One of the subjects which I asked all the women I interviewed for Listening to our Grandmothers about was how they have felt about physical ageing? Not surprisingly they gave a variety of responses. One of the most interesting responses to that question came from Angela who I had the pleasure of meeting up with, to finalise her chapter, just last week. When we met we both spoke about our frustration at the fact that Leah Totton who recently won this years Apprentice TV show wants to create a business that makes money from older people altering their natural faces. Leah explained in her post-apprentice interviews that she would not herself be undergoing the cosmetic procedures she will be offering because the products were not for women of her age (24). Rather she said they were ‘anti-ageing products’ but that Lord Sugar’s 66 year old face was ‘fine the way it was’. This leads me to the obvious question, ‘Is it just women whose faces she thinks should be protected from ageing? Something about all of this feels all wrong to me. In fact I don’t mind sharing that watching the final of the Apprentice actually made me weep with frustration.
Presumably Sir Alan saw the doubtless enormous potential for profit in selling to women the idea that they somehow need to fundamentally alter the way they are. Of course it is nothing new to sell women an idealised, unattainable image of themselves as a means of generating profit. But I do find myself wondering when it actually became ‘ordinary’ to alter our bodies and faces not just with diets and weight loss plans but surgical operations and procedures too. To me when we buy in to the notion that there is something intrinsically wrong with the way that nature created us we are internalising the idea that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way women are. That kind of self-criticism just can’t be good for us, not just individually but also collectively and I just long for a world that brings us up to accept, rather than desire to alter, what we fundamentally are. Angela has a particular take on this as she has been life modelling now for a number of years. It is interesting to hear from her that being a life model has been incredibly life affirming. She talks about the positive feedback that images of her have inspired in our interview in Listening to our Grandmothers which will be available here to download soon. And as I hear such life-affirming stories from the older women whom I have been interviewing I begin to wonder too there is something about the real, interesting, imperfect faces of ageing women that we, as a society, have come in some way to fear? What might those faces tell us if they were given more opportunity to speak to us? Might they actually help us to create space for more positive, life affirming models of business if only we had the foresight to give them a chance?