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  • Writer's pictureBeyond the Canvas

The issue of (female) ageing

You know when you're having a conversation with a friend and the following day you read something that exactly echoes your thoughts articulating them better than you ever could? This morning I randomly found this interview on Libération, in which French writer and journalist Laure Adler states: Je suis vieille et je vous emmerde, meaning I am old and you can go to hell/I don't give a sh*t what you think (translations are seldom straightforward). Adler goes on to say exactly what I was trying to tell my friend yesterday. Why is there such a taboo around this inevitable and universal phenomenon? And, as I sometimes like to half-jokingly remind my moaning friends, would you prefer the alternative?

The truth is that there is a cruel dichotomy between the overall 'improvement' of maturing as a human being and the unstoppable/natural decadence of our body. As we get older and we become more in tune with who we are (that is a hell of a long and difficult journey), the mirror of society returns an image of decline and sadness. It's a vision of the future that brings us all back to the insecurities of our youth without any of its benefits. It is true that aging means losing things: memory, sight, bearings, loved ones, health, but what would happen if we focused on everything we gain instead? Per Adler, "to grow old is not to give up, it is to be wild, angry, passionate. And above all resist the attempt to relegate and make the rest of society invisible." I want to hug her for saying this, and tell her that I, too, am getting old and don't give a flying f*ck about what everyone else thinks. Ideally, I would also really mean it.

Enough of the cliched ramblings, I will let one of Cindy Sherman's most troubling self-portraits do the talking. Here the artist uses her uncompromising female gaze to morph into a woman who wants to be seen as glamorous and powerful. She wants to be seen as young and attractive, hanging on to her former beauty and clearly refusing to 'age gracefully' (do they ever say that to men?) by slapping on tons of makeup that does nothing to fix the issue and everything to make it look worse. The issue of ageing, the issue of living.

Cindy Sherman

Untitled #474, 2008

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