Aging is a weird thing. We all do it—we truly have no choice in the matter. It's literally how time and living things work.
But boy, do we make the process all kinds of complicated. The anti-aging market has created a 58.5 billion-dollar industry, with human beings spending their whole lives getting older spending buttloads of money to pretend like it's not happening.
I'm one of those human beings, by the way, so no judgment here. When I find a product that makes me look as young as I feel inside, I get pretty giddy.
But there's no doubt that our views on aging—and by extension, our perspectives on our own aging bodies—are influenced by popular culture. As we see celebrities in the spotlight who seem to be ageless, we enviously tag them with the hashtag #aginggoals. The goal is to "age well," which ultimately means looking like we're not aging at all. And so we break out the creams and the serums and the microdermabrasion and the injections—even the scalpel, in some cases—to keep the wrinkles, crinkles, bags, and sags at bay.
There's a big, blurry line between having a healthy skincare routine and demonizing normal signs of aging, and we each decide where our own line gets drawn.
This is where Justine Bateman comes in.
The 55-year-old actress/filmmaker is turning the idea of #aginggoals on its head by simply, boldly embracing her face as it is. No apologies. No avoidance. Just a simple message of "Yeah, this is my face."
She hasn't always had such radical self-acceptance. After Googling herself during the writing of her first book, Fame: The Hijacking of Reality, she saw that the autocomplete after her name read "looks old." So she looked at the photos people were sharing of her 40-something-year-old face as "evidence."
"I thought my face looked fine," she told PEOPLE. "Because of some of the fears I had, unrelated to my face, I decided to make them right and me wrong....I became really ashamed of my face, ridiculously so."
"I looked the same the day before as I did the day after," she said, "and yet I felt totally different about my face...The only difference was that I had read the criticism."
That experience led her to explore how society views women and aging, a topic she explores in her new book Face: One Square Foot of Skin. It also led to her truly embrace her face, just as it is.
Instead of fighting the aging process like many of us do, she decided to fight the fear attached to it.
"I hated the idea that half the population was perhaps spending the entire second half of their lives ashamed and apologetic that their faces had aged naturally," Bateman writes in her book.
She also shared with PEOPLE how she feels about society painting the physical signs of aging as inherently negative.
"I find it wrong that women absorb the idea that faces need to be fixed," she said. "That it's being treated as a matter of fact. I feel that we've skipped over the phase where we talk about whether or not we should criticize women's faces as they get older."
"I think getting all this plastic surgery is just people pleasing," she continued. "You don't want people to criticize you anymore so you appease them. The more you do that, the further away you get away from your true self. It doesn't work for me. If somebody said to me now we could do some surgery, wouldn't I be signaling that I'm super insecure? To me, it would."
I love how actor @JustineBateman is owning her age (55). She wrote a book about why she refuses to “get work done”… https://t.co/QmeFMOQCT0— One Hot Mess AK (@One Hot Mess AK) 1618125724.0
In her book, Bateman describes what people are really seeing when they look at her face in its aging glory:
"You're looking at f***ing determination and truth and creativity. You're looking at loss and sorrow and the effort for a deeper perspective. You're looking at satisfaction and happiness. You're looking at a manifestation of a connection so deep and rooted that it's more real than I am. You're looking at my face."
YES. What a refreshing perspective to add to the conversation surrounding beauty and aging. It's odd that seeing a woman simply accept the lines in her face is inspiring, but it really is.
Perhaps we should recalibrate #aginggoals to be more about how we feel than how we look. After all, if anyone is "aging well," it's the woman who feels—as Bateman told Vanity Fair—"empowered to walk out in the world with an attitude that says, 'Fuck you, I look great.'"
Right on, Justine Bateman. Thanks for helping us embrace our faces just as they are.
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