“I don’t like that,” says Kylie Jenner simply. She flips her hair back and stares at the camera, noticing the AI-generated wrinkles that TikTok’s aging filter exhibits superimposed on her face. Then she adds, almost in a whisper, “I don’t like it at all.”
Videos like this are all over my TikTok feed. Most users stare wide-eyed and horrified as the artificial intelligence-generated virus filter gives them sagging cheeks, sunken cheeks, and deep lines in the forehead and around the mouth. Like Kylie, most young people who try this filter don’t like what they see. Most of the media response, in turn, is due to the popularity of the filter turned around dermatologyProcedures and potions that could potentially soften nature’s blow.
For me, the filter causes a different kind of discomfort.
I am no virtuous exception to modern vanity. I’m 37 and just as shallow as the others. But when I see this stream of instantly aged faces, I don’t really think about the aesthetics of wrinkles – I think about the older faces I’ll never see.
Like the face of my little brother who died suddenly almost ten years ago at the age of 26. I think of his face, young and frozen in my memory, and wonder how it would look at 60, 70 years old. I think about how natural it was for me to look at that face.
I imagine he’d be tackling his mid-30s pretty elegantly. At last he would have outgrown his childlike features. His face would show the lingering side effects of all the time he’d spent laughing too hard, frowning too skeptically about the “Real Housewives,” and sleeping with his cheek blissfully tucked into his pillow. All the wonderful things in life that the skincare experts keep you from doing in the interests of a smooth complexion.
Not everyone gets oldthe age filter reminds me.
My brother took off his skin suit so young. Too young. He should live longer, I’m sure, but somehow the wires got messed up. His pain was so bad and the medication was too strong. He checked out early and missed the free brunch.
If he only knew how delicious it can be to grow old and live on. If he had made it to the other side of his struggles, he probably would have earned that look in his eyes that I admire so much in people recovering from addiction. The look that says: I’ve seen the void, and now I don’t take any of it for granted.
Perhaps engaging with our imaginary older faces is a good way to remind ourselves that the body we live in, each and every one of us, is destined to be a corpse. No amount of eye cream can change that.
I don’t want to come across as creepy or nihilistic – I hope I can do the exact opposite. This life is amazing! It’s incredible! It’s for a limited time only! Death Doula Alua Arthur puts it simply: “The true gift of being with our mortality is the sheer miracle of our being alive at all.”
We have so little time here. It will take your breath away when you think about how short time really is. The average life expectancy is about 4,700 weeks. How many weeks have you rushed through blind? I’ve been scurrying around practically all summer for no real reason other than general anxiety and fear of what’s going on in the world.
Meanwhile, my beloved old dog is getting even older. My crow’s feet are getting deeper. My remaining time with my loved ones is becoming increasingly scarce. And am I supposed to turn this feeling of loss in the area into chemical peels? TThere is something so unsatisfactory about the fact that our public dialogue on aging begins and ends with prevention on a fine line.
Wouldn’t it be great to talk about what aging means to us instead of dealing with active ingredients? Our fears, pains and longings? Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could learn to aspire to old age while dealing with our impermanence? It still feels far away, but I think we’re getting closer. Even Barbie is thinking about dying these days.
We’re not going to wake up one morning and be forced to deal with our drastically aged face all at once. It will happen slowly, over time, and only if we are very, very lucky. I hope that by the time I’m 70 I’ll be too wrapped up in love and happiness to even think about it.
As for the age filter, many people on TikTok got over the initial shock and settled into something of an acceptance. A rolling portion of the app shows Millennials and Generation Zers using the filter while explaining things like AOL Instant Messenger, raya And Four Seasons Total Landscaping to their imaginary future grandchildren. others, like Amy Poehlerjust put on the filter and smile serenely, with the caption, “May I be so lucky.” Aging is a privilege, they say.
While doing my own skincare routine in front of the mirror, I sometimes look for my brother on my face. I take a close look at the qualities we have in common. Yes, there’s his squat nose, his chiclet teeth, his thin, arched upper lip. But my face is also showing the signs of the last decade of aging. The ridges are subtle but permanent now, visible even when my face is still, like dry little riverbeds.
My first reaction, of course, is panic. But while I cringe at my crow’s feet, it helps remind me how lucky I feel to be getting older, even if it means the signs of a life well-lived are increasingly showing on my face.
What I would give to have the pleasure of seeing my brother grow older.
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