A woman’s looks seem to be the topic of endless discussion. Starting from birth till their death we discuss every aspect of a women’s beauty. At infancy, the child’s features are scrutinised to determine if they fit into our established idea of beauty, once matured we argue if that person will age well and once aged we discuss if the person has aged gracefully or has made some hopeless attempt to stay young.
Then there are the stuff of legends; ladies, who are ageless beauties. Simply put, these species of the female population seem to age seamlessly and keep us at our toes wondering if they have found the fountain of youth. Joya Ahsan is a superb example here. At 45, the actress appears to look more youthful than your average 20-year-old.
While we can debate about our looks endlessly we all come to eventually accept the inevitability of our mortality. For some, this begins quite early on. I often hear some of my friends in their late 20s declare that they are at the prime of their lives or that women reach their peak once they are 30. Like the famous Carrie Bradshaw says in Sex and the City, “When you’re a teenager, all you want to do is buy beer. But once you hit 30 all you want to do is to get carded.” It makes me wonder who decides on such numbers and even on the authenticity of such figures.
Similarly, there are those who have accepted their 30s with more enthusiasm. In a Harper’s Bazaar interview, Beyoncé was quoted saying, “This is such a pivotal moment in my life! I’m transitioning as a woman, and I’m finally able to express myself as I am.”
But the widespread acceptance of the anti-aging ideas isn’t that surprising given the massive campaign done by cosmetic companies to sell us the idea that staying young is extremely desirable while aging is unacceptable and should be avoided at all costs. In fact, aging is akin to making poor life choices while investing in rejuvenating your youth means you have made smart life choices.
This injection of fear into our brains regarding growing old has many women in their late twenties lathering on anti-aging creams and investing into chemical peels. Chrissy Teigen, Sports Illustrated Cover Girl, is a big champion for plastic surgery. She openly states, “everything about me is fake, except my cheeks.” Gone are the days when women felt safe accepting their warts and wrinkles. Our recent culture encourages us to wipe out all our insecurities so that we might aim for the unachievable-the air brushed looks models display on magazine covers.
We reached out to Dr Jahanara Khan Jhumu regarding the recent trends in beauty treatments. Jhumu is a pioneer in aesthetic laser treatment in Bangladesh. When asked about what treatment was most popular amongst women in their 20s she stated: “Laser hair removal is most popular for women in that age group. This basically indicates a hormonal imbalance caused by a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits.”
However, she does believe that women are more mindful of their appearance nowadays. Women in the age group of 40s are the majority of her clients since they are in the transitional period and also more financially solvent. Thus more women opt for Botox, fillers, weight reduction and face lifting. She also highlighted the need for both mental and physical health in combating aging by emphasizing that physical beauty is unattainable without a healthy mind.
Then we must also investigate the other end of the spectrum. Women nowadays believe that having children have ridden them of all responsibilities to work on their looks. To yours truly, this seems like the oddest thing to strive for. How can the making of another human being encourage you to completely stop working on yourself? Do they not realize that we are all work-in-progress and we must strive for the best versions of ourselves throughout our lives?
Our society in general places women on a pedestal if she’s inattentive about her looks. After all, this woman has better things to do than worry about her appearance. She must stay on her toes slaving away after her husband, in-laws and children and thus must give up all attempts to look like the old, fashionable version of herself. A more thankless job, there was none.
Women in their late 40s and 50s experience a different situation. Many of these women are menopausal and thus going through the different stages of their fertility cycle. Dr. Mekhala Sarkar, Assistant Professor with the National Institute of Mental Health believes that “women in our society in general are not encouraged to seek psychiatric help and much less on issues that might arise due to aging.”
She went on to add that “women and men are more inclined to suffer from anxiety disorder and depression once they are in their 40s.” This is especially true for women who are menopausal and hence going through the upheaval of hormones in their bodies. Moreover, women who have undergone a hysterectomy often feel depression related to the procedure but are not well equipped to voice or deal with these emotions.
But not all are made same and this is true for those women who still spend sizeable amounts to work on their looks no matter what their age. These women are definitely those who have decided that going ‘gentle into the good night’ is not their cup of tea. You will find them everywhere, but they are most notable in the beauty parlours spotted around the city. I love watching them spend money on oil massages and mani-pedi. What a breath of fresh air they are and how refreshing it is to watch them put in a little work on themselves.
Beauty is a fickle thing. Despite the rigid rules of society regarding it, it still says amorphous and indefinable. And perhaps that is what makes it so desirable. Not everyone will find you beautiful simply because you won’t find yourself beautiful all the time. And it is this transitory nature of beauty which makes us want to hold on to it longer.
At the same time the idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder sounds romantic to me. And if I maybe so bold, why not appreciate our own splendour and appreciate that the lines and wrinkles make us more magnificent inside out.