I’m 29 years old. By all accounts, that’s young — very young, in fact (my mom is 67 and I’m still amazed by how youthful and energetic she seems). But as I approach 30, I have become increasingly aware of “aging.”
Aging: A word that’s been stigmatized by both the media and marketers; a word that instills dread and fear in even the most rational of women. To age is to lose beauty and to lose relevancy. To age (as a woman) is to become ugly. Avoid aging at all costs. Aging sucks.
When I flip open a ladies magazine, then, the skin advice for women in their late 20s and 30s centers on “prevention.” “Act NOW!” they say. “Turn back the clock!!!” they advise.
Aside from causing anxiety — if I don’t “act now,” what happens!? — the messaging is actually counterintuitive to a lot of what I’ve learned as I’ve… aged.
I don’t want to go back in time — I wouldn’t wish to be 20 again.
Sure, I had a lot of fun at that age, but it wasn’t a point in my life where I felt the most comfortable in my skin. At the ripe old age of 29 I know so much more about myself and about the way I feel about others. I have much more confidence. I accept my weaknesses and understand my strengths. I’m generally kinder, calmer, more accepting, and less critical than I was when I was 20. I’m happier, period.
My skin is better, too, thanks to the fact that I’ve learned how to take care of it. That means eating well, drinking lots of water, and using gentle products (it doesn’t mean using harsh astringents on my zits or subsisting on Diet Coke and cereal, like I did when I was 20).
See, whether it’s about skincare or self care, getting older gives you the priceless gift of experience and perspective. Both are essential tools in the kit for navigating life.
I need these tools and wouldn’t “turn back the clock” for anything. Moreover, I actually look forward to getting older. I still have my insecurities and anxieties. I still have a lot to learn. I’m excited for experiences like (hopefully) having children, furthering my career, and tackling the challenges that lay ahead. All will help fortify and enlighten me as a person.
The New York Times interviewed one of my favorite actresses, Frances McDormand, back in October. They covered a variety of topics, including aging — a topic that McDormand is passionate about. She remarked, quite insightfully, that in our current youth-obsessed culture, “There’s no desire to be an adult. Adulthood is not a goal. It’s not seen as a gift. Something happened culturally: No one is supposed to age past 45 — sartorially, cosmetically, attitudinally. Everybody dresses like a teenager. Everybody dyes their hair. Everybody is concerned about a smooth face.”
A smooth face — as I learned when I was 20 — doesn’t necessarily make you happy, nor does it make you the best version of yourself. To pursue it blindly as a source of fulfillment is not only misguided, it is tragic. Much more tragic than a couple of well-earned lines on your face.