“At 22, I was highly aware that I had an expiration date as a woman,” Julia Allison tells filmmaker Mitch McCabe in Youth Knows No Pain, a documentary about anti-aging premiering on HBO at 9 p.m. on Monday. Allison tries to hang on to her youth (which, since she’s not yet 30, is well within reach) by quoting Nora Ephron and getting Botox. She’s one of the younger people in the film, in which McCabe the daughter of a plastic surgeon finds a panoply of men and women who seek chemical and surgical intervention all in the name of staying young on the outside. McCabe spoke to the Cut about being self-conscious, why women fear aging, and why she doesn’t.
Your film made me really self-conscious. After watching, I immediately found a line on my face that I’d never noticed or looked for.
It makes men more self-conscious, too. There’s no one in [Youth Knows No Pain] who shows an opposing view. It’s exhausting by the end.
No one in the film talks about beauty — only youth. Does youth automatically encompass beauty, or is beauty not as important?
We had to separate the two. There’s no talk about breast implants or nose jobs because that’s about beauty. I was interested in the way we see mortality in the mirror.
Nearly everyone you interviewed was white.
A lot of other cultures or ethnicities don’t care about aging like Caucasians [do].
The women in the film were self-critical, and it was the men who were judgmental of others. What other gender differences did you notice?
We asked women why they were scared of aging, and everyone said, “Being alone. Being alone.” You never heard that from men. Society is changing so much, and it’s becoming more competitive and we have to stay in the workplace longer. Aging is affecting men in different ways, especially if they’re in sales or something. When it comes to aging, men are concerned about being destitute, or in a nursing home. And being alone, but more in the sense of not having someone to take care of them.
You’re 38. Are you worried about aging?
My fear has been less about beauty and more about time. I’ve always been obsessed with watches. I have timers go off all the time. As I got older, and my dad died, I realized you’re not going to be around forever. As women, you already have some issues. But this film took me seven years to do. I did something with my time. It makes me a little less uptight about it all.