Monday 16 September 2019

Fiona Ness: 'No beauty in holding back march of time'

Notebook

This week, women in the media have been debating whether it should be illegal for their images to be enhanced to present a better reality on our screens and magazines. Stock image
This week, women in the media have been debating whether it should be illegal for their images to be enhanced to present a better reality on our screens and magazines. Stock image
Fiona Ness

Fiona Ness

"Oh hello, old lady!" The five-year-old waves cheerily as I arrive downstairs, primped and painted for my one and only Christmas night out. In that moment I know not so much that less is more, but that for 40 and beyond, less is most definitely required.

Rubbing off the top layer of warpaint from my face, I remark that I am actually Not That Old, being in fact the same age as the Very Young Looking lady on the telly, whom they are currently watching kicking her legs over her head on Strictly.

"Are you sure?" says First Child. "Her face is awful smooth to be like you."

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And so it is, in this magical season, that it isn't the great Santa reveal that destroys the innocence of childhood, it's the explanation as to why almost every woman on telly over the age of 40 has facial fillers.

First Child wants to know what happened to "it's not how you look, it's what you do that matters". Second Child is researching the age at which she can legally obtain cosmetic surgery. Third Child is still cracking up over my old lady face.

This week, women in the media have been debating whether it should be illegal for their images to be enhanced to present a better reality on our screens and magazines - an act of puffery so commonplace that we neither contest nor believe it.

Of course, no one is really enraged. It's all just another way for celebrities to work their ticket.

I'm more fascinated with the physical modifications many women are undergoing, ones that give their whole lives the veneer of a computerised touch-up. Women who tell young girls to "believe they are good enough" while excising their lined foreheads because they are a mark of freakery, rather than a testament to a life lived.

Yes, witnessing the march of time across your face can be depressing if you're not able to be a grown-up about it; the doughty arguments around a woman's right (or otherwise) to "make the best of herself" are more so.

"You're a better dancer than her," says First Child, resurrecting the idea it's how you are seen by the people you love that really matters. How many of us have the courage to be happy with that?

The good grief guide

British rapper Professor Green is calling for a National Grief Awareness Day, where society can publicly honour the lives of loved ones.

Well, we have a National Squirrel Appreciation Day, so why not a day for publicly commemorating lost loved ones?

I'm guessing the professor isn't acqainted with the Irish wake, All Souls' Day, the Blessing of the Graves or the month's mind Mass. Religion doesn't have a monopoly on grief, but it does offer one thing a secular society with its "awareness days" lacks: a private framework through which you can openly grieve.

Whether you ultimately find solace in the idea of an afterlife is possibly less important than the acknowledgement the Church extends to the bereaved. The opportunity for mass catharsis via an awareness day won't make people's personal grief any more or less real.

Reasons to be cheerful

If you really crave a break from the busyness this Christmas, why not, like me, opt for an MRI of the brain?

A 20-minute hiatus in a whirring headlock gives you just about enough time to experience a quiet revelation about what's really important in life, and costs less than you'd spend panic-buying in Arnotts in the same period.

Isn't everything we do this Christmas - from writing cards to buying 1,001 presents to eating too much to moaning about family - really an immense privilege in this, the most wonderful time of the year?

Irish Independent

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