Old Age, Wrinkles & The Earlybird Special: Are You Afraid Of Aging?
We’re all getting older; the only difference is how we feel about it. Aging is a topic that has been given plenty of lip service in my life recently. Maybe it’s because I’m almost 30 & most of my friends are, too, but a lot of us seem to be discussing the process. That transition from being a twenty-something to a thirty year old sometimes seems like a big leap.
At the YogaRave the other night, my friend Rachel & I were talking about our impending 30-dom.
“I can’t wait to be 30!”, she exclaimed, & I smiled.
“Me too!”, I replied.
“Oh man, I’m so glad you feel the same way. I just feel like things keep getting better & better with ages,” she said.
I raised the subject on Twitter & Facebook on Thursday morning. When I asked everyone how they felt about aging, the answers were wide & varied. Some women felt trepidation, while others were excited, & some didn’t know how they felt at all!
An hour later, I got up from my desk to brush my teeth. As I stood scrubbing my teeth in the mirror, I noticed something shining on the top of my head. Yes, I had come face-to-face with my first grey hair. I couldn’t stop laughing!
When I started writing this article, I thought about sourcing some photos of Anjelica Huston, Helen Mirren, or Meryl Streep: women who are often held up as a symbol of aging with grace. But then I decided not to. Why? Even though I admire them, these women were exceptionally beautiful in their youth. They were & are movie stars! That’s not a realistic depiction of what aging looks like. Most of us will have wrinkles & squint when we read. Most of us will not have Hollywood’s best aesthetician on speed-dial!
The process of aging is never-ending & — I hate to tell you this — it’s happening right now! As you read these words, wrinkles are forming. Parts of you are sagging. Your skin is losing its elasticity. Hey, that’s just the way it goes!
A lot of us have denial about aging. Subconsciously, we think, that will never happen to me! But alas, one day, we realise it already has! We may not feel any older on the inside, but our outsides tell a different story. My father has told me that he often looks in the mirror & thinks, Who’s that grey-headed old bastard? (His words, not mine!)
When you’re 18 years old, you feel indestructible. A few years later, you discover that this is not necessarily the case!
For example, when I turned 25, I discovered that I couldn’t just keep eating the way I always did (read: cake for breakfast) & look the same as I did when I was 21! I did not greet this news with delight or happiness, since the idea of going to the gym made me want to take a big nap. Thankfully, I got over it, & now it is a welcome part of my everyday routine!
It’s not all bad news, though. In fact, I welcome the aging process. One of the superficial reasons I love getting older is that I really believe I look better with every passing year. Why? I take very good care of my body now, & it shows. At 28 years old, I am fitter & stronger than ever. (I also have much more endurance & mental strength as a result!) I drink more water & eat more vegetables, & it makes my skin glow. I don’t get random break-outs anymore, thank god! (This seemed to miraculously stop when I turned 26.) I’ve learned how to do the kind of make-up that really accentuates my features, & I take more risks with my style too, but those risks are backed up by my accumulated knowledge of what flatters my figure!
Yes, you may end up with wrinkles, age spots, or grey hair, but you’re rewarded with a much stronger sense of self, & a better knowledge of your own personal aesthetic. You have years of experience to draw on, & fancy tales to tell. You have a more sharply-honed sense of intuition & much more courage.
This society would have you believe that young, conventionally beautiful women have the most value — & when you’re a pretty, youthful girl, the world mirrors that back to you all the time. One of the advantages of getting older, though, is that you realise beauty is not all there is. (This is also an excellent reason to spend time developing who you are as a person! If you’re someone who relies on their looks, be aware that you can’t do it forever!)
As you get older, you are presented with several choices. You don’t have to lie down & die. Your peers may want to fill their closets with dowdy, shapeless, neutral clothes: you don’t have to. They may want to play bowls & take up knitting: you don’t need to! Aging is as much a mental process as a physical one. All those “well-meaning” people who tell you that it’s time to cut your hair, or that “a woman of your age” shouldn’t do this or that, are just as easy to ignore as they always were!
I also believe that we are free to age DISGRACEFULLY if that’s what pleases us! Anyone who tells you you must go au naturel into your golden years is a pest, & you can feel free to disregard their opinion. It’s very easy to be judgmental & say, “I would NEVER get Botox, surgery, etc.” but look: you might change your mind. I used to be a little bit judgey about surgery too. In my mind, getting a breast reduction was acceptable, but anything else wasn’t — everyone else was just “insecure” & should “get over it.” No! It’s not my place to say you MUST always look the way you did at birth. We colour our hair, we get tattoos, we wear high heels: we are constantly altering our appearance, & it is not bad or good, it simply is. Radical self love is not feeling the need to imprint your opinion on everyone you meet!
