Kate’s guest post below on Helen Mirren just might make you think twice about using the term anti-aging again!
The late great comedian George Carlin once quipped, “Well, if crime fighters fight crime and firefighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight?” While his words cause laughter still today, he makes a valid point — the words we use to shape our vision of the world.
Nowhere can you see this more than in the term “anti-aging” when referring to female beauty products? What, exactly, are women supposed to be fighting against?
Aging is a natural part of life, and the alternative is… not living! Helen Mirren’s recent rejection of the term inspires all women to live freely, love themselves more and rethink the words they use when referring to their own aging.
Why are we ashamed of aging, anyway?
If there’s one thing we cannot change, it’s the fact that, as I write these words and you read them, we’ve both grown several seconds older. Aging is a natural part of life. It’s also denied to many — for much of human history, the average life expectancy remained around 35 years, and anyone reaching 40 was considered ancient.
Speaking of ancient, aging wasn’t always regarded with suspicion. Historically, those who reached great ages preserved the wisdom of their societies.
They passed their knowledge down to younger generations and received veneration for their contributions. It’s only in our modern times we’ve associated aging with infirmity and senility — a downhill slide leading to the inevitable.
With modern medicine, not to mention the knowledge readily available to us online and in libraries, there’s no need for growing older to mean surrendering to infirmity. Many people, like Mirren, continue with thriving careers well into their 70s and beyond.
While we may no longer compete in marathons, we haven’t stopped running. Anyone who has tried keeping pace with 77-year-old U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ frenetic pace on the campaign trail knows this.
There’s nothing inherently bad about aging. In fact, there’s much to praise about it — whether we hold an Ivy League degree, or we dropped out in 10th grade, we all gain experience throughout life. The fact we’ve figured out how to survive so long testifies to the inherent strength of those who reach their golden years.
What we can learn from Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren appears absolutely timeless. Her gorgeous looks exude a youthful glow, and it’s difficult to believe she’s older than 40, let alone 70. However, she disdains the term anti-aging. Why?
According to Mirren, aging isn’t something to fight against. Aging is not a disease like cancer, and you don’t need aggressive therapy to treat it. It’s a natural process happening to all of us all the time.
This isn’t to say Mirren suggests giving up retinol or other beauty products like lotions and sunscreens, but she takes umbrage at the term “anti-aging” on these products. Aging is nothing to be ashamed of or something to hide. You can look gorgeous and take great care of your skin without trying to look like you’re 12.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the time is now for opening a dialogue about the connection between Hollywood’s glamorization of all things youthful and childhood sexual abuse. With allegations against billionaire Jeffrey Epstein coming to light and the previous charges against producer Harvey Weinstein, it’s clear many girls found themselves victimized in the industry before they turned 18.
However, youth and beauty are not equivalent. No magical age exists for timing out of caring about your appearance or wanting to feel your best. True beauty and graceful aging are about embracing healthy and positive habits, not holding on to an impossible ideal no amount of Botox will achieve. It’s about putting your best and honest face forward each day. True beauty embraces being real.
Helen Mirren, a celebrated actress herself, is living proof you don’t have to be young to look gorgeous. Nor must you be young to get challenging roles. Over the years, Mirren portrayed Queen Elizabeth II in “The Queen” and a police detective on the British TV series “Prime Suspect,” among other roles.
Mirren became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2003. In 2013, Mirren won her own star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Mirren has won multiple awards throughout her estimable career.
Lesson from Helen Mirren: Aging is not something to hide
If there is an inevitability in life other than death and taxes, it’s getting older. However, the aging process isn’t something to hide. We need to return to the days when people equate aging with wisdom and look up to those who reach a great age.
The old archetype of the crone should no longer remain the province of Halloween witches. Rather, we need to look to older generations as role models. We need to embrace the beauty inherent in everyone, regardless of the number of candles on their birthday cake.
After all, when we look into the eyes of someone in their 70s or 80s, we see our own futures. That’s nothing to run from or be ashamed of.
About today’s writer
Kate is a lifestyle and wellness journalist from Pennsylvania. She particularly enjoys writing about topics related to women’s health and well-being. If you like her work, you can subscribe to her blog, So Well, So Woman.
Top photo credit: Dick Thomas Johnson from Tokyo, Japan [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]