I equate the experience of moving into my early forties to crawling out of a foxhole. In the last three years, I have pulled myself up, peeked over the top and burst into the sunshine.
The late nights and early mornings of early motherhood have faded, and I can finally lock the bathroom door.
I truly feel like I have made it out the other side of something. My mind is partially back, I have cut the knots out of my hair, and I’ve finally shaven the other leg. Just being healthy, alive, and mostly intact is enough most days.
And I think most of my friends would agree: life might be at its hardest, but we are at our most beautiful yet. Confident with little to hide, I think we have never felt younger.
So, if this us, why are we paying money to companies who gain our loyalty by marketing aging as something to prepare for and fight off? Or inversely, that youth is something to be defended and even regained?
Formal research on my latest theory commenced following two demoralizing events at a recent conference in Toronto. Alone and fancy-free, I excitedly dove into my ample swag bag, only to resurface holding a pair of black, lacy incontinence underpants.
Recovery from insult was almost successful until brunch the following morning when my name was announced as the grand-prize winner of a gift basket loaded to the top with five more pairs of spongy briefs.
I am fully aware that I might need these items someday. My jump rope has already been permanently retired, and continuous Kegel exercises often prevent my facial expression from accurately matching a conversation... one and hold and two and hold…I just really wish it had not been assumed that I was at a stage in life where receiving these products as gifts would make me happy.
Finishing coffee number four, I gave consideration to a plan of layering all five pairs of dainties and swan-diving into the hotel pool, counting on the highly absorbent crotch panels to drag me to the bottom. Fearing the possible photographic evidence, I opted instead for a solitary gin and tonic and some additional fieldwork on the streets of my youth (a practice also known as day drinking and retail therapy).
Wandering the pharmacy, products with names like “Age Defy” promise to help me “Fight 7 Signs of Aging Hair” and a silver box of face crème called “Wrinkle Defense” stands by ready to assist. A journey through my favourite cosmetic destination peppers me with product slogans like “Who can win the war on wrinkles?” and “take control of aging skin now” and “Age Arrest.”
Flipping over my favourite magazine reveals a skincare ad reading, “Pow! De-aging for the impatient.”
A quick click online leads me to a $90 metabolism boosting vitamin pack called High School Genes, designed to get your middle-age self back into your high school jeans. Thanks, but last time I checked, I had no desire to locate or fit into my oversized used Levi’s or return to the pain of high school in any way.
Although I do not miss my youth, all this negativity does leave me craving the sexist marketing aimed at me in my teens and 20s. At this point, I might finally be interested in an inflatable bra and a package of glittery stickers to decorate my lady parts.
I don't need to pay for something that is trying to scare me or create anxiety. Fear and worry are both free and plentiful for the women in my age group. There is no need for the voices of expensive products in our ear telling us to prepare for the dreaded years ahead. Because loss has taught us by now that aging isn't a monster but rather a gift.
If we need information on the years ahead, we can get it from each other. Women have a long history of informing the next in line, whether the advice is wanted or not. It starts with tampon demos, moves on to tales of delivery room nightmares, and continues with the woman across the barre at the gym hissing, “Just wait until you hit menopause.”
Believe it when I say we will come looking for your products if and when we need something.
Dearest companies, if you want my money, please market to my inner child. Last week pink, shimmery shampoo was dropped into my cart solely because it looked fun. I adore all those retro products and toys aimed at stirring the nostalgia of parents and cannot pass up a single Bonnie Bell Lip Smacker. I will lunge at every neon product you make because it makes me feel young in all the best ways.
Plus, at my age, it makes things a lot easier to find.