A New Way to Look at the Signs of Aging.

December 2, 2020

A New Way to Look at the Signs of Aging.

May 29, 2023

Sometime in my mid-forties, I stopped being terrified of wrinkles. Until then, I had followed all the expert advice on how to fight them. Some rules were basic— like always using SPF. Others required a bit more investment—like sleeping on a silk pillowcase.

Still other rules were downright silly—like placing tape between my eyebrows while at home, to stop my face from forming any expression that might develop into a crease over time.

I was so afraid of aging, that my joy of living was diminished. A day at the beach was fun, sure, but also fraught with worry about sun damage. I loved laughing, but would also peer into the mirror and worry that I was developing deep “smile lines.”

There isn’t a particular “aha” moment that stopped me from being afraid, but rather, it was a gradual awakening to the idea that we are being told a false narrative — that young, thin, able-bodied and white is the ideal look. And this false narrative exists to make us buy things.

By the time I had reached my mid-forties, like most people, I had collected many good and bad experiences. I had grieved friends and family members — some who died young. I had travelled around the world. I had completed marathons. I had studied a lot and loved a lot and lost a lot but kept going every day. And when I finally started to appreciate all aspects of my full life, I finally understood that wrinkles are nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. They are simply a marker that I’ve been on this earth for a while—nothing more and nothing less.

Once I stopped being afraid, I got mad. I was angry that the $532-billion-dollar global “beauty” industry had led me to believe, my whole life, that I was “flawed” and needed to be “corrected,” with a product. I was angry that as a teen, I spent all my babysitting income on make-up called “cover-up,” but still felt less worthy than my friends who had “clear” skin. I was angry that, in my twenties and thirties, I would spend $200 on celebrity-endorsed creams that brought nothing but debt to my life. I was angry that I had purchased hundreds of magazines filled with articles telling me how truly horrific it was to look my real age.

After I got mad, I decided to get even, by creating a new narrative: We are lucky to get wrinkles! The “signs of aging” so villainized by the skin cream industry, can be celebrated as signs of life. And the term “anti-aging” should be considered an offence to the memory of those who died young.

So, I wrote and directed a short film called Signs of Aging. You can watch it on Amazon Prime or here for free, so I won’t give away the plot. It takes place at one of those home make-up parties, where a skin-cream salesperson is shaming her customers for having wrinkles. But one enigmatic young woman challenges her, and finds a way for the others to understand that they are beautiful.

I hope you can take ten minutes to watch it and reflect. I don’t want to bring down the beauty industry entirely. But I believe that we can reclaim our power when spending our money on skin care. Are we buying a cream because we have been told it will "fix" a “flaw"? Or can we consciously decide that a particular product or even procedure, makes our skin feel good, and choose it for our own well-being, not to fit an unreal and oppressive ideal? Can we let go of fear and shame when we look in the mirror and choose to revel in the signs that we are living?

Tara Gadomski is an actor, filmmaker, radio producer and Sundance Knight Fellow, who loves telling the stories about people who color outside of the lines.

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