A little over two weeks ago, I turned 25 years old. And, as does happen to most of us, my birthday (and all the people congratulating me on either staying young or getting old) made me face up to my many feelings about the inevitability of aging. Now, I happen to be blessed with a huge group of friends who vary in a number of age groups, sensibilities, and life trajectories. So, as many of them grow older and reach different stages in their lives at different rates, I tend to notice how they all approach the idea of getting older.
When it comes to most of my female friends (and, for a while, me as well), age was a matter of escalating concern as the years went by. I noticed that, as they grew older (and wiser and stronger), a lot of my female friends were also strangely growing more and more fond of attaining a certain compliment.
The apparent Holy Grail of concerned agers, everywhere: ”You look great for your age!“
Personally, whenever I hear someone direct that compliment at me or someone I know I find it beyond weird. It’s even weirder when I see how enraptured with happiness other people can be upon hearing that they don’t look like they’ve been on this earth as long as they actually have been.
I mean, if I look great for my age then it’s because the way I look is one of many ways a person can look at 25. That’s one way 25 can look. If you were to round up 100 different 25-year-olds you would get a huge, diverse spread of bodies and faces that vary in accordance to their lifestyles, genetics, and plastic surgeries. But its not as if any of us are going to look 12 or something. At some point, your age catches up. Even if you could realistically find some compelling exceptions to the rule, you can’t deny that aging is still happening on a cellular level to all of us.
On a basic human level, aging just can’t be undone no matter how much you try to customize your lifestyle to accommodate it. I don’t know anyone who looks younger than their age that’s actually fooling anyone–not really. Even the greatest looking, most genetically blessed, impeccably worked on, seeming non-ager on this earth still basically looks about their age. In the most extreme cases of unutterable beauty, some people can maybe buy themselves about 5 to 10 years, give or take a few.
That’s the thing about telling someone they look great “for their age.” It’s weird. And, as I turned 25 a few weeks ago, I’ve had to hear this well-intentioned sentence blurted out at me one too many times for comfort. But, despite how admittedly weird it is, I completely understand why people would think I (and other women) would be delighted to hear it.
I know that for ALL WOMEN ON THE FACE OF THIS PLANET the fear of “losing our looks” is a concerning issue for us all to various degrees. Because the truth is that a woman’s looks are nothing if not currency, and it takes a damn near bulletproof self-esteem to go through your life, birthday after birthday, with enough grace to not care about the inevitable deterioration of that said currency. It’s not like any of us are going to be sad when someone tells us, at 65, that we don’t look 65. Weirded out and a little confused, maybe, but not sad.
But, you know, as an admitted, completely understanding, formerly concerned, currently ecstatic ager of the world, I’ve gotta say it all sounds like a bunch of crap to me. As I’ve gotten older and as the universe has continued to apply time + gravity to my human body, I’ve realized that nothing will ever quell your fear of aging better than aging itself. Here’s why:
We Actually Age So Slowly That We Don’t Even Notice It Happening
Look, it’s not like you or I or anyone else is ever going to go to bed beautiful and wake up a complete hag. We age so gradually that we only ever notice every once in a while. And sure, those few moments when I DO happen to notice (must use more moisturizer) may offer a pinging moment of mortality, but its hardly a cause for deep depression or concern. Mostly it’ll just remind me that I’m human; that I’m still alive; and that no one lives forever.
There Are Actually A Lot Of Comforting Realities About Aging
If I ever get to be a decrepit, gloriously fat, monstrously cranky 80 year old woman at some point in my life, I know for damn sure that I am going to feel good about the fact that, if nothing else, I’m still alive at this age and still relatively healthy enough in spite of how much I KNOW I wasted my youth. I mean, for God’s sake: YOUR BODY LITERALLY TELLS GRAVITY TO SHOVE IT ALMOST EVERY SINGLE DAY OF YOUR LIFE. Pretty freaking amazing.
Sure, You Regret Some Stuff, But Not Like You Think
Think about it: in order for you to have done ANY of the stuff you regret not doing, you would have had to be a completely different person. And this is really the paradox that comes with regretting anything: you think you’d do it differently if you could go back but it took doing all the stuff you did during all those years to be who you are now. And, if you ask me, no amount of recompensation and memory rejuggling is worth me losing the person I’ve worked so crazy hard to be right now. No thanks. Plus, if there still really is something that you truly and deeply wanna do then just go do it already and be done with it!
You Will Not Believe How Little You Actually Care
Sorry; I know I’ve turned it into a god damned bumper sticker at this point, but hands down THE BEST FREAKING PERK that I’ve ever gotten out of being older is how much better I know myself. Even more importantly: how much more I’ve ended up liking the person I’ve gotten to know, especially when I accept and make peace with her worst flaws. The closer and closer I get to raising that level of indifference to time and my overall self-acceptance, the more liberated I feel. It is honestly worth all the youthful energy and ignorant bliss in the world, without a hint of a doubt.
The Stuff That Will Matter Most In The End Is What You DO Have (Not What You Don’t)
If you feel fulfilled in your life, you will simply not obsess about how old you are. It just won’t happen. I usually end up obsessing about my age and I don’t tend to like what I see in the mirror ONLY when I have nothing else going on in my life. Thankfully, the last time that’s happened was when I was 18 years old. But the point is that THIS CAN LITERALLY HAPPEN AT ANY AGE. Thus the phenomenon of all my drop dead gorgeous 20-something friends obsessing over the deterioration of their looks as opposed to throwing an ongoing party at the fact that they get to write complete sentences while looking like freaking super models.
Appreciating where you are today is the big triumph of life. Fully realizing that wherever you are right now is where you are and seeing all the beautiful things in that, while also looking forward to building a road towards wherever you want to be, is entirely the point.
Your Looks Are Never Truly ‘Lost’
And if so, where do they get lost to? Between the seat cushions of that old couch you gave away? Is there a secret place in the sky that all the young, pretty faces evaporate up to with each passing birthday? NO BECAUSE YOU WILL ALWAYS LOOK LIKE YOU. Because you are you! And you are a growing, evolving human being! A human being that ages!
So, if you happen to be aging (which you are! hooray!) and reading this right now, I say, please, enjoy the living daylights out of what you have in this very minute. Enjoy it and spend the rest of the time paving a path towards the next awesome phase of your life, so that, when the time comes, you can enjoy the hell out of it too.
All my love!