended is messing you up instead of taking a decade off your birth certificate.

We are socially conditioned to equating youth with beauty and beauty as an accomplishment.

See, it’s not your fault that you want to hold on to youth in a world where “you don’t look your age” refuses to retire as a compliment. We are socially conditioned to equating youth with beauty and beauty as an accomplishment. We end up as victims of the beauty industry that loves thrusting a twenty-something gorgeous woman in our faces, whose sole purpose in life is to stand in front of a mirror and look for dark spots and fine lines. After frowning for a few seconds, she proceeds to find her saviour in a jar of patchouli infused with a million herbs.

At least the beauty industry is clear about its objective of exploiting our insecurities that they helped create in the first place. The media, meanwhile, loves bombarding us with toxic messages that are disguised as empowering. How is a woman supposed to feel when her favourite “feminist” magazine can’t make up its mind whether to make their reader feel confident about her size 18 and her newly acquired frown lines, or direct her to a step-by-step guide to “How to puncture holes in your body and squeeze out the icky fat without dying”. The subliminal message is: If you are fat or wrinkly or unfortunate enough to be both, you are a badass… who doesn’t take care of herself.

Even women who genuinely couldn’t care less must be subjected to this walk of shame. Remember Helena Rubinstein who once famously said, “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones!”

It doesn’t help when you hear much older women complain about how they are treated as invisible, especially by men – the feeling that you are no longer vital or important or noticeable to others. It hits you in areas where you feel most vulnerable – your physical appearance.

But you know what will feel better? Kicking these outdated notions of beauty firmly in the arse.

Why not think of your crow’s feet and greys as sieves that filter out assholes who think women serve only one purpose – to be someone’s eye-candy. It’s way more satisfying to be a woman whose beauty is defined by her charisma, awareness, and her achievements than a skin-care regimen that reads longer than the Mahabharata. Isn’t it every woman’s wet dream to be noticed for who she is and not the way she looks?

“There are no ugly women, only lazy ones!”

So puhleeez, can we stop feeling sorry for something as natural as ageing? Freed from the gaze, many of us start looking inwards, work on our character, experience our own agency, and start thinking of ways we can impact others through our words and actions. Working on “how you see yourself” than “what you see in the mirror” teaches you to love yourself, and understand and value your unique body and look after it accordingly.

In fact, this is where we can draw inspiration from our men. No matter how big their paunch, how roomy the bags under their eyes, they always see a drop-dead gorgeous man staring back at them from the mirror. They never let themselves forget that they are god’s gift to womankind and expect women to dissolve in gratitude when they are at the receiving end of their advances. Maybe we can start by retiring “you don’t look your age!” as a compliment.

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