As human beings, aging is a fact of life, but the way we discuss it is intrinsically gendered — and to damaging effect. In the cover interview for As If Magazine, actress Julianne Moore, 60, decries the way our culture has turned the physical effects of aging into a taboo, particularly for women, and questions the social implications of elevating youthfulness of an ideal, rather than aging as a “fact of life.”
“There's so much judgement inherent in the term ‘aging gracefully,’” said Moore. “Is there an ungraceful way to age? We don't have an option, of course. No one has an option about aging, so it's not a positive or a negative thing, it just is.”
“Aging gracefully,” of course, is just code for “still looks young.” And the pressures of maintaining a youthful appearance start when we are actually young — nowadays, women in their 20s are getting Botox and other injectables, and sunscreens are touted for preventing wrinkles just as much as preventing skin cancer. This isn’t even including the potentially harmful effects of unchecked photo retouching on social media, and how it contributes o impossible standards of beauty. And when woman grow older, their worthiness is based on how well they are able to hide their age — or how much money they are able to throw at it.
Moore would like us to revere aging. “It's part of the human condition, so why are we always talking about it as if it is something that we have control over?” she questioned, adding that, despite how many times our bodies have revolved around the sun, personal growth never really ends. “How do we continue to challenge ourselves, to interest ourselves, learn new things, be more helpful to other people, be the person that your friends and family need or want?” said Moore. “How do we continue to evolve? How do we navigate life to have even deeper experiences? That should be what aging is about.”
She recalls how actress Helen Mirren helped her cope with aging in an industry where youthfulness determines your career. “Aging is a requirement of life: You either grow old or die young,” Mirren told Moore. Growing older is a gift from the universe, and wrinkles tell stories of a life full of stories, experiences, and wisdom. While it seems that the pressure to look young is increasing, it seems that Moore wants us to remember that the journey is just as important.