I always chuckle a bit when I am sitting in front of the TV flipping channels and I see "Have A Turkey Neck" -- because it's a ridiculous title. I immediately think of Thanksgiving recipes, not my neck. Not about being old.
I was sitting on the sofa after breakfast this morning though, looking for "Have A Turkey Neck" and Mom said "What are you looking for?"
Unlike men, women usually flip channels in search of something, not just for the hunting experience.
"I'm looking for "Have A Turkey Neck" I replied.
"HAVE A TURKEY NECK, Mother."
"Is that a cooking show?" [great minds think alike]
"No, it's about wrinkles."
I kept flipping channels and writing down the titles of interest. Apparently, telling women they are wrinkled and ugly is very lucrative. Only a few minutes of flipping uncovered:
Winning the Wrinkle War
Julie is 53, Looks 35
Have a Turkey Neck
Women Over 50 Looking 30
From Mommy to Hottie
Those are 5 shows aimed at telling women basically that if they have any wrinkles or gray hair or excess weight that they are worthless and pathetic.
"Julie is 53, Looks 35" features a woman using something that looks like a sandblaster on her face. Sure, let's take some electric doodad and literally blast off the wrinkles. Then put it in its adorable little fabric bag and tuck it into the drawer next to a thousand makeup items. Because you sure don't want hubby to guess you're sandblasting your wrinkles. He might think you're vain, or insecure.
"Have A Turkey Neck" is actually an ad for some kind of miracle cream. There is a ridiculous photo of a woman with a smooth, beautifully made-up face and the neck of a 95 year old migrant farm worker. Can you say PHOTOSHOP?!?! They show the ridiculous photo to young women to make them fearful. Yes, the subtext is FEAR.
I didn't see one single ad telling men they need to sandblast their wrinkles or lose 20 lbs.
All the ads about not looking your age are aimed straight at women's fears. The message is loud and clear: any women who has wrinkles or gray hair is worthless and will be rejected by men. If you want to get a man or keep a man you need to spend lots of time and money trying to appear younger.
Years ago a friend of my dad's and his wife came to dinner one night and the wife ate almost nothing. She was a pretty lady in her late 30's who clearly took care of herself. She had a nice figure and tasteful makeup. She told Mother that she only ate one meal a day on weekdays because she didn't want to get fat and lose her husband. So she spent 5 out of every 7 days starving herself. I was a college student. I remember thinking, if you gain 10 lbs. and your husband starts cheating or asks for a divorce LET HIM GO. He is a SCUMBAG.
Even today, years later, advertisers still play on fears and make a lot of money off of women's insecurities.
As a feminist, I am horrified.
I don't think the solution is telling women it's OK to "let themselves go" however. I think the solution is far more complicated. We have raised generations of women who are taught from childhood that being fat is not OK, being wrinkled is not OK, and we have to attain a standard of beauty decreed by basically advertisers.
We have to teach our boys to value a woman for reasons other than just looks.
We have to teach females, from day 1, that happiness means not catering to what anyone else wants us to be. We have to teach our little girls to value themselves regardless of what anyone else thinks. We also have to teach them that being alone is OK. You don't have to be "hooked up" or married in order to be happy or have a fulfilling life.
Now, I speak as a reformed woman. I spent 20 years turning myself inside out trying to find happiness by looking perfect. I sought out the right clothes, the right makeup, the best hairstyle, the perfect fitness routine. I was focused on THE HUNT FOR MR. RIGHT - with a laser-like intensity that scared guys half to death. I did internet dating. I went to bars, singles groups at church, hung out at Home Depot looking helpless and wearing tight shirts -- you name it, I tried it.
In the blink of an eye, it seemed, I went from a recent college graduate to a 40 year old, and what did I have to show for it? A string of failed relationships and a nagging sense of failure.
One day I looked in the mirror and realized that all my weight loss had had an unfortunate side effect: I looked more wrinkled. Fat fills wrinkles. The skinnier I got, the older I looked. This threw me for a loop. Everywhere I went, I looked in the mirror to check my hair and makeup, and this OLD LADY was staring back at me. Slowly, gradually, I fell into despair.
I prayed for a miracle.
God, in his wisdom, answered in a totally unexpected way.
Within a couple of years, I had gained back a lot of the weight I had lost, but I had also shed a lot of insecurity and fear. My focus changed from capturing a man, to taking care of a little girl, and shortly afterwards taking care of my Mom and my new house.
I won't lie. I remember the early days of living in this house, feeling really overwhelmed at times. Alesia had issues. Most post-institutionalized children do have issues. Trying to figure her out was a huge challenge. My Mom fell and broke both shoulders and gradually became less and less able to help me.
You might think letting go of my single life and becoming a mama and a caretaker was not a happy thing. You'd be wrong.
I quit trying to attain some impossible standard of beauty.
I quit looking around the bend for happiness and satisfaction.
I cut my hair short and stopped spending 30 minutes every morning on hair and makeup. I stopped writing down every outfit I wore, every day.
I stopped watching TV almost entirely. There wasn't time.
My whole point is simply this. If your entire sense of self-worth depends on what you see in the mirror, you will NEVER be happy.
If you desperately try to avoid having a turkey neck or looking your age, guess what? You will be engaging in a very frustrating and losing game of whack-a-mole. Let's say you have a wrinkle-free face. Your hands will always show your age. You will constantly have to re-color your hair. If you are determined to be a very skinny old lady, you won't be blessed with fat filling in your wrinkles.
Worst of all, you will not be a happy camper.
If you're married, stop trying to look perfect. Instead, try to love better. Listen better. Like yourself more. Throw out the leg-damaging high heels. Don't try sandblasting the wrinkles. If your husband doesn't love you unless you are busily trying to be a "hottie" LET HIM GO. A good man who truly loves you will not cheat or divorce you if you don't look perfect.
If you are single, embrace yourself. Celebrate your life. Make more friends. Do things you love, just for you. Travel with friends. Plant a garden and share excess produce with neighbors. Volunteer. Strive to be comfortable and to like yourself, and quit worrying about finding a man.
Instead of trying to be "hot" aim for being HEALTHY. Try to walk every day, and eat right, but don't starve yourself or kill yourself at the gym.
The gift of being over 50, for me, is simply this: I like me. I am OK with not being some gorgeous young thing. I have great friends and a loving family, however unconventional. I will never look 18 again and so what?!
I don't fear the wrinkles. They are simply the roadmap of my life.