General Interest

Black, White, and Shades of Gray

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Vivian Diller, Ph.D. has recently published a thought-provoking article, The Beauty Paradox: When Feminism and Vanity Collide, in the Huffington Post. Diller says that Boomer women are in conflict – over our looks, our appearance and how it all plays out given feminism philosophy. Diller says we have two distinct messages we are trying to process.

Message One: Your looks shouldn’t matter. They are superficial. It’s what is inside that counts. Stay true to your real self. Let your looks take their natural course as you age.

Message Two: Your looks should matter and they always will. Defy aging at whatever the cost, in any way you can, lest you become invisible. Oh, and be sure to make it look natural!

Being an After-Fiftier, I have a number of years of good, hard living under my belt. And I have learned that life is rarely well-represented by the black and white picture being painted by Dr. Diller in her messages above. So, this is where Diller and I would come to blows. I believe there is a third message, a third philosophy to consider. Here goes.

Message Three: Your looks matter and they always will. So do your best to maintain your health, fitness, and wellness levels. When your emotional and physical health is well maintained, your appearance will be naturally optimized for you, which, in turn, will help to optimize other aspects of your life.

Human intervention has almost always been appropriate when it comes to significant life concerns. We establish schools and require our children to attend them. So, we “intervene” in childhood in order to produce a better prepared society. We establish hospitals and allow our citizens to receive treatment within them. Medical intervention in cases of illness and accident are almost always appreciated and welcomed. But it is intervention, nevertheless. We establish traffic lights and traffic rules so we can travel reasonably well from point A to point B.
Message One says that looks are superficial. It’s what’s inside that counts. This message is partially true and is partially false. Sure, what’s inside counts – that’s important. But what’s outside matters, too. If you haven’t done what you need to do to maintain the body (proper diet, exercise, rest, and more) then the body breaks down and is unable to function. And then, well, you know what happens. And it doesn’t matter what was inside, because the body, including its insides, dies off.

I believe a far better message for Boomer Women AND Boomer Men, is to live a healthy lifestyle. People with well-integrated, healthy psyches rarely are distracted by attempts to make them look 30 or 40 years younger than their true age. And people who eat well-balanced meals, exercise, and get their rest usually have wonderful posture, and portray equally wonderful mindsets and outlooks. And, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being vital and vibrant – or looking wonderful, for that matter. Vitality and vibrancy do indeed come from within and reflect how we have both treated and cared for ourselves.

So, let’s hear it for Message Three! Life, like hair color, is rarely all the black and white portrayed by Messages One and Two. Let’s hear it for a little gray!

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