We turn 25 and we are told to buy an anti-age cream for the soon-to-come wrinkles. We grow older and the situation does not improve. There is always a new, must-have product on the market that promises us eternal beauty and we absolutely need to get our hands on it. Costantina offers a very personal reflection on the myth of eternal beauty and encourages us to normalize aging and imperfections.
We all remember the Evil Queen who desired to be the "fairest of them all" in the popular fairytale Snow White. Yet, to her great disappointment, the generous with compliments magic mirror unexpectedly decided that her deceased husband’s young, very young daughter was prettier than her.
Then, she yielded to a series of desperate attempts to get rid of her young, ignorant rival. And that is how she became one of the most famous villains in our bedtime stories. Due to her unjustified obsession with beauty, which filled her mind with cruel intentions.
But what if we could justify the Queen’s frenzy? What if she grew up in a world where three rules apply: a) beautiful equals young and flawless, b) the value of one’s worth is based on physical appearance, and c) beauty gives power. Can we really blame her so harshly for taking action when her status was threatened? After all, the magic mirror rejected the only aspect of herself that made her feel special, confident, and powerful.
Don’t we all want to look young and beautiful forever? If the answer is instinctively negative, then we probably have either accepted the impossibility of such a statement or don’t really care since we are full of confidence. Or, most likely, we haven’t experienced the pressure of getting older yet.
But when we were 22, our beautician gave us a pep talk on how to maintain our youthful skin. When we turned 25, we received as a birthday gift an anti-wrinkle cream, and when we were 27, we admired a 55-year-old model in a magazine who, after multiple cosmetic surgeries, diets, and a lot of make-up, looked like our younger sibling. Until we are 37 and we panic because we look into the mirror and see nothing more than grey hair and a wrinkle on our foreheads.
And why all the fuss? Because, without even realizing it, all these years of societal expectations have gotten under our skin. No matter who we are, we become, even for a moment, anxious about our fading youth since we tend to link youth to health, and therefore to our happiness. And while we grow, we become less spontaneous, we wear less revealing clothes, we feel less desirable, and we limit our choices and opportunities.
No matter how hard we try, there is always a magical mirror reflecting the internalized rules on how we should behave and treat ourselves based on our age, in order to avoid being judged or rejected by our immediate surroundings.
Many of us tend to face an aging crisis even in our 20s and 30s, while the prevailing myth of losing our beauty and desirability when growing older still exists in the modern world. We are afraid of how other people will look at us, how differently they will treat us.
Yet, we must acknowledge that accepting grey hair or not, having cosmetic surgeries, or applying make-up that hides our wrinkles are not examples of beauty. Beauty is about how we feel about ourselves and how we carry that feeling gracefully and fearlessly in a world full of insecurities. And most of all, we don’t have to look younger than our age to look beautiful.
We are beautiful because we take care of ourselves; we dress in clothes that we like, we fill our bellies with delicious food, we let our hair blow in the wind, and we laugh a lot, wrinkling our faces because we are having a good time. We don’t stress about life's changes. We embrace every moment of them. We allow ourselves to age gracefully and in peace.
And we achieve that because we realize that this time we should get rid of the magic mirror instead of getting rid of Snow White!
By Costantina Kyriacou