I have been making a study of mature faces, particularly women’s, in recent weeks. I’ve been taking a portrait drawing class in a nearby Senior Center. In a culture that obsesses on youth as beauty, I’ve come to see the beauty in the well worn features of people past their “prime.” The history they’ve seen, the changes they’ve experienced, the triumphs and losses they’ve survived are all there. Their faces show it in the strength of their chin, the sparkle in their eyes, the determination of their presence to keep living; to keep working with what they have.
Our culture seems to have no problem accepting older men as worth something. But too often, older women have been put on the refuse pile. Aging actresses like Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are defying that sentence by creating roles for themselves. But even they have spent thousands to remove those time-telling wrinkles and age spots. How many aging female anchors do we see on news broadcasts, or weather reports? Women still remain a small percentage of government worldwide. Yet, we are the cornerstone of civilization. We create the cultural standards and protocols in most places. A male dominated culture has neglected and abused so many things that are feminine and life-giving: nature, environment, Native American life-ways, children, health, medicine….
As we look to the future, we all need to find our feminine strengths, men and women, and work to protect them. There is beauty in the whole spectrum of life: life to death, youth to age, health to decline, ignorance to knowledge, darkness to enlightenment… The aging feminine and masculine are intrinsically linked to each other. Modern culture has gotten lost in the superficial miasma of youth, wealth, beauty and profit. We need to relocate our long view of life’s full spectrum and meaning if we are to have a future at all.