Can You Really Be Forever 21?

You’ve likely noticed that girls and women in commercials for beauty products are all traditionally (i.e. stereotypically) beautiful. But, have you ever noticed that they are all roughly the same age?

Ads selling products to girls  (perfume, make-up kits, bras & underwear, clothing, accessories, shampoos, and even drinks, and athletic gear) depict females slightly older than their youthful, target audience, implying “buy this product and you’ll look and feel older, like a 21year-old woman.” Apparently, girls can’t wait to put their childhood and even their adolescence behind them. The big dream is to arrive at the age of 21—that magical age where no one can argue that you are officially grown up.

But get this…the ads that sell products to women your mother’s age ALSO use the 21 year-old standard. Anti-aging products are everywhere! Wrinkles are considered unsightly. Older women are encouraged to buy lotions and potions and undergo all kinds of plastic surgery to keep themselves looking young even when they have left the age of 21 well behind them.

Are either of these messages healthy?

Companies want us to spend and spend and spend  money on products to attain this “perfect” moment in time.  Whether we realize it or not, these messages get internalized by us and we spread them to other girls. Can you think of ways we spread these messages to each other in our daily behaviors?

Have you ever given a friend or relative a compliment by commenting on her “look” that day? “I love your hair styled like that. It makes you look so much older/younger (depending on the age)!” Or “that dress makes you look so skinny!”

I know I’ve done it. It’s socially expected that women and girls tell each other they look pretty…mostly focusing on their ability to resemble the women in ads.

Is this helping us to be our authentic selves? Can we truly reach our full potential if we’re constantly trying to look like someone else, someone who isn’t anywhere near our own age?  Fixating on such a narrow moment in life diminishes so many beautiful years to come (or already lived).  Shouldn’t we value the entire human journey?

Why do we buy this commercially driven message? Should we strive to change it? How can we stop internalizing this strange, frozen-in-time, standard?



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