Scrolling through Instagram the other day, I noticed a few acquaintances had posted #howaginghashitme photos, including two photos of themselves, taken ten years apart (this is also known as the “10 Year Challenge”–who invents these things?). Judging from the photos, it would seem that aging hasn’t touched my friends that much (many of whom are still under thirty years old). If anything, they’ve simply grown more refined over time with better taste in hairstyles, clothing, eyeshadow, facial hair (where the fellows are concerned), etc. Naturally, I fell into the insta-comparison trap—despite my better judgement—and started to consider how “aging has hit me” over the past ten years. Spoiler alert: it has.
For reference, I am technically under thirty as well, but just by month(!), and for the past year, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around what “thirty” means to me—and if it means anything at all other than another birthday (it certainly feels like it should be a milestone of some sort).
But back to the topic at hand: I know that I’ve physically aged since 2009 when I was a sophomore in college. Just yesterday, I was watching a video of myself holding my toddler as she rubbed her eyes and yawned her great big yawns, still groggy and rosy-cheeked from a deep nap. I couldn’t help but notice the weary, more-present-than-ever lines between my eyebrows that give me a look somewhere between brokenhearted and harried-at the-grocery-store. I also noticed how something about my skin looked flat, sans youthful cushion or glow. Sure, I could blame a lot of things—the lighting (unforgiving!), PMS (it makes a difference!), and my actual fatigue (yep! yep! yep!)—but ultimately, it was still recognizably me, the me I see every day.
The video certainly challenged my ideas about aging. On the one hand, I like the idea of celebrating one’s lines and physical changes, embracing an attitude of pro-aging, pro-life (well, you know what mean). In the past few years, we’ve witnessed celebrities balk at the phrase “anti-aging” (kudos to Helen Mirren and Josie Maran!). Accordingly, I mostly approach my skincare routine as something that’s enhancing rather than anti (though I don’t think anti-aging is a completely dirty word as it can describe a specific genre of skincare ingredients or effects, but I digress.) Indeed, I like the idea that I’m nurturing my skin rather than fighting it. So I tend to chide myself when I catch myself harshly judging my appearance. As a liberated, master’s-educated woman, don’t I have better things to do with my time? Moreover, it’s certainly not the kind of thinking I want to model for my daughter.
The experience of actually witnessing yourself aging is more complicated than all of that, of course. Perhaps I’m a product of my culture (okay, I definitely am), but as of yet, it’s been impossible for me to extricate my sense of self-worth from my appearance and its level of youthfulness despite the knowledge that this mindset is self-defeating.
Of course, there are some things that come with my aging that are easy to celebrate—I, too, have improved taste—and I’ve managed to banish the acne that plagued me during my youth. My skincare regimen feels nourishing and effective (within the realm of possibility, of course). I like the way I take care of myself, but I think I need more than enjoying my skincare routine, come what may. We all do.
Fortuitously, I stumbled across this quote from Kate Winslet: “I’m baffled that anyone might not think women get more beautiful as they get older. Confidence comes with age, and looking beautiful comes from the confidence someone has in themselves.” What I like about this wisdom is that it can help reframe the sort of thinking I’m prone to that goes nowhere positive fast. It reminds me that the aging process (i.e., the living process) isn’t all about loss or loss prevention. When we’re lucky enough to live to thirty, forty, fifty… part of the process is gaining something that walks the line of the intangible and the physical. After all, it’s true that the way we live, the way our experiences create our person, come to live on our faces and move with us when we move our bodies.
So at present, I’m trying to think of things like this: my aging adds to who I am. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever struggle with it, and I’m not sure if anything can completely solve the problem of seeing a cruddy photo of oneself or not always completely loving one’s reflection 100% of the time (which, by the way, may not be necessary), so for now, I’m letting those things be unresolved. Sometimes it be like that. What I want to do, moving forward, is seek and be present for the enhancements that aging bestows—from joie de vivre to a certain kind of elegance that’s part physical, part ethereal.
Do you have a philosophy on aging?
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