If you still feel anxiety about getting older & how your appearance may change, I implore you to spend an hour on Advanced Style, a blog by Ari Seth Cohen. Advanced Style is dedicated to celebrating the highly-evolved & strong personal style of older men & women in New York City. The men & women Ari profiles are so full of life & vigor. If that’s aging, I’m happy to participate!
“Fashion can also be used as means to making a statement — one that has the power to make you think about the world around you. Older people are often made to feel invisible in our society. I love when older women wear color because it is a way of communicating their visibility in the world… Many people ask me if the people I photograph are looking for attention — if they are dressing up because they want people to notice them. Any one of these marvelous ladies and gentleman will tell you that they are dressing up for themselves, because it makes them feel good. As they have gotten older their message has changed. They are no longer saying look at me, but rather, I am here.“ (Ari Seth Cohen)
Some of our fears about aging aren’t really about getting “old” at all — it’s more about feeling that we haven’t reached this or that milestone, this or that life goal, at a time we’ve deemed “appropriate”.
It’s very easy to look at people we respect & compare ourselves to them. I’m very happy with my life & my career, but my husband & I don’t own a house… & sometimes owning a house seems like a qualifier of adulthood. I look at my friends who own their own places & I’m boggled. I have no idea how they made that happen!
I cannot overstate the importance of looking objectively at your goals & examining them in-depth. Do you want to get married, have a baby or buy a car? Do you want those things because society tells you you should, or because you ACTUALLY want to? I like the idea of owning a house, sure, but it’s not the most important thing in my life. There are a lot of other things I’d like to achieve first. When I take the time to stop & think about that, my anxiety about this so-called milestone dissipates.
You have time. We all have time. Yes, it speeds up, but there is still plenty of it. Don’t spend your life rushing from goal to goal, because the sweetness falls in between.
If you haven’t been published, had a baby, learned to cook a perfect roast chicken or attained your PhD (yet!), that doesn’t make you a failure. In fact, even if you don’t know what to do with your life, you’re not a failure.
“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.” (Mary Schmich)
Martha Stewart was still working as a stockbroker when she was 30. Things only changed for her when she & her husband moved out into the countryside & began to restore a house! Julia Child didn’t go to cooking school until she was 36, & released her first cookbook when she was 50! (Did you know that before she started cooking, she worked as a government spy?!) Colonel Sanders started KFC when he was 40, & only started franchising when he was 65! Harrison Ford quit acting when he was 30 to go back to carpentry — but his fortunes changed four years later, when he met George Lucas & was cast as Han Solo!
The truth is that not everyone knows what they want to do with their life at a young age, & that only serves to make your journey more fantastic! Actually, even if you love what you’re doing now, that may change in the future! None of us have it all figured out, but if you can learn to appreciate the bumps, blips & detours of life, you will be so happy.
When I opened up the discussion about aging on Facebook, I received a plethora of responses, but this fantastic comment from Mary had to be shared!
“When I was in my teens, I thought 25 was old. When I turned 30 I thought 45 was old. Now here I am, two weeks from 50 and I feel younger than I did at 25 and am thankful for each day because every day gives me the chance to make this world a bit better.. whether it be by smiling really big at the old woman who talks to herself at the grocery store, or by moving an ant off the sidewalk so it doesn’t get squished. I have learned to experience as much of each moment as possible. I, too, have done things I never imagined I would. I learned to ride a motorcycle this year, I took flying lessons last year (8 takeoffs), I ice skated for the first time in my life and didn’t fall. I also fell in love with an incredible man. It doesn’t matter how old we are, what matters is how much life we get out of each moment. Love your philosophy and how you make people look at themselves. It’s all good.” (Mary Palmer)
I am looking forward to being a wicked old lady. I will wear lavender marabou jackets & wild glasses. I will travel the world & write in cafés. I hope I’ll have a hot pink car & share my house with plenty of animals! Maybe I’ll even have a Rad Granny web show (or whatever we’re watching by then)… !
Youth isn’t everything. As Lynn Dell says, “Don’t try & look younger, just look as wonderful as you can!” (I absolutely adore her… & I think you will, too!)
Lovin’ every moment,
Images from Advanced Style. Seriously, go & read it now!