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.