Opinion

Is she 25 or 65? Filters & fat jabs make you something, but it’s not young

With their plumped-up lips and botoxed brows, people like Kylie Jenner inhabit a peculiar new ageless zone where everyone, no matter their actual age, looks the same

27 October 2019 - 00:00 By
Kylie Jenner is living her best wrinkle-free, pumped-up life.
Kylie Jenner is living her best wrinkle-free, pumped-up life.
Image: J Kempin/Getty Images

My grandmother used to say she could not understand the disconnect between the age she felt - 27 - and the age she saw reflected back at her in the mirror - 70. She was not alone - age dysmorphia is a common condition, partly remedied these days by injectibles and other invasive strategies.

These may or may not create a semblance of youth, because it all depends on what you think youth looks like. Even straight up youth is now moot territory.

Consider the strange facial limbo into which people like Kylie Jenner have unwittingly drifted. By pumping up their lips and with the application of early onset Botox they have created a peculiar new ageless zone. A place where everyone, no matter their actual age, looks the same.

With the same lips and perfect unfurrowed brows. You could be 25 or 65 and on Instagram you manifest as the same unknowable quantum. A smooth ageless creature living your best wrinkle-free, pumped-up life.

Coffee shops are populated with these immobilised, pumped-up faces, living among us - marking out their bearers as members of a new contingent, ageless zombies

Real life is a different story. It creeps up on you like my grandmother's image in the mirror.

Popping up to scare the bejesus out of you when you least expect it. In your car's rear-view mirror, or an unsanctioned tagging in a photograph someone else posted before filtering it for age.

All those crepey knees, saggy jowls and sun spots on full display. Like a spell whose effects have worn off around the edges.

Coffee shops are populated with these immobilised, pumped-up faces, living among us - marking out their bearers as members of a new contingent, ageless zombies. Not old, not young, just partially magicked into a limbo zone.

Apparently Martin Scorsese's challenge in The Irishman - when he had to dial back the clock by 20 years with Robert de Niro and Al Pacino - was not the advanced technology generating a very believable version of their younger selves. No, his problem was the fact that Bob and Al carry themselves like old men. They had to get a body coach to train them to walk and move more like their younger selves.

It was an unexpected challenge and an excellent metaphor for the new aesthetics of youthiness. Something very like "truthiness", comedian Stephen Colbert's neologism to describe the current state of political discourse.

Youthiness, then, is an approximation of youth, but never quite the real thing, whatever that is. 


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