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Joy Nicholson

Joy Nicholson photo courtesy of Joy NicholsonJoy Nicholson lives in New Mexico with her husband where they have a special-needs dog rescue. She has published two novels, The Tribes of Palos Verdes: A Novel and The Road to Esmeralda: A Novel, but is mainly interested in non-fiction animal-welfare issues now.

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Mirror, Mirror: Why Women Don't Age in LA
Tuesday, 21 July 2009 09:05  |  Written by Joy Nicholson | Blog Entry

Barbie photo by Branimir Mladenov

Nature isn’t fair, right? So have smart, hipster-humans made it fairer?

I’m late to the ‘wow, life has predictable, noticeable stages” phenomenon. In LA, where I grew up, women just don’t age—they go to yoga, Pilates and dermatologists to prevent that (definitely not in that order). They do get very tight, pore-less, perfectly un-seamed, toned and ‘ageless.’ Which is its own special look. The ageless look. Which is nothing like ‘young.’ It’s just the ‘person with money and age and insecurity’ look.

Cali plants are the same, by the way. I mean how many succulents and cacti look ‘young’ more than they just look ‘ageless?’ Would you gaze at a Joshua tree and think ‘ingénue?’ Or just ‘Cute plant with amazing age. I love that plant!’

Cali plants look pretty secure emotionally—and why not? They don’t have husbands who leave them for younger cacti. So, they may not know how horrible their human female counterparts have it.

Anyway. The distorted, enhanced (or should it be de-hanced?) visual of older women was normal to me growing up in LA. The only difference now is that the men have taken on the seamless, expressionless, ageless look, too.

Men, too, look like stunted, waxed Joshua trees. But much less attractive! Yay!

So, I’d never really seen ‘the winter’ of a natural woman up close until I moved from the wealthier parts of LA and went ‘native’ in a poorer state. I thought all older women simply went to the millionaire-derma-microwave station, got shrink-wrapped, almond-eyed and had HUGE-lipped. (I’d always believed that larger, Jolie-type lips were confined to older, divorced, blonde women. I always thought blondes turned Asian after 40, and Asian/Caucasian women turned blonde after 30.) Healthy, white women went macrobiotic and drank green tea and went to so many shiatsu massages a week after a certain age—right? But why, then, did they all have white, wicker patio furniture, too?

I could never find this answer—even in architecturally obsessed LA.

Anyway, obviously, having grown up in a desert climate—materially, spiritually, emotionally—I’d never been exposed to all the seasons. My guess is that most wealthy Americans who live in a four-season climate these days aren’t much exposed to four actual seasons either—what with heated seats in cars, cars themselves, malls, heated skyways, heated homes, dermatologists, fleece, HBO (the older-than-28’s MTV), Vogue France, Fortune, hormone-injecting specialists, etc.

So the first time I’ve actually seen a real, human, non-chemical ‘winter’ is on myself—here in a poor area, being that I’m poor like the rest of my demographic group. Wow, it’s weird. Here Caucasian women don’t go Asian in their 40s!

That includes me. I’ve stayed Caucasian much to my shock. Oddly, I have not gotten tighter facial skin, nor have my breasts gained in volume and height! Normally slack, easy skin surfaces have not pulled up to the scalp. (I guess this doesn’t happen in nature?) I look…well…not like an alien out of Whitley Strieber. I just look like me—but older.

Like a kindly, wider, safer person I’d ask directions from.

Oddly—there are many, many like me in New Mexico. In Los Angeles, California, where I’m from, I often feel like I need official paperwork or they’ll bring me to a zoo.

But here, in an un-affluent part of New Mexico, aging is actually not noticed. Only my plasticized friends from LA are noticed.

“Be very kind to her. She must have had a house fire,” is one way I’ve heard a ‘normal’ LA plastic/botox/restalayne friend lamented here. And this friend is only 46. And has spent a lot of money in LA to look ‘normal.’ And in LA parlance she does look normal.

And amongst her friends she looks normal. But amongst my neighbors she looks victimized.

What do we, eco-people, make of that?

Comments (2)add
Written by Amy Kaplan , July 22, 2009
Joy, did you read the piece I wrote on aging a few months back?

http://www.ecohearth.com/eco-blogs/my-real-world/403-aging-is-not-a-disease.html

I was in Las Vegas (guess where?) and now I am in Humboldt. I haven't seen any of "that look" up here but I did see it in Santa Fe. Of course, Santa Fe is hardly NM anymore.
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Written by RichB , July 21, 2009
I've never lived in California, but in the Northeast (not including the upper west side of NYC, perhaps), it is unusual to see one of the people you describe who isn't on TV. Up here, the face does weather naturally. At some point, usually in the 40's, often just as it is turning gray, women's hair stops growing more than a couple of inches long so that they all have the same tight, round white/gray helmet head. Must be something in the chowder. It's almost startling to see a long, dignified gray braid on a woman.

There is nothing wrong with aging naturally and gracefully. It is our society's stigmatization of death that is at the root of it all. Think of all the resources wasted keeping people looking "young" and helping them live longer and longer, but not better. If we spent that time, energy and money on finding ways to keep people comfortable and fulfilled, instead of simply alive longer, our planet and our society would be better off.
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