Getting older and uglier by the year, who voted for this?!

When I was in my early thirties, and looking moreorless good still, I recall complaining to my hair stylist that I was starting to go grey. He replied that many of his clients complained of ageing, as they sat there staring at themselves and him in the mirror, and he would reply:

“We are all going in the same direction at the same speed.”

Wise man. As far as most of us are concerned, even if we have managed to escape a serious illness up ‘til now, just getting older and uglier is calamitous on a personal level. We don’t like losing our looks, our muscle tone, our smooth skin, our shiny thick hair, etc. We don’t like the effects of gravity on our body. But, as Buddha taught and we can easily observe, getting older and uglier is also entirely universal – it happens to all of us who are lucky enough to remain enough years in a human body. So why are we so fussed just about ourselves?  When it is this inevitable, why do we allow ourselves to get this fussed at all?

If I were any good at drawing graphs, I could draw one to represent the rise and fall of our looks that went something like this… the line would go up gradually starting at birth, peak in our late teens and twenties, go down slightly in our thirties, and then start to drop precipitously in our forties. From then on, it would all be downhill ‘til our body is disposed of entirely.

We might as well accept it happily. Otherwise, regardless of how much increased effort and money we put into looking good, we are in for decades of diminishing returns.

On a flight to San Francisco a few years ago, I was standing behind three teenage Californian girls on the walkway to the plane. This is what I overheard. The first girl remarked: “I saw your mom the other day. She looked good. How did she manage that?” The second girl replied: “She does Botox. Yeah, and she really works at keeping in shape, it’s like she thinks about it a lot.” The third girl asked: “How old is your mom?”, and the reply was “She’s like forty already!” There was a collective shudder as they took that in, then the first girl said: “I’m soooo going to have Botox if I get that old. It’ll be better then. I’ll never let myself go.” A pause as they thought ahead to the dismal day when they would turn forty and ugly. Then the third girl decided against it, to head nodding all around:

“I’m soooo not going to get old.”

I couldn’t help smiling, but I had to relate. I remember in my teens and early twenties thinking that middle-aged people had somehow  just lazily let themselves go — how with just a little more attention to what they ate and a little more exercise (and how hard is that for goodness sake?!) they’d look far better and younger. The grey hair, the pot belly, the wrinkles — it all felt somehow optional. I figured I’d follow my own advice and thus escape the trap they’d fallen into, that I’d look very much the same at their age as I did now. But, guess what. I do eat pretty well and I do still exercise, but I look nothing like I did when I was nineteen. Those girls on the plane did not throw me a second glance – as far as they were concerned, I had clearly failed. One part of me wanted to butt in and say, “Just you wait…!” but of course I didn’t.

Which reminds me of another time after I first moved into Madhyamaka Centre in 1986. A bright, healthy, relatively shapely young twenty something, I was sauntering down the beautiful driveway and, it being a Sunday, there was a local couple up ahead of me, walking very, very slowly. As I got closer to them, I could see that they were both entirely old and decrepit, and I remember this ignoble thought popped into my head: “I’ll never let myself get like that!” At which point, the old man turned around, looked me straight in the eye, and said, not without kindness: “You think you’ll never be old like us. You think you’ll always be able to walk fast down this road. I thought that too when I was your age. But you wait.” I had to chalk that one up to an emanation of Buddha. Despite years of studying ageing, sickness and death already, even teaching about them in branches and on Foundation Programme, this old man’s simple words struck home

And I didn’t have to wait long, at least before the process of ageing got well underway. Now it has got to that point when every peek in the mirror yields seemingly another wrinkle, grey hair, crevasse, or jowl. It would be scary if it wasn’t funny. (Or funny if it wasn’t scary, I’m not sure which.) Are you at that point yet when you cast around for photos that are several years old for your Facebook page, or at least photos that were shot in dim lighting?! Well, just you wait.

It makes much better sense to focus on improving the beauty of our mind through developing love, compassion, patience, wisdom and so on. This beauty will never let us down either in this life or in any future lives.

Apparently Americans per capita spend more on skin care each year than they do on education. Yet someone I know working in the skin care industry told me the conventional wisdom is that even the best creams and surgical procedures will take only a few years off someone’s looks.  Of course, if we try too hard, at some point it backfires — we end up looking unnatural and off-putting, the opposite of what we signed up and paid so much for.

There’s only so much we can do with our meaty bodies!

