A Woman’s Value in Time
For women, maturing is both a blessing and a curse
You know the saying “Youth is wasted on the young?” This week is my birthday and I’m conflicted. On one hand, I like the person that I am today. I feel like the me today is the woman I’ve always wanted to be. I’m very comfortable in my own skin and I like it that way. In my twenties, I was plagued with the thought of “Anything you can do, I can do better”. Every day was a constant obsession of always having to follow the latest fashion, making sure I was up to date and not outdated. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) ruled my twenties. Today, in my late thirties, I’ve come to understand and accept that we all have our own path and unique strengths that will help us in this journey called life.
As a single parent, I know I have to set an example for my daughter, but at times I feel like I have failed to fulfill my dreams and accomplished all my goals. The saying is motherhood is the best role a woman can ever have in her life. But along with motherhood, a woman loses a little bit of herself. This is something that men and society have never highlighted. It starts with the little sacrifices a woman has to make as a mother, whether it be taking a shorter bath/shower, or buying a more affordable lipstick so the baby can have a better milk formula. These may sound like trivial things but it slowly eats us, women, inside inch by inch. Until one day we wake up and we no longer recognize who we see in the mirror.
I too feel this way, there are some things that I honestly thought I would have achieved by now. Not just professionally but personally. Such as going to Paris for a French immersion course or going to Beijing for a Mandarin immersion (yes, I’m a big fan of languages). When I was in my 20s, I felt that time stood still. I felt I would never grow old and I was invincible. The world was my oyster and I would conquer it. But somehow, time got away from me and the last ten years flew by in a blink of an eye. If you asked me what happened in the last ten years of my life, I honestly can say I have no idea. One minute I was pregnant, the next I’m buying a cake for my daughter’s eighth birthday. Apparently, I’m not the only woman who feels this way. I asked my other close friends and they too have to remind themselves that they are not in their twenties anymore and can’t recollect clearly what happened in the last ten years. These are the realities of being a woman that nobody talks about, not even amongst women. Along with the mental changes, physical changes happen to us as well. The dresses and wardrobe which suited us in our twenties now look like “trying too hard” when worn in our thirties. I find myself in need of a whole new wardrobe because suddenly everything I owned in my closet is no longer suitable for the woman I am today (note to self: no mid-drift cutouts).
With age comes maturity is a very real thing. Not only personally but professionally. Those endless years of toiling away really worked. On a professional level, I see that my girlfriends and I are on good ground. But on a personal level, I often wonder how strong our footing is. With the addition of candles on our birthday cakes, the soft lines start creeping in on our visage. With men, aging comes as a sign of maturity, authority, and power. George Clooney is known for his salt and pepper hair, but for a woman in her late thirties, showing grey roots is a faux pas. It is considered a taboo like the last season Prada shoes Elle Woods wore in Legally Blonde.
As women, we are worshipped in our twenties and then with a flip of a switch, we instantly become outliers in our thirties. Even the coveted and famous Korean skincare is mostly aimed at women in their twenties. I dare you to try and find an anti-aging line from Korean skincare lines and you can clearly see that the skincare range is very limited and the price is ridiculously exorbitant. Again another way for society to punish us by pricing anti-aging creams at such a high price (yes I’m talking to you Chanel Sublimage Creme that costs 400 dollars even at Costco!)
I remember something that my mother said to me many years ago that has stuck with me to this day. She once said, “A few years ago when I walked into a room, all eyes would turn towards me, now they turn to you”. I didn’t understand it at the time because to me, she was always the most beautiful woman in any room. Today, as a woman in her late thirties, I understand that what she was referring to wasn’t a beauty, it was a youth. Society judges women too harshly. Our worth is linked directly to the number of candles on our birthday cake. In our youth and prime, we are expected to contribute to society based on our looks along with our brains. As if with beauty and youth somehow a woman’s brain would be filled with knowledge and could solve all of the world’s problems and then some. Then when we reach a certain maturity and have the wisdom to contribute knowledge, we are deemed old and irrelevant.
Amongst ourselves, women champion each other, but oftentimes, I don’t see the same support being given by men towards women. I’ve had so many male friends who complained that their wives never bounced back to their pre-baby weight after childbirth. Because as an everyday woman, we are expected to bounce back like Hollywood A-listers and their endless armies of personal trainers, nutritionists, nannies, and stylists. It’s as if it was written in their marriage vows “To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, unless you get fat and flabby. In that case all bets are off”. Society, in particular men, often give women unrealistic expectation of aging. We’re supposed to look like our children’s siblings, we have to still be able to fit into our pre-childbirth clothes and on top of all that, our bodies have to somehow defy gravity, no lines, wrinkles, or sagging.
Which brings me to my question, why is it that the same standards don’t apply to men? My male friends who are my age, I’ve noticed, often have a beer belly, a Kangaroo pouch, a one pack. However, you want to call it they have it. My girlfriends and I have to color our hair to hide our greys and yet men are free to walk around with the Clooney salt and pepper hair that somehow society has deemed adds to their charisma. Let’s not forget with the salt and pepper hair comes the kangaroo pouch and yet I don’t see society judging these men the way they judge women. Our whole lives, no matter who we are, and what our accomplishments are, women are constantly put in a real-life beauty pageant and an E! Fashion Police special of who wore it better. And to tell you the truth, it is exhausting.
Society has put the most impossible standard for women to live up to. We are demanded to have the maturity of a 40-year-old woman in the body of a 20-year-old girl. Men want the ease, wit, and charm of Goldie Hawn in the body of Zendaya. Yes, that can happen, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to require a trip to South Korea, 100 thousand dollars, and the best surgeon you can get an appointment with on short notice. On top of that, we also have to be soccer moms, gourmet chefs, with a meticulously clean home, fluffy laundry and don’t forget, active members of the PTA. Society, especially the male species need to stop having unrealistic expectations of women.
Jennifer Garner once said that she can work really hard on her body and would still look like a woman who's had three kids and she’s ok with that. Technology has done wonders in our lives and I don’t just mean with apps such as Amazon, Postmates, Lyft, or Instacart. I mean bringing conversations to the table that matters around the world. It may have taken all of humanity to get to the 21st century and Instagram and tik-tok but for once, I feel uplifted and hopeful that I can age gracefully as the universe intended. I am able to see so many women all over the world who are embracing their age and not caring how society will accept them, which in turn causes society to embrace women of all ages more openly.
For years I was obsessed with looking young. I would trim a few years off my age when people asked for fear of being labeled “old”. Today many women around the world are embracing their age such as Gwen Stefani and J-Lo who are in their 50s and killing it. Even Jane Fonda is a constant inspiration that growing old doesn’t mean growing useless. They are paving the way for women like me to follow suit and embrace the fact that age is really nothing but a number. We, along with our bodies and minds are what we make of it. A healthy diet, exercise, and a good night’s sleep are as good as the fountain of youth. With the magic of the internet, we can constantly upgrade our skills. The age of productivity for women is now endless. Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg was still crushing it with her weights workout well into her 80s.
Women have proven time and time again, that our age and looks have nothing to do with the contributions we can make and the performance we can deliver. Aging is a part of life and a natural occurrence, please stop punishing women for maturing and embrace us for the wisdom, knowledge, and love that we have to offer.