I’m about to tell you a story.
It’s the story of a global television legend, a world-famous actress and a 22-year-old Australian babysitter – my babysitter – called Emma. In January, Emma was given about three months to live. More on my beautiful friend Emma in a moment.
You see, this week Oprah sat down to do a one-on-one interview with Cameron Diaz. The topic? Beauty, ageing and the pressure on women to forever look 25-years-old. (I wanted to do a fist pump even before I’d even seen 30 seconds of this interview, quite frankly.)
There’s a reason Oprah chose Diaz to talk to about this subject. The 42-year-old actress has been on record for a long time as saying she refuses to do Botox and recently penned the New York Times bestselling The Body Book on beauty, fitness and ageing.
So, OW and CD sat down to discuss ageing, specifically the nonsensical expression that has spawned an entire industry: “anti-ageing”. And you know things get feisty because Oprah swears right off the bat.
Here’s my favourite part of the interview (thanks to The Huffington Post):
As the actress writes in her New York Times bestseller The Body Book, Diaz says there’s no such thing as “anti-ageing.” Oprah emphatically agrees during their interview for “Oprah Prime” and shares Diaz’s frustration over the idea that ageing should (or even can) be avoided. “As somebody who just turned 60… it just pisses me off,” Oprah says.
“It’s almost as if we have failed if we don’t remain 25 for the rest of our lives. Like we are failures… Oh, I’m sorry, I apologize,” Diaz says sarcastically. “I wasn’t able to defy nature.”
AMEN to that.
I applaud Diaz for drawing a line in the sand and flipping the bird to anyone who expects her to cross it.
Here’s the thing though: we all need to draw that line in the sand. We all have a role to play in this anti-ageing crap and we need to stop buying into it. What do I mean? We need to stop whinging, whining and despairing about getting old.
So it’s at this point that I want to talk to you about my friend Emma.
Emma is 22. She’s smart as a whip, funny, wry, feisty, (like me) loves a good maxi dress, and has a penchant for super cute stationery.
She happens to be my babysitter and is an expert at wrangling Fin and successfully stopping him from eating 37 cheese sticks in one sitting. She’s a good woman.
She also happens to have been diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma (a diagnosis which in Em’s case is unrelated to sun damage, just so you know).
Stage 4 melanoma is terminal.
That diagnosis was delivered to Em in August 2013. In January this year, Emma’s doctors gave her just three months to live. We’re hoping, hoping a trial drug will extend that by a few months. But right now, Emma isn’t allowing herself to assume she’ll still be here at Christmas.
Do I even need to point out how utterly f*cked that is?
So now this beautiful girl who has spent the past few years volunteering in East Timor is now being forced to plan her funeral. Instead of planning her future with Serge (the love of her life whom she married last week), Emma is now coming to terms with the fact she won’t get to grow old.
So here’s the thing.
When it comes to our feelings about ageing, we need to say we’re not going to do this dance anymore.
We’re not going to stress and angst about looking old. Or not looking young. We’re going to get over it. Suck it up.
Because while we’re whinging and sooking about turning 30 or 40 or 50 or whatever number freaks you out, Emma would give anything – do anything – to have another year with her husband, her sisters, her nieces and nephews, her mum and dad, her best friend.
While we’re complaining about crow’s feet or grey hair or varicose veins, Emma is wishing this whole damn diagnosis was a bad dream she could wake up from.
While we’re fearing old age and trying to run from it, Emma wishes she could run towards it.
Growing old is a privilege. And it’s not guaranteed for any of us.
Let me say that again.
Growing old is a privilege. A gift. And it’s not guaranteed for any of us. Complaining about ageing is disrespectful to all those women, men and children who right now, today, know they won’t see out their next birthday.
Emma’s life is worth far more than merely serving as some kind of cautionary tale for the rest of us about having skin cancer checks (although I urge you to do that nonetheless).
But her story is the reality check many of us need to GET A GRIP.
Don’t be anti-ageing. It’s pointless.
Be pro-ageing instead. And if you want to be anti anything – be anti-melanoma.
Today, Emma did the Melanoma March walk in Brisbane to raise money for the Melanoma Institute Australia to continue the groundbreaking research and clinical trials into diagnostic and treatment pathways for patients with melanoma. It’s not too late to sponsor Emma; just $5 from every Mamamia reader will at the very least allow Emma to leave a remarkable legacy behind. Click here to donate.