An old gilded frame holds a picture of a man. A man hardened by life and the passing of time. His story written on the lines of his aging face, his grey hair and beard long and straggly a testament to the years of his endurance. His eyes fixed and straight and not a hint of a smile for he has fought many battles leaving him scared inside. A picture of an aging man — A story waiting to be told.
In today’s world of age-categorization, I’m closing in on my senior years. I of course don’t think of myself in this way, my inner-voice and internal age-clock ever-professing my youth. Still, the nagging aches and pains from passing years remind me I’m not a young man anymore and a quick look in the mirror is enough to confirm this. Today I’m more akin to the aging man in the picture — than not!
In western society, growing old and appearing old is not the same thing. In a culture favoring youthful appearance, looking old means you are old and judgement right or wrong comes accordingly.
How strange it is that we’ve come to look upon aging in this way. Hiding the effects of passing years in fear of appearing old to others. Societal-branding and the judgement of others driving our obsessions on how we look. Demanding our appearance to be youthful, effecting the female of our species most of all.
Judged more critically on their appearance than men, women have become finely tuned to the aging process and its effects on their appearance. For men, age can sneak up on them and reality coming as a sudden shock. Sudden and eye-opening, like a hard slap to the face.
Everything is fine, until one day in front of the mirror, instead of you there’s some aging old-guy staring back? Prompting panicked shouts of “what the hell and when did this happen?” — thundering out from behind the bathroom door.
Yet, this apparent lag in our aging appearance is in reality no lag at all. The old guy in the mirror was there yesterday and probably long before. He’s just consistently painted-over by the mental imagine we have of ourselves. A portrayal, an illusion, propagated by our ever-deceiving tricky brain.
Without determined focus, it’s this more youthful picture of ourselves we see in our own reflection. It’s our brain manipulating reality, going to great lengths to match our outward appearance with the perception of who we are. The internal story of ourselves, a manufactured reality from which within we live our lives.
Hence the shock of our aging appearance. One that doesn’t fit with our perception of ourselves nor match our timeless mind. For in our mind, our thoughts, we remain who we’ve always been. The person at 5, the same you at 40 making signs of aging difficult to see. Oh we do see it of course, but consciously registering the change in us is another matter indeed.
Yet once seen cannot be unseen and male reactions differ. Some simply note the aging change and carry on, mostly unaffected. Others are appalled and color their greying hair, cream their aging faces, the shock even driving some into mid-life crisis. The appearance of age, a curse to be reckoned with.
Growing old is no-longer portrayed as in the storied-picture of the aging man. A man who cared-not of the appearance he both carried and earned. Judgement from others, of no concern.
Not portrayed in this way because Mankind has evolved a fanatical fascination with appearance. Both in themselves and in others. We judge we appraise, even label each other according to how we look. According to how young we look — for our age!
We hide our age behind dyed-hair and covering make-up. Disguise it with youthful hair cuts and under clothes lessening the effects of age-added pounds. Anything to keep us appearing younger than we are.
How pretentious we’ve become. How fixated, how obsessed with appearance and how appalling this stigma of looking-young that society has bred. Bred and supports with cruel indifference.
We all grow old, we all will one day look old. Some of us are okay with that, still others refuse to accept this natural process of aging and work diligently to look younger than their years.
The Question is — Which one are you?
Look again at the aging man in the picture. His growing-old proudly displayed as a badge of honor. His face lined with experience and of life-battles fought hard and won. His long grey hair scraggly yet worn in indifference, his face a story yet to be told.
A man uncaring of how others see him…
This aging man in the old-framed picture.
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