August 07, 2007

Aging Gracefully?

So we were recently talking about the possibility of living for hundreds and hundreds of years without aging. Someday, maybe. But for now, we do age--and as we do, our faces tend to age with us.

In fact, over at the Age Project, they have a fun parlor game you can play. Random faces pop up, and you guess how old these people are. Then you compare your answer to the guesses of others, as well as to the person's actual age. Sometimes, you're close or exactly right! Other times, you're way, way off. More faces pop up, and you see if you're getting any better at it. Crabby was pretty hopeless.

You can even submit your own photo and have complete strangers guess how old you look!

Crabby would rather eat a case of Depends.

Part of the reason Crabby was so inept at the guessing game was that she kept overestimating how old everyone was. She figured: no one would send in a photo unless they were a 50 year-old who looked 38, or 42 year-old who looked 29, or a 15 year-old who looked 24. "Fishing for compliments" was the only motivation that made sense to her.

But there were middle-aged people who looked older than their actual years, yet they submitted a picture anyway! Crabby was amazed.

However, her amazement only served to reveal an embarrassing fact about her: she has some very screwed up ideas about Looking Old.

Crabby knows how superficial it is--what counts is on the inside. She doesn't think "younger is better." It's not just a cliche that age brings wisdom--you really do get smarter about life once you've been around a few decades.

And she's not a vain Crab, she swears! She wears jeans and T-shirts and shuns make-up. No one would mistake her for Fabulous even if she had the smooth dewy skin of a teenaged beauty contestant.

So why does she care that she's looking older?

And she is. Crabby was not blessed with youthful looking genes to begin with, and she spent many of her formative years frolicking in the California sun before anyone knew what SPF meant. She looks older than she is and way older than she feels and she hates that.

As a young Crab, she used to think women who cared so much about their wrinkles were so superficial. They should be proud of their years! And the idea that some women would actually have surgery to look younger seemed outrageous. How could they be so silly! Who cares about looking young?

Then... Crabby got a bit older herself.

And she can't figure out what's wrong with her brain! Why does she care that she looks like a grown-up? Sure, contemporary cultural attitudes devalue women over 40. But since when does Crabby give a crap what contemporary culture thinks about anything?

Would Crabby buy Coors lite instead of Fat Tire Amber Ale just because more people think Coors Lite tastes better? Of course not. Those people are just wrong!

But sadly, while Crabby hasn't internalized societal beer preferences, she seems to have internalized its aversion to aging. She looks in the mirror and instead of appreciating originality and bite and nuance and complexity, all of a sudden she just wants to be watery Coors Lite again.

Would Crabby be willing to go under a scalpel to achieve Coors Lite? No. But mostly that's because she's very afraid of scalpels. There are other less invasive procedures now, still expensive and arguably silly and yet... she sometimes finds her eyes lingering on the ads with the "before" and "after" pictures. She no longer makes the judgments she used to about people who retreat to clinics for a week or two and come back "restored." (Although she certainly thinks there is such a thing as Overdoing it). She understands a little better now.

She hopes she grows out of this, by the way.

So is Crabby the only one who's struggling with this issue? Or are you all much more serene and sensible when it comes to aging gracefully? Do you youngsters think you'll ever be this silly? And what about guys? Do men give a hoot how old they look, or is this mostly a female preoccupation?

(Cartoon courtesy of Nataliedee)


  1. I love the age guessing game you linked to - I would post my own picture, if I had a picture that I liked - just to see whether other people think I look older or younger than my true age.

  2. I used to be one of those who looked a lot younger than my age; I don't think that holds true any more. My husband also has that - he's in his 50s but people rarely believe that.

    It must run in families because both sets of our parents have the same thing and my kids look younger than they are as well.

    I used to also feel that it didn't matter how I looked in terms of age, but believe it or not, the one that that is bothering me is how my hands look. I know, it's odd. And I can't expect a crab with claws to understand - do claws get wrinkles? {grin}

    by the way crabby, if you get a chance, stop by my blog. I think you'll like today's post.

  3. Both my parents looked younger than their years. My dad moisturized. He used Noxzema (tm? R?) every day after shaving and that staved off wrinkles. When he was in the hospital in his late 70s the nurses marvelled at this and wanted to know his secret. My mom didn't get much for gray hair until she was in her 70s,and even then not too much.
    I use almond oil on may face at night after an astringent of apple cider vinegar. That's more for skin maintenance than trying to look younger. I used to look young and still think I do, but I never enjoyed it so much. No one took me seriously. A few wrinkles and a touch of gray have helped.

  4. i LOVE that people think i'm the baby in my family, although that only gives me a few more years to play with and i'm still fairly young, but it does give me a bit of a boost.

    I plan on never acting my age though...ever.

  5. No fair!

    You all are indeed serene and sensible because you all look younger than your age!


    Struck my fancy, you are way braver than I am.

    Marijke, that post of yours was hilarious! Readers should go check out this groundbreaking research study--especially you dog lovers!

    Good suggestions! Bet you smell good too.

    Jealousy at your youthful face aside, good for you! Acting one's age is way overrated.

  6. I give a hoot about how I look because I'm sick of providing ID when I order drinks. Ah, the joys of being 23...

    I'm less concerned with the physical effects of aging than I am with the life effects. For example, I can't decide to go to Europe tomorrow. I could AFFORD it now, but I couldn't DO it, whereas before it was the other way around.

    Also, all of the little cousins I used to babysit are getting driver's licenses and going to college and they all need to stop.

  7. Also, that cartoon is going up over my desk.

  8. I'm another baby-face, but I don't like it. I'm short, so everyone thinks I'm 12. :p

    I've got an ace up the sleeve, though -- both of my parents went gray in their 20s and I got the early-gray gene too. I'm already getting gray hairs (at 23).

    Oh, how I shall enjoy fucking with people's heads as a gray-haired, cherub-faced 30-year-old. And then when I get tired of that, I'll dye it a bunch of weird colors and fuck with them even more.

  9. I am very lucky to have good skin and lovely natural blond hair, but most people think I'm older than I am. I suppose it's because I neither look nor act like what people think 22 year old girls look and act like.

    In my case, I think being overweight makes me look older. Pregnancy hasn't helped either. ;)

    I don't complain too much though. I haven't been carded in a long time and it seems like people just assume I know what I'm talking about and take me more seriously.

  10. I've always looked younger than my age and although I hated it in my early 20s, I love it now.

    I take what I consider reasonable steps to stay youthful-looking, but nothing invasive. Living in a humid climate helps a lot!

    But I'm under no illusions. It won't last forever. I don't plan to resort to surgery to stave off the inevitable, but I can't say I wouldn't change my mind if the right combination of money, vanity and opportunity came my way.

    I wouldn't want to look plastic and try to fill every little crease, but if I were to develop jowls like my grandmother's, I would definitely consider getting a tuck, especially if I were still on this side of 70. I plan to live to be 100, and 30+ years of looking like a basset hound would suck.

    But in general, as long as I look just a little younger than other gals my age, I'm content. I don't need to compete with the twentysomethings. I had my day; they're having theirs. And they'll be 40 too, someday and will hopefully be generous in spirit to the sweet young things THEY see enjoying their youth and unlined faces.

  11. i think i still look pretty young for my age but that's probably because i have the short, funky hair and piercings... give me a baseball hat and i look 10 years younger for sure... i haven't really thought about aging or going under the knife to fix anything (though would like smaller thighs)... personally, i don't think aging should be messed with...

  12. Sorry, Crab. I'm a dewy-faced 22-year-old who also laughs at the crazy old ladies who sink so much money into 'restoration'.

    However I do have something my mother mentioned to me that your post reminded me of. She said that she was beginning to understand why older men often prefer younger women - not just because they may be more attractive or whatever, but because even they though are older, they don't feel old.

    Does that make sense?

    I guess there doesn't seem to be an indicator in our brains that flips whenever people turn a certain age and turns them into 'old people'. There are just people with older bodies.

  13. I'm told I look younger than my age - I'm actually 44. One factor that sort of helps is that I had really oily skin, with all the joys of acne, as a teenager - which has meant that the lines have been a bit slower in coming. However, I'm seldom completely zit-free for longer than a couple of weeks.

    Does anybody else agree that it should be the LAW that you should have at least a year of your life post-zits and pre-wrinkles?!!!

    Seriously, I always acted older and more serious when I was a child, and seem to be going backwards now. Much more fun behaving as though you're sixteen when you're in your forties. Hated being a teen, love being in my 40s, and don't give a monkeys what others think of it...

  14. Most people think I'm about 23-25 (I'm way older) I don't mind looking younger than I am because if it was the other way around I'd likely be dreaming of looking younger. But I did mind when I was pregnant. I was 24 or 25 and everyone thought I was a pregnant 15 year old so I got a lot of crap (which only made me more sympathetic to the pregnant teens I worked with so that was a good thing).

    But seriously stupid people used to give me brochures about teen help centers for pregnant teens. And say things like, "Oh, is the father involved". Once I had Cedar people just thought I was babysitting. Man, people are so lame sometimes.

    The older I get the more happy I am that I inherited young looking genes though. Personally I think my hair helps. For some reason people don't think that older people have short hair. Mine is down to my waist so people right away assume I'm younger than I am.

  15. I freely admit to every one of my twenty five, uh, thirty five years. Oops there's the the phone. Do you think it's my daughter who turned forty last month?

    Seriously, the older I get, the less important the numbers become.

    Now I have to run over to Marijke's blog. If she thinks Crabby will like her post today, I want to see it too. (I may be old, but, thankfully, I'm still childish!)


  16. Personality and attitude have a lot to do with perception of someone's age. If you have energy, curiosity, a sense of humor, and a taste for fun, that goes a long way to creating a youthful persona. How much stress you face and how you handle it are big factors, too.

    Physically, there seem to be a number of factors involved in the age appearance of the face: wrinkles, sag, complexion, heredity, and lighting. We can manipulate some of them only so far, right?

    I was the baby-faced baby among my siblings, but I'm still surprised when people assume my age falls into the decade before the one I'm actually in. The light above my bathroom mirror is flattering, but sometimes I catch a glimpse of my face in, say, a plate-glass window and reality is unavoidable. Yes, guys care how they look, especially in this post-metrosexual era. But as the wise folk on this blog are saying, after a while you accept the inevitable. We care how we look, but recognize more important priorities in our lives. I personally don't like women caked in makeup, it's a real turn-off, as though they're hiding behind a mask. Ditto men who spend more time building their muscles than their mind.

  17. I don't care about my face so much as other parts of my postpartum figure. I too never wanted to have *anything* done but after having kids I am a LOT more sympathetic to people who do.

  18. I'm totally with you on this Crabby. When I was younger I always said that I would never care about going bald or getting gray hair, that I'd embrace it and let it happen.

    I'm 31 and my hair is thinning out on top just ever so slightly, and it's really putting my resolve to the test. There are times when I want to start looking into those hair club for men programs or products. So far, I'm managing to stick to my guns and just roll with it, but as it get's worse I may cave.

  19. I think after a certain age, being just wrinkle-free isn't sufficient to be attractive. Mental attitude and intelligence have a huge impact on one's appearance. I find that those who look younger may be graced with the young-looking genes, but some also have a youngish attitude towards life in general. All that interal attitude reflects on facial expressions which are what people around them see. Intelligence and poise also comes with age. If we don't at least try to leverage that, wouldn't it just be time squandered on youth?

  20. Why wouldn't guys care? My favorite memory about age was when I was in the Copenhagen train station talking with a stranger to pass the time. He was 10 years younger than me and he says," When you're my age you'll understand." :-)

  21. My whole understanding and thought of age is vastly different than the majority of society. My mother was two weeks shy of 46 when I was born (and I'm the oldest) and my dad was older than that. And so I was raised with a whole different understanding of this sort of thing and my idea of "old" seems to differ from most people's.

    Heck, when I was about 10 I realized I was a lesbian, because I had a crush on a 37 year old. And I spent most of my adolescence crushing on women who all my peers thought were "old". Yet, they definitely weren't to me because they were all younger than my parents were when they had me. (and rightfully, I could've been their age, if things had worked out that way)

    So I don't know. I'm definitely still young now and I strongly doubt I'll care much. I greatly admire someone I know who when asked her age (38ish) she had to stop and think and count tbecause she couldn't even remember and didn't care. I thought that was awesome, to just forget. She did say she'd probably start caring at about 50 though.

    I don't know. People used to think I was way older than I was (darn early puberty) but now I think I look just about my age. People often think my dad is about 20 years younger than he is and I don't know what people think of my mom. So I guess I'll just see what happens as I get older.

    But I tend to think women are beautiful no matter what their age is. So don't worry about it. And I'm sure your lobster thinks you're absolutely gorgeous. And that's what counts, right? :)

  22. All right, I'm going to try not to get depressed about this: almost every one of you looks younger than your age!

    No wonder you're all so calm and sensible and wise about the whole aging/appearance thing! You're clearly not aging enough.

