By Debra D. Bass

(MCT)

Aging is not optional, so forgive me if I'm a little annoyed by the "anti-age" marketing bandwagon.

It does not fill my heart with glee to imagine a world of Dorian Grays smiling devilishly at every compliment. You can't cheat time, turn it back or ignore it without consequences.

One important consequence may be your current sense of well-being. Is your happiness tied to looking younger than (pick a number)?

Me? I like aging ... as the quip goes "it beats the alternative."

Yet, right now, we are being convinced that if we spend, slather and baste ourselves enough with the right combination of elixirs and procedures that we can all join Peter Pan in some kind of cosmeceutical Neverland.

I'm worried.

When the ultimate compliment is "I never would have guessed you were..." or "You don't look a day over...," looking your age becomes a source of dissatisfaction.

It fills me with dread every time someone tells me how youthful I look for my age because I know that one day I will likely "look my age" and I'll be devastated.

In the past few weeks, I've been offered samples of anti-aging shampoo, anti-aging nail polish and anti-aging perfume. Yes, perfume. It is now possible to smell younger.

In response to the ridiculousness, I've adopted a pro-aging policy.

And to be clear, being pro-age doesn't mean that I believe that people should let themselves deteriorate.

Aging gracefully is a much different animal than not aging at all costs.

If you ask me, a polished 50-year-old is so much more admirable than a vivacious 20-year-old. It's easy to look good when you're young. Looking good while aging is an accomplishment.

It's also possible to look better with age. I've got some high school pictures of me in hot pink lipstick with an asymmetrical haircut that I would submit as exhibit A in this argument, if I had not destroyed them.

Dr. Bill Thomas , an international authority on geriatric medicine and professor of aging studies at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, said that we are plagued by a crazy inversion in which our culture reveres youth to an extreme and believes aging is something inflicted on us by the forces of evil.

"Age is not a broken down version of youth," Thomas says.

The response from most of society is, "well, it sure looks like it."

Oddly enough, the people having the last laugh on this issue are the elders.

Ask a 70-year-old if they want to be 20 again and the answer would be overwhelmingly, "No."

Older people are happier according to a number of studies including several supported by the National Institutes of Health. The stereotype is that people grow old, isolated, sick and depressed, but that's not necessarily the reality.

Thomas said that as long as we fear age instead of admiring it, we will obviously continue to shun the appearance of age.

He said that because the highest penalties of age are exacted on women, he can't blame us for prescribing to anti-age doctrine by any means necessary.

But as far as looking older, the problem — or rather the reality is that there's no substitute for good genes and sunscreen. So we have to be realistic in our expectations. It's OK to look your age. Thomas explained that you can age gracefully or age freakishly by striving for a perpetual visage of youth that ultimately just looks like desperate attempts to serve up mutton dressed like lamb.

"Age should bring a gradually increasing acceptance of who you are. You become better acquainted with yourself and if you're lucky you become happier with who you are," Thomas says.

Hmm, makes a lot of sense. Acceptance, I'd like the smell of that a lot better than youth