The sin of ‘letting yourself go’

One year before she died, Carrie Fisher tweeted about ageing, hitting back at those who criticised her appearance as Princess Leia in the Star Wars film, The Force Awakens.

She was 59-years-old.

“Please stop debating about whether or not I aged well,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, it hurts all three of my feelings. My body hasn’t aged as well as I have. Blow us.”

She then said, “Youth and beauty are not accomplishments. They are the temporary, happy by-products of time and/or DNA. Don’t hold your breath for either.”

In our youth-centric society, we are all under the microscope. With so many beauty products and devices available to assist in staying thin and giving the appearance of youth and beauty, ‘letting yourself go’ is basically a cardinal sin.

In this wonderfully potent Huffington Post article, the writer says: “Being appropriately contained and packaged is one of the many things culture demands of women – whether in how we speak, how we act, how we dress, or how we age.”

Think of how the gossip magazines treat celebrities, such as Jessica Simpson, who are criticised for ‘stacking on the weight’ during pregnancy or who take too long to ‘bounce back’ to their ‘pre-baby bodies’. Or who, like Drew Barrymore, let themselves go while going through a stressful divorce.

Women and men are both subjected to this scrutiny, but it’s fair to say that women may bear the brunt of the criticism. This is because they are the most common practitioners of beauty maintenance – think diets, high heels, makeup, hair dyes, anti-wrinkle creams, body hair removal, form-fitting clothes and body-contouring underwear. What if you were born a girl into a society where all this expectation lay ahead of you? Many readers already know what this is like, others may have to use their imaginations.

So when women, at any stage of life, choose to forgo these practises, they are seen as giving up their social responsibility to appear desirable to others. And for some reason, this offends people.

As Carrie said, ageing is inevitable. Bodies grow in ways no cosmetic or item of clothing can change. What if, instead of being afraid of this, we accepted it with grace – in ourselves and in others? What if we only put moisturiser on our face in the morning, wore pants with elastic waistbands and ate cheeseburgers on a weeknight without feeling guilty?

Surely, being free of the dread of growing older is the best gift we can give to ourselves and each other.

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Amelia Theodorakis
Amelia Theodorakis
A writer and communications specialist with eight years’ in startups, SMEs, not-for-profits and corporates. Interests and expertise in gender studies, history, finance, banking, human interest, literature and poetry.
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