We are attached to an image of ourselves, not accepting who we are and where we are at. Talking of this body image, though, have you noticed how on some days you think you look hot (still) and on others you can’t quite believe how much you’ve aged – yet a casual observer would not be able to tell the difference between these two you’s (and probably couldn’t care less if they could?!) It is all in our mind.

Have you ever seen those pictures of the most attractive people on our planet, the movie stars, when the Enquirer has got hold of them at an unguarded and un-photoshopped moment? Like those stars, we generally don’t allow that to happen. We approach our bathroom mirror deliberately and with certain preconceptions, and this usually determines what we see – “Look, I still look quite nice!” We add our own photo-shop: We angle our head in a certain complimentary way, perhaps smile seductively at ourselves, hold our stomach in, and stand up straight (don’t tell me this is just me!! I’ve seen you…) But how often have you heard someone relay how they were travelling up an escalator in a mall the other day when they caught sight of a middle-aged overweight grey-haired person with terrible posture in the mirror, only to realize with horror that it was their own reflection?!  And you wonder what others see sometimes. The other day I wandered down to an open-air blues concert in my town and an ancient man (who was probably my age) tried to pick me up, as if he stood a chance! I felt I was way too young for him, but he probably thought I was just the same age.

When we’re young, we take it in our stride when someone says: “You’re gorgeous!” But the most we can hope for as we get older is: “You’re looking good for your age.” The Buddhist scriptures talk about “the mask of youth”. That smooth flawless skin must fall off sooner or later, even if we try to resist it like some kind of Dorian Gray making a pact with the devil of self-pre-occupation. We can be the opposite of Dorian Gray – becoming more beautiful on the inside, even as our face and body succumb to the years and gravity. (Of course I’m not suggesting we entirely neglect what we look like, just that we don’t exaggerate its importance.)

Why am I saying all this? Only to encourage everyone, or perhaps just myself, to not worry about getting uglier because it is inevitable, at least superficially at skin level. We can cut mold out of an orange, but it is still only a matter of time before the whole orange succumbs. And though there may be more oranges in the fruit bowl, we only have this one body, so our ageing is an indicator that it is time to get out of samsara, the cycle of impure life, by focusing on what we can control, our mind.

If you are beautiful inside, you’ll never be ugly. People will always find you attractive and want you around – that is one of the main benefits of patience, for example. So we could save ourselves a lot of time and heartache by taking Buddha’s advice on board. And sooner — learning to see it coming while we’re relatively young — rather than waiting until the last minute, when we really can kid ourselves no longer but have left ourselves little to fall back upon. Luckily, we are not our bodies so we don’t have to identify with them so desperately. There is a great deal more to us. Our body has a limited shelf life, but the continuum of our mind does not.

Finally, we don’t even have to focus on our bodily age if we are interested mainly in the inner life of our mind, for our mind is ageless. I always find it fascinating how, from a Buddhist perspective, all of us are the same age because our mental continuums have existed since beginningless time.

Over to you: Do you agree? And have you ever met anyone who is more beautiful as their body grows older? What is their secret?

p.s: Ageing happens to everyone who lives long enough, even George Clooney, who claims to be scared of getting old and dead. The London Times quoted him last week:

“There’s only a certain amount of time” (about 10 years he thinks)—“when you get the keys to the kingdom. I’m terrified of the moment when you’re the guy who goes to the studio and says, ‘I’ve got this idea,’ and they’re like, ‘Thanks for stopping by,’ and you walk out and they roll their eyes.”

Please share this article with all the old geezers you know, if you like it.

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

46 thoughts on “Getting older and uglier by the year, who voted for this?!”

  1. I so needed this right now, having been to visit my mum in the care home yesterday and noticing how her arms have wasted away so that the skin hangs down like flags (she’s 80). And her vascular dementia should warn me over and over that I need to practise now, because we never know if we will even still have control over our minds right to the end of our life. I need to see her as a warning of how precious our mental capability is while we have it, because 20, even 10 years ago, I never would have believed that my smart mum could be so gone.

    1. It is unbelievable and all too common. May your mother always be under the loving care of Guru Tara. And you’re right, we have to get practicing for our own sake and the sake of all our mothers. xxx

  2. You have this way of expressing human traits in such a funny way (yes! we all look in the mirror prepared to look, not to catch ourselves unaware), that it all feels so relevant and true – I find myself nodding my head and saying: yup, I do that, and that.. I wonder how much the obsession with youth and beauty plays into our desire to stay young, vs the fear of ageing and death in general (ie our bizarre wish to live in denial of it). Maybe the obsession is fueled by the denial. Anyway, I found this post very hopeful, and encouraging — beautiful internal qualities are so much more important. Thank you!

