Aging is a natural process, so why is it so difficult for some of us women to come to terms with it? I know this is a question that is greatly discussed in many parts of the world, by men and women, all proffering our heated opinions, locking horns in our battles for accepting or denying the feathery marks of the passing of our years, as we expose and share our vanities… Yet even after so much discussion, it still is very much an issue that fires us up, quick defensive statements always on the tip of our tongue. So here I was last Thursday, once again immersed in such a discussion, in my beloved city, Caracas, Venezuela, a country whose people are regarded by some as among the vainest in the world, and with some of the most beautiful women. Really. Just look at how many Miss Universes and Miss Worlds we have. Even though I am proud of the esthetic achievements of my countrywomen, I must say that I do get tired of people (especially men) saying to me, after meeting me for the first time and learning that I am Venezuelan, “Oh, the land of beautiful women!” Why don’t they ever say to me, “Oh, the land of smart women!”? Well, that’s another story. Anyway, to get back to what I was saying.
So there I was, sitting in a café in the wealthy neighborhood of Altamira with my good friends Ceci, Marta and Agustin, drinking some delicious coffee and nibbling on some scrumptious cookies (so elitist we are, just corners away from poor barrios… that will be another of my stories) and I was telling them about a campaign for beauty products I was analyzing, through perceptions in the social media. It was a well-known,and quite controversial, campaign among many Latin American women - which promoted beauty products specially formulated for women of different ages to help women enhance their natural beauty as they grow older. And did I say controversial? Oh yes! As Marta made very clear when she said, airing her displeasure “!Ay, no mijita! Why would I use a cream to look like a beautiful forty five year old? I already know I am forty five, I don’t need to look it – I need to look ten years younger!” And she turned coquettishly to Agustin, her husband, who at fifty five looks quite dashing with his salt and pepper hair and gentle wrinkles and asked him, “don’t you think so, mi amor?” Agustin looked at her lovingly, and smiling in his gentle way said, “but amor, you are more beautiful as you grow older,” at which Marta just laughed and said to Ceci and I, “Oh, this man, he knows exactly what to say!”
What then ensued was a very interesting conversation among us, with Agustin and I defending the natural beauty of a woman who allows herself to age gracefully, whereas Marta and Ceci just absolutely resisted the idea, insisting that a woman should try to look as young as possible, with Ceci adding that it was even a good idea to “refresh” one’s face, and “nip and tuck one’s ungracious parts” whenever necessary. Why let biology have its way, she declared laughing, when the Good Lord made plastic surgeons?
So there I was, completely engaged in this conversation with my friends and it just struck me. Everything I had been seeing in the social media about the campaign- about how many women in Latin America really did not like it, who actually resisted it with all their force, whereas only a few accepted it- suddenly made much more sense. But the reactions were not the same in some countries in Europe, nor in India. Quite different they were indeed. How interesting. Beauty is indeed a social construct, and when we create campaigns, we definitely need to take these into account. So are you listening, ye masters of beauty product campaign creation?