Gerascophobia: the fear of getting old. We've all felt it at some point, regardless of age or ethnicity, and it doesn't help that we live in an ageist world where youth is glorified. If you are lucky enough to fall into a certain age bracket, pop culture happens to cater exclusively to you, your opportunities seem boundless, and you are considered to be at the peak of your physical beauty. Pass that venerated age bracket and suddenly, you feel like yesterday's news.
There is an ongoing war against ageing that is relentlessly being fought around us, and we are strongly encouraged to join the cause. An arsenal of surgical scalpels and wrinkle creams are constantly being offered to us, all in an effort to delay the dreaded signs of ageing. Older people are rarely ever featured positively or realistically in the images that bombard us in the media. Needless to say, there is very little veneration for the aged in the world we live in.
I'm sure you are more than familiar with the following saying: "mutton dressed as lamb". For example, someone who has caved in to the pressure of society and refuses to accept the fact that she is getting older. Make-up, clothes and lifestyle are all used in a futile attempt to slow down the effects of time, to the point where she ends up looking like a parody of youth.
It's very interesting to me that, aesthetically speaking, it is more "acceptable" for a man to age than a woman. A boy's transition into manhood is celebrated as a rite of passage. Wrinkles are deemed "character lines". Grey hair gives off a George Clooney-esque silver fox appeal that conjures up dapper images of cigars and business suits. While men's fears of getting older are not as image-driven as they are with women, they definitely manifest in other ways (midlife-crisis purchases, anyone?)
No matter how much we are conditioned to dread it or how many serums we are urged to apply, getting older is inevitable. Yes, youth is fabulous while it lasts and having to part with it is bittersweet, but why clutch on to something that is essentially temporary? Even though I'm only 22, I cringe at the thought of ever holding on to my youth in vain. I would much rather be lucky enough to enjoy ageing gracefully, embracing my wrinkles as a road map of experiences and wearing every grey hair with pride like a diamond jubilee atop my head.
The Japanese language has a beautiful word that describes the beauty that comes with age: sabi. It refers to the idea that changes as a result of age can make an object more beautiful and give it a rustic value that something new and unscathed simply doesn't have.
So here's to the unacknowledged beauty of growing older. I'm starting to appreciate that ageing is something to be embraced, flaws and all. After all, wouldn't life be terribly dull if not for transience and change?