  3. Wonderful Luna, perfect! Reminds me of a story, correct me if I get it to far down the line, but once Geshe-la was shown a picture of some people, and he pointed to himself and asked who that person was LOL !!!

    Such a teaching great lesson that you’ve elaborated on here beautifully – focus on the inner beauty of virtuous experience. Taking it a bit further, at some point we need to be fed up enough that we put more effort into imputing self on the pure bodies, minds, environments and activities of the Guru-Deity, seeing this fleshy puppet merely as one of our emanations whose function is to serve others. I’d love to look at a picture I’m in and ask ‘who the hell is that guy?’

  4. Quote from Trisha on Buddhism allowing her to be beautiful – “A friend who knows me well, said “you’re like a completely different person.” He was looking at me in a confused, amused sort of way. I think before I always looked scared and unhappy. For the first time in my life people started calling me beautiful! (big laugh) I realised it was an inner thing.”

    Link for that quote and more from Trisha on Buddhist life changes –

  5. Oh and as for Geroge Clooney, he will never get ugly. Even when he is a wrinkled up old man women will still find him sexy and desirable. It’s a whole different thing for men when it comes to aging. For women they fear losing power they get from their beauty but men fear losing the beauty they get from thier power. Retirement is to a man what menopause is to a woman. That’s my take, anyway.

    1. Yes, I think that’s a fair observation. Men are not off the hook any more than women.

      As for George Clooney, again, he had a serious and agonizing injury to the base of his neck while shooting Syriana in 2005. He has had three operations but the pain is still with him. He says: “I know when I wake up it will always feel like a hangover, but I can’t mourn what I used to be.”

  6. I am going to sound like a fool in this response but here goes anyway… As a woman, way before I knew what attachment was, I knew that my youthful good looks caused people, men in particular, to “want me.” Many doors open to a youthful woman and whether we like to admit it or not, we feel good when they do. The insecure, unbalanced, lack of real confidence our self-grasping causes in us, leaves us searching for validation…”out there” love..”out there”, acceptance…”out there” and youth and beauty help us to get those things. I may not have been a “super model” when I was younger but I definitely used whatever looks I had to secure things for myself. I knew as a young woman that a little hair flip here, or a giggle there, a snugly fit outfit on an interview would help me get the job but for that to work we need youth and beauty. Partners are another of those things, whether they are long term or one night stands, the feeling that your attractiveness cause someone to “want” you helps sooth that sense of loneliness and isolation that comes with the self-grasping mind. Maybe I’m coming across as some floozy here but in all honesty, the thing I miss most about losing my youthful looks is that its not as easy to get the things I want from men. When I say “I” I mean my self-cherishing mind who wants attention, who wants to be cherished, who wants to be desired and strong attachment will make a man do just about anything for you, even if there’s only the slightest hope of a chance with you…Once you no longer can induce attachment, its a whole different game…So yes, its a good thing that I found Dharma and that I not only understand now that love is not something you “get” its something you cultivate within your own mind, that attractiveness is just a karmic appearance and that the more patient and loving a person you are the more beautiful you become to others….but still it stings….ain’t no-one sending this girl a drink from the other side of the bar anymore…..(not that I’d dare go into a bar these days…have you seem the girls in there..they look 16!) LOL…

    1. Thanks for the post Justine – can’t really add to Luna’s comment in reply : )

    2. I could never relate to girls like you Justine, it seemed like they lived on another world. But looks like we have common ground now – cultivating love instead of delusion. And I totally agree with you about George Clooney!

  7. Hi Luna, excellent work as usual!

    I am 50 this year, it is not causing me any suffering whatsoever 🙂 My partner is 28, not because I’m trying to put off the inevitable, or not face the truth, or having some mid-life crisis 🙂 but because we met and some mutual karma ripened and we love each other. She is my best friend, lover and confidante…… I do not think I am attractive, but don’t care, she thinks I am attractive, (what a great teaching on ultimate truth that is, to start with.)

