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The Maiden, The Crone: Our Obsession with Aging

Social media has polarized over this simple question: to age or not to age?

As our arsenal of anti-aging products expands, some are opting out of the battle entirely.
Image: Shutterstock

It doesn’t take a historian to see that we’ve always been obsessed with staying young. Whether it’s the stories we tell about a mythical Fountain of Youth or a 20-step skincare routine to create clear, smooth skin, Western beauty culture believes that the longer you can look like a 20-year-old, the better.

As our interest in stopping the clock seems to increase, a surprising portion of the internet has become enamored with aging, expressing excitement at the idea of growing old.

Anti-aging Through The Ages

The concept of “anti-aging” skincare had existed since roughly 70 BCE when Cleopatra took daily baths in donkey milk to exfoliate and soften her skin. Fast-forward to 1984, researchers discovered tretinoin’s usefulness in the fight against aging through animal testing. Upon FDA approval for everyday use, the skincare market exploded with anti-aging products, and the demand only increased. Exfoliants, under-eye treatments, and night creams became staples of the makeup cabinet. Once Botox was approved, anti-aging was no longer just a topical treatment; it could get under your skin.

The anti-aging market has had another big boom in the past few years, but it’s no longer just about skincare. New products enter the market monthly, whether a mask to keep your face from moving while you sleep or an “anti-wrinkle” straw. Said straw made a huge splash on TikTok a few months ago, receiving criticism, backlash, and ridicule for the concept. I find the straw a bit silly; the alternative is to be gentler when using ordinary straws. 

The Fight Against Fine Lines

Cosmetic procedures are on the rise, and some won’t wait for their age to show up to do something about it. The concept of “preventative Botox” is gaining popularity, with people as young as 18 concerned about future wrinkles. While this is an effective strategy for preventing fine lines, it is also expensive. Botox’s average cost is around $450 per treatment, and the effects only last a few months. If this is your weapon of choice in the war on aging, prepare to shell out some serious cash. 

“Living life to the fullest means embracing its varied experiences and emotions […] The problem with all those strong emotions is the effect they have on your face.”

Surgical Associates of Wisconsin

However, Botox is not the only face-freezing phenomenon at play. Some have claimed that they’ve stopped using their facial muscles entirely to prevent creases, maintaining a varied range of expression.

@isabelle.lux

Replying to @camelia_1999 you don’t need your face muscles to show emotion – I’ve saved so much money on Botox over the years 🥲

♬ original sound – Isabelle ⚡️ Lux
Beauty TikToker @isabelle.lux states that she can still express plenty of emotion without using her facial muscles.

With the technology and knowledge we have on hand today, it wouldn’t surprise me if future generations can preserve our looks for decades longer than our predecessors.

Aging Like a Fine Wine

On the other end of the spectrum, some people have taken a “pro-aging” stance in response. Some creators have said this is “out of spite for the grotesque anti-aging industry.” The common consensus, however, seems to be excited about having long, happy lives and peace with the inevitability of aging.

One developing trend indicates a growing excitement for aging instead of simply accepting it. Frequently (though not always) set to Alphaville’s “Forever Young,” creators post pictures of themselves with their friends, partners, and parents with a filter applied to age them approximately 30 years. While a portion of participants are horrified with how they’ll appear to age, many others feel the opposite, stating that they “look just like [their] mother” (I, however, look like if my grandfather put on a cheap wig, which is vexing) and they “hope they can be with their loved ones long enough to look like this.”

The Privilege of Growing Old

This is doubly true for members of the LGBT+ community, who achieved the right to marry less than ten years ago and, in the case of gender expression, still fight to be recognized and respected. For many young LGBT people, the idea of themselves growing old is one of self-acceptance, hope, and a permanence to their identity. 

TikTok user @blondeidentitycrisis and her partner, aging filter applied.

At the end of the day, what people do with their bodies is entirely up to them. Whether you welcome your age with open arms, or want to remain forever twenty-one, the only person to influence that decision should be yourself.

Written By

M. Risley is a flash fiction writer and University of Colorado graduate. When not writing for Trill Mag or submitting creative works to journals, they can be found crocheting, playing tabletop RPGs, or tenderly holding their cat, Beetle.

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