Facing Fears and Fauxbias: Old Age, New Age, Anti-Age

by Lee Ann “Sunny” Brown


I have always loved Halloween. When I was a teenager, I used to love watching all the scary movies that came on television, and I especially liked going to the haunted houses. Even though you were scared half to death, it was fun, and you knew you were safe. You probably even knew some of the “monsters.” Recently, I found myself in another scary house, with a friend of mine, and let me tell you, it was a real House of Horrors! I didn’t realize at the time quite what I had gotten myself into when I told her that I would go with her, and when she said she was going to face her fears, she meant literally!

Upon arriving, we stepped through the door and immediately found ourselves standing inside a cold, white, sterile room that appeared to be a laboratory. Right away I was blinded by a glaringly bright white light of the most dreaded kind—a fluorescent light! After my eyes adjusted, I was able to see the scariest sight of all-—the room was completely surrounded by mirrors—fluorescent lights and mirrors! I was left to face my biggest fears of all—myself—and under such harsh conditions. A few minutes later I was approached by two horrible looking monsters wearing masks of mud and clay. One of them looked like The Creature from the Black Lagoon, all covered in seaweed.

Then a “doctor” came in wearing a lab coat and carrying a magnifying mirror, and as he began talking to me, a horror movie began playing on a large screen behind him showing some of the “procedures” they were proposing to perform on me. They could inject me with poison to paralyze my muscles, or burn my upper level of skin off with acid. He explained how he was going to stretch and cut and vacuum-suck me from the inside, and that I could get stapled, lasered and peeled, and then all sewn up again. I saw myself looking just like a regular Frankenstein’s Monster.  He started discussing how all of this was going to be good for my mental state, too. I said I thought he was approaching some fine lines, here, and he said he could erase those, too, that it was not just for deep-set problems.

My head was reeling. I began to sweat and feel nauseous. I started to have a panic attack. Was this the only option? How was I ever going to stop the hands of time clawing across my entire body without resorting to the torture chambers? Couldn’t I just drink some pleasant, fruity-tasting, anti-aging serum that works from the outside in, something with no book of dangerous side effects? But wait, it began to dawn on me that I’ve already been drinking the Kool-Aid. It does have harmful side effects. It’s causing me to consider voluntarily checking myself into this chamber of horrors, and to pay good money for it, too.

I believe we must face our fears. I face mine every morning—staring right back at me in the mirror. All of those other fears are just fauxbias. They aren’t real. Aging is the only thing we are truly afraid of. It’s a paradox, really. It’s the one thing we all want more of, but we don’t want to have to face it. That’s why there is every kind of product and procedure being shoved at us to help us combat it. I just wish I noticed it happening to me sooner; then, I could have stopped the tracks of time before they had started marching across my face. I guess I have been absorbed in other things, like being outside in the sun, gardening, or laughing with my kids, and anguishing over what to cook for dinner every night for the last 20 years. Clearly these things did not serve me well. I should not have been giving in to my feelings and making actual facial expressions. I just didn’t know any other way to convey that I was having fun, or tired, or about to go crazy. And now I am facing the consequences, literally. And I am scared.

But, I try not to pass along my fears to my daughter. I don’t want her to start worrying about expressing herself yet. She’s only 18. However, I think it may be too late. When I was touring college campuses with her recently, I noticed at the campus bookstores they were selling anti-aging products, all targeted to the 18–22 year old female demographic. I mean, really, how dare they start showing any signs of maturity? The interesting thing seems to be that as we continue to look younger than our actual age, we continue to act younger than our age, too. It seems adolescence is lasting 20 years longer, too. Now that is really frightening!

It turns out that we really do know all of the monsters that haunt us, the ones hiding under our beds, in our closets, and in our minds: we create them. It’s up to us to decide what we let get under our skin. We can let our worst fears come to light and try and trick ourselves with Dr. Plastic, but I think I will just continue to try getting along on hair color, teeth whitening, hair removal, creams, makeup, fake tans, push-up bras, dressing all in black, candles and denial for as long as possible. There is comfort in staying in the dark. I will become like a vampire, only venturing out after dark; after all, they are seeking immortality, too. Or, maybe I will find immortality by contributing something positive to the world and leaving it behind after I’ve gone.

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