    What I have learned in my life :-

    1) I used to be overweight and unhappy at school, with no self-esteem.
    2) By caring for my parents and dear ex-partner up to their deaths, I realized that looks are meaningless, as they can disappear in moments.
    3) “attractiveness” to others (including beautiful young women) arises not in dependence on how we “appear” to others’ minds physically, but due to our self-confidence and self-esteem. These excellent, useful qualities arose from a decrease in cherishing myself and cherishing and caring for others. I am always generally perceived as an attractive, interesting person.
    4) I understand that these qualities arise from the kindness and humility of my holy father Geshe-la who appeared and explained that I was going in the wrong direction, now I can do anything….. 50 is no more than 5-0.
    5) My body is getting older, while my mind is becoming more useful and flexible and enjoyable. This appears to be attractive to others.
    I will be grateful for the use that I will get from my body for as long as possible to help others and am very grateful for the warning that I had nearly 2 years ago, how liberating.
    6) Our body is no more than we think it is…..

    My ex-partner died of cancer. The last kiss, moments before she died, was the most beautiful we shared, yet if I showed anyone a picture of her face at that time, no one would be able to perceive her beauty. By this time, she had become the most beautiful person I had ever seen, or kissed.

    My partner’s mum thinks that she looks old and tired; to me she looks like one of the kindest people I have ever met. Her good heart inside, to me shines through her smile as beautiful outside as inside.


    Use whatever you have to benefit others and you will never be attached to impermanent so-called beauty.

    I have no wish to chase photo-shopped deception.

    Be happy with what you yourself created and if you don’t like it, start right now, creating a better one next time.

    Thank you for my mental freedom to be anything that I choose to be, dear Geshe-la.

    Don’t be scared of your age…’s just a dream.

    The question is, do you want a good one, or a bad one? 🙂

    1. You really moved my heart – isn’t that what we all love in life…for our heart to be moved in a really positive way, thanks so much!

  8. “The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.”
    Audrey Hepburn

  9. In reply to your brilliant article Luna – yes, inner beauty does shine through, and I agree that physical attractiveness is less to do with age than attitude. It took me ’til my 30’s to believe folk when they said I was pretty – I used to scowl at them before because I distrusted them. I think I look better now I’m 40 than ever before, because I’m confident and much more open with people. Now if anybody dares to suggest I’m pretty now, I give them a big smile in return for their kindness. Of course, you have to balance this with my spasticity (makes me so clumsy!), wheelchair or stick, and scars on my arms from previous self-harming.

    *It’s commonly agreed that meditators look younger than they are, and Kadampas do tend to have that ‘Geshe-la twinkle’ in their eyes, don’t they?

  10. I only look in the mirror very rarely nowadays, and all i see are the bags under my eyes… sometimes i am reminded how a good friend once said to me in my late 20’s ‘Those bags won’t go away one day.’ And now nearing 40 i can say that day has already arrived. I see my self as fortunate because i don’t have a partner who reminds me of my physical body and to whom i reveal this saggy wrinkled body with. This gives me the time to work much more on my mind, which i have been increasingly more interested in.

    So when i read Kenneth’s comments, ‘The people that i have found most beautiful are the people who seem to fully accept their body and its natural ageing process and ‘embody’ it in a loving accepting way.’ I am still wondering how people in relationships deal with getting older, how for instance do they have sex? What is attractive about the body of the other that they would want to? I am sure that their sexuality deplets as they get older. I am sure for instance that my folks no longer have sex. Which i think is healthy, because they are just best friends and truly love each other’s hearts/minds. I guess this means that they accept their body and it’s ageing process. (Can’t believe i am talking about my folks’ sexual life here :-)) I hope i am not offending anyone here by talking about sexuality, but i think that being concerned about the way we look ties in so closely with our sexuality especially in modern times. We all long to be intimate with others, this comes from giving others our love i think, not our body.

    I think perhaps i go the other way too much as sometimes i will go out without even brushing my hair or having even looked in a mirror. My folks used to tease me when i was a child and call me ‘grot bot’ because i just found it so funny, the whole body thing! You know the farts and the pooh and all the snot! I can see it in my little girl now too! Kids love their own bodily gooey stuff!

    So when the issue of ageing comes in for me it isn’t actually about the looks as more to do with the daily pain that the body is undergoing, and how it is increasing day by day. This then makes me turn to my mind itself for refuge because i don’t want to be taking drugs and more drugs when i am older but want to be able to control my mind enough so as it won’t hurt so much, or not at all.

    Oooh i just love your blog Luna thanks for the chance to think a few things out!

    1. Nice one!

      I think this is very true: “We all long to be intimate with others, this comes from giving others our love i think, not our body.” It is natural and right for us to want to be close to others as we are all interconnected in every cell of our being. Our self-grasping ignorance and self-cherishing drive us apart and set us up in alienation. Attachment to others’ bodies just gets in the way of true intimacy, in fact.

