Andrea is on a quest to check off a bucket list of items in her 29th year. You can read more about her adventures at her blog, Thirty-Things.
I was on a long car trip during a bachelorette trip recently and we got into the kind of long, winding conversations that tend to happen when a group of women are in a confined space. The ages of those in the car ranged from mid-twenties to mid thirties.
The friend in her mid-thirties seemed a little disenchanted with the age, which she said everyone talks up like it’s some golden era in one’s life. In talking about what she wasn’t so fond of getting into her mid-thirties, she hit on something that felt almost taboo once she’d said it, that she was worried she was losing her looks. It used to be that every head would turn when she’d walk into a room and now, it just didn’t feel like her presence had the same effect.
Not to invalidate her experience or anything but the friend in question is smoking hot so I have trouble believing she’s become invisible to men just yet. All the same it was unsettling, was I being naïve thinking that aging worries were still far off on the horizon?
Of course, I suppose how much you worry about ‘losing’ your looks is directly tied to how much you valued and/ or relied on them in the first place. I’m not going to pretend for a moment that I don’t care about my looks or what others think of them but I’ve always cared about my intelligence/ athleticism/ creativity at least as much if not more probably because I was raised to believe that things were valