Everywhere you look, advertising carries images of youthful beauty as though youth were something to aim towards and to be perpetually young was the ideal state. There are posters on the London Underground advertising “cosmetic surgery confidence” as though anything other than the perceived ideal of factory-fresh, unblemished skin were something to be ashamed of. This is perhaps the most obnoxious notion that I can think of – and I can be quite obnoxious. The idea of going under the knife to try to deny who you have become is both pathetic and stupid in the extreme, and attempting to convince people that it is necessary – and even normal – by trying to make them doubt themselves is utterly reprehensible behaviour.
Quite apart from the simple fact that becoming younger is a patently unachievable target, I would contend that youth is, in itself, not beautiful anyway. The notion that we peak early and then decline is a spurious nonsense propagated by those with something to sell.
This is my perspective: youth is simplicity. We start off as a blank canvas – new and unused but, essentially, empty – and add detail over the years, the intricacies carving themselves into our faces and our minds. We may occasionally crave that lost simplicity but only because we sometimes lose sight of the truth that age is not less than youth, it is more than, for age does not reduce us but enhances us. Everything in life is constantly striving toward a state of greater complexity – the evidence of this can be seen all around us in nature – and it is in the detail that we see perfection: each line on our skin or tint in our hair is another feature, like the later brush-strokes of an artist perfecting a portrait, for we are forever a work in progress. As we grow older, our experience deepens and our minds discern more – because we can see the subtle nuances in all things as we move away from the naivety of youth – and our bodies are a reflection of this. Everything that appeared to be simple is revealed as complex and that complexity is perfectly bewitching.
Perhaps the desire to remain youthful in appearance is in some way connected with our fear of our own mortality, as though we might postpone the inevitability of death by fooling the reaper with fresher looking skin. That ain’t going to work but it doesn’t matter – there is nothing to fear. Humanity in every stage is beautiful: all the intricacies of every single person’s life and death are interwoven with everybody else’s in a myriad mesh of exquisiteness comparable to the first rays of sunshine catching the beads of dew on a frosted spider’s web. Everything is interconnected and it’s all wonderful.
Trust me, age is the future and it’s simply enchanting.
[The author is in his early forties and is re-assessing his perspective on a lot of things. Doesn’t mean he isn’t right, though.]