  11. This article appeared at the most opportune time for me, a day before my birthday. I was dreading turning 37 (I know – 37 is NOT old) because its hard to accept my body and mind are not the same as it was in my youthful 20s. Ahhh impermanence – what a lesson! Thanks to the lessons of the Dharma and my practice in patient acceptance, I’m proud to say I feel (and dare to say ‘look’) even more beautiful now than I did in the past. 🙂

  12. My initial response to the post was around the use of the word ‘ugly’. At times I could understand the underlying point being made but at other points, i exeperienced the use of the word ‘ugly’ as having a bit of a ‘judgement’ to it. This is interesting as in your response to Heather you suggest that the point of Buddhism is not to ‘evaluate ourselves on the state of our skin’ but when i read the use of the word ‘ugly’ for me it has a flavour of that very evaluation. I know it’s only a ‘word’ but I find that its use feels somehow non-accepting of our own body and ageing process. i find it more helpful to try and completely accept the nature ( and harsh realities ) of ageing without the ‘tag’ of a self/other criticism of ‘ugliness’. I wouldn’t describe anything in nature as ugly and I dont see ourselves as being any different.

    The people that i have found most beautiful are the people who seem to fully accept their body and its natural ageing process and ’embody’ it in a loving accepting way. i don’t see this as being ‘less focussed’ on the mind or giving inappropiate attention to our body – i find it to be just a simple acceptance of the nature of things which seems a more loving open space to go to for meditation on the realities of our existence than one, that i experience as having a bit of an ‘edge’ to it because I’ve arrived there because i perceive myself / others as ‘ugly’.

    1. You’re right, it is a strong word. I kind of meant it tongue in cheek and to redress the balance of being too attached to so-called “beauty”, not as a judgmental word — in fact the idea I was trying to convey is that we CAN accept the ageing process happily and NOT find ourselves or others ugly. But i can see how it is an emotive word that could be construed otherwise… hmmmm.

      Nothing is inherently ugly, and although we don’t need attachment, the last thing we need is to replace that with aversion. (And we’re missing the point if we judge others, we need to figure out how to deal with this attachment to form in ourselves.) When Shantideva, for example, the famous Buddhist master, goes to town on the repulsiveness of the body in the chapter on concentration in Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, he is not doing it to provoke aversion but non-attachment or renunciation, and they are not the same thing. But they can be confused with each other.

      Thanks for making this point. I’ll leave it as “ugly” for now, if you don’t mind, because it seems to be provoking a useful discussion. Anyone else, please jump in.

      1. Thanks for the reply. I wouldn’t want you to remove the word from the post, as it’s helping me to explore the way i relate to myself and what ‘language’ I personally find useful to encourage my practice.

        In my experience of practicing dharma, I’ve found that I have to be quite vigilant about the langauge used, otherwise i think it’s easy to, however subtly , send little negative messages towards myself which will in turn hinder my attempt to be fully there for others.

        The Shantideva example is a good one for me. In the context he gave these teachings I imagine that the students were able to receive the teachings in the way they were intended – to develop renunciation and non attachment.
        Personally though, in this modern age with all our western hang ups etc , its easier for me to experience the teachings as a stick rather than a carrot! I appreciate it’s our responsibility to be skillful with our interpretation of teachings but I also think its our responsibilty to be really honest with ourselves. Are we developing renuncation, non attachment etc with a loving mind towards ourselves and others or are using the stick in our tool bag a little too often, and possibly unwittingly, to be helpful in the long run…

        Anyway, thanks for your posts I enjoy reading them and as you may see from my comments I do find them thought provoking!!

        PS… as you may have already gathered, although I’m responding to your post here, my thoughts/feelings are not a ‘huge’ reaction to this particular post, but rather a broader exploration over time that has been expressed here ! 🙂

        1. I agree with you on being careful with how we talk to ourselves. We are prone to giving ourselves a hard time, it seems, in this society, and it can undermine our progress by causing discouragement. That’s partly why I wrote the recent article on loving ourselves 🙂

          While we’re on this general discussion about what kind of language to use on ourselves and others, someone was saying the other day that “violent” language does not really work on us, such as the warlike imagery we can find in the scriptures against the delusions. I think that depends on how skilled we are at distinguishing our delusions from ourselves, (and also whether or not we see it as a license to be hard on others as well!), but overall it is better in our society to use non-violent language.

          1. In general (i don’t know precisely what scriptures you’re referring to !) I dont mind that imagery and language. I do approach them as myth/legend though, so I can see more clearly the purpose of the teachings. If i’m in the mood for it I can definitley be encouraged to apply more effort and meet my delusions in a more direct – warrior? – like way. Because I don’t take them as literal (i know other people will) they seem more ‘clean’ to me, whereas some of the less ‘obvious’ use of language allows me to be more self-critical rather than inspired. When I’m talking about being self-critical I mean more over a period of time so it might not even be in my awareness for a long time.

            The body image thing is quite an example of this for me. We all turn to dharma for our own reasons etc etc but we can turn towards it to help justify a pre-existing problem (not sure that’s the right word !) so we might have some way of relating to our body that may not be too healthy and then we have a ‘bingo’ moment when we think if we only work on our mind we can ‘ignore ‘ that problem. I’ve definitely done that with different things and then it is easy to use the subtle language to re-enforce it ! Anyway i fear i’m waffling now rather than making sense, so that will do !! A very foggy mind this evening! : )

            Going slightly off kilter … I have recent experience of the myth/legend way of relating to scriptures… my eight year old son has had a difficult couple of weeks because Angulimala has been in his mind causing him some disturbance. So we’ve been chatting about the ‘point’ of the story and why it’s been told. Hopefully soon his attention will move towards Buddha ‘stopping’ and not Angulimala running riot : )

  13. Once I asked my 14 year old if I looked okay in an outfit I was wearing. Her response was, “Honestly mom, who cares? It’s not like anyone is looking at you, you’re married and in your 40’s.” It really got me thinking….who does care about how I look? No one except me.

    I never thought I would age either, but now mid 40’s I can clearly feel being on a sinking ship. When the hard cold fact that I was aging and getting “older and uglier” like the title of your article, it really hit me how everything else Buddha said must also be true, I will get sick and I will die. I need to get busy on the mind.

    Thanks for putting this out there….

  14. Great article. I work at a local hopsital; and often have to help elderly patients with personal care, I find it very helpful to see the mask of youth fully removed. Most of them can’t understand how it happened- only yesterday they were 16 and full of enthusiasm for life…

    1. Life does go by in a flash. I think of it as rather like a two week vacation — starting off slowly, then suddenly it is time to go home.

  15. i shared this with myself as i’m an old geezer
    no probs i may die today
    so what!
    i know i may die today…….oops i’m repeating myself
    so what’s to do?
    enjoy today ….be nice to all, smile, practice the four givings…..dharma love fearlessness & material things… works …..
    thank you Ven Geshe-la father and true friend !

  16. I prefer the French attitude to aging – they like the look of older women, and women still have a good sense of their own general well being and attractiveness as they age. I guess, although its good to use whatever is personally relevant for meditation, we need to make sure it’s not undermining our own sense of health and wellbeing. Attractiveness is part of this – a big problem for women in a youth-focused society like ours!

    1. Thank you, Heather, for giving me a chance to try and clarify a common objection to focusing on old age. Far from being life-denying to accept that our body deteriorates, it is life affirming, as we pay less inappropriate attention to it and more attention to the life of the mind, plus we judge ourselves and others less harshly on superficial criteria.

      It is funny you mention the French because growing up I had (and still have) a beautiful French aunt. A model as a young woman, she loathed getting older, even though I thought she always looked amazing. Her birthday is on December 26th, and for her (and the rest of us!) every Christmas Day was overshadowed by the imminence of her birthday. Her 30th in particular was a miserable day, so much so that she decided to cancel her birthdays altogether for a while! Later she accepted that it didn’t matter if she grew older and she reinstated her birthday.

      The point Buddhism is making is that we don’t need to evaluate ourselves based on the state of our skin. We have to redress the balance. There are more important and realistic things on which to base our sense of purpose and self-worth. Exchanging self with others, for example, gives us true dignity and grace. Then, if we get our minds in the right place, we look beautiful anyway, like my gorgeous 90-year old friend Eileen.

      I agree that women have had it harder than men over the years as they have been more objectified as their bodies, but I don’t actually think men have ever much enjoyed getting older and uglier either. Some may have bought into denial in different ways, grasping at their youth by grasping at another youth 😉 In any event, male or female, we don’t have to put ourselves down.

  17. EXCELLENT capturing of our journey into old. I get up in the morning, forgetting I am 65 and catch myself in the bathroom mirror and think, “WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN?”
    Thanks for keeping it real.

    1. HOW FUNNY OF ME…I do not turn 65 until August!!! Let’s not rush the inevitable, Mal. ;^)

Leave a Reply