    So thanks, everyone, for saying such smart things. (I was hoping at least a few other Cranky Crones would say: gosh, me too Crabby, I know it's superficial, but I wish I looked younger too!)

    It's fascinating that by such an overwhelming number, you all are mistaken for people much younger than your actual ages--surely such a vast majority is statistically significant. So I'm going to draw this logical conclusion:

    Reading and Commenting on Posts at Cranky Fitness Makes People Look Way Younger than Their Years!

    In transit tomorrow--I may post something or may not, depending on what time I finish packing tonight.

    Thanks everyone!

  23. I submitted my picture, it looked like something fun to do. Though I hope that the majority of people guessing others' ages aren't as completely off as I am, because it seems I haven't been great at that game so far. XD

    I'm not sure if I look my age, or slightly younger, or older. But I still feel pretty young in my head (being a part-time student somehow helps in feeling like I'm still 20 :)), and act accordingly (not irresponsibly, of course--just the lively way), so I guess this helps a lot in not looking one's age, at least not in every day life. Pictures may be another matter, they make almost everyone look a little different IMHO.

    In any case, I can't tell for sure because I'm probably not physically old enough to know yet, but I don't think I would resort to surgery. I try to have a healthy lifestyle, and if I can grow old in a healthy way, I'll be happy about it.

    But then, it's only now that I'm starting to really look normal, and not some overweight girl who's never been called 'pretty', so maybe I'll soon go completely crazy and mourn my early twenties that I didn't take advantage of. :/

  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. Arrgh, sorry about the deleted comment, Crabby! I posted using my cat's account, and my comment clearly isn't pertinent to anything she would say. ;-D

    I'm pushing 40, and people say I look quite a bit younger -- like marijke said, it runs in families. My dad, when he was in his forties, looked ten to fifteen years younger, and my grandmother, who lived to be 100, looked 35 when she was 55.

    But yeah, it gets under my skin how society devalues women over 40. And another thing that annoys me: commercials for anti-aging cream which feature women who look all of 25 fussing about "those fine lines." Meh! Heck, those commercials annoyed me when I was 25.

    And that "guess age" page was fascinating! I guessed close some of the time, but other times I was way, WAY off -- one fifteen year old I guessed to be 35! (eek!) And an eighteen year old fella with a beard I guessed to be in his forties... Beards can look good on guys, sure, but I didn't realize the extent to which they aged a fellow.

  26. I am 44. crabby, don't be depressed. Remember that (1) anyone can manipulate a picture in photoshop, and (2) you are not looking at the hind quarters of any of us. Believe me, even if we didn't doctor up that shot, we're drooping somewheres.

    Regarding the age-guessing site, lawyers have a credo I like to stick to: don't ask questions you don't already know the answer to. Let's drink to getting old (something expensive... at least we've got money).

  27. Contrary to marijke's belief i think that one is going to age with time that is something which you can help or stop

  28. I'm 45, and when in my 30's people used to say that I looked younger than my age. Now, I never hear that. Is it because I've suddenly aged 10 years, or because women over 40 just don't get much attention??

    I don't really mind too much what people think I look like - I'm dating a younger man who is quite happy with my appearance and I'm in the best physical condition of my life!

    I try to keep my focus on my personal contentment with my life and whether or not I can do the things I enjoy, like kayaking or hiking or jogging. In spite of all that, once in a while I look in the mirror and think "who is that?" because the image in the mirror doesn't fit the one in my head any more!!

  29. Hi Thomma Lyn and Kery, and welcome Shred Betty (whose lemon cupcakes look out of this world),Fitness and Anonymous! (And good for you, anon, for being in the best shape of your life!)

    Sorry I've had to bail on individual comment response to this post, but you all sound like you have much healthier attitudes towards the physical signs of aging than I do!

    Thank you all for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  30. ok so truth be told I never gave surgery a thought...hey Im 47 or is is 48?
    ok one of those but Im about to get re-married (after being a widow 7 or 8 years)and I mustadmit I did take the number of a dr here that does botox...naw havent called him...but I am finding it interesting how many people you wouldent think would go that route actually have....

  31. Hi Anonymous,
    Congrats on your upcoming wedding!

    And if you do end up checking it out, it will be our secret. ;)

    (I never thought I'd start putting smileys in blog comments either--so I guess Never say Never about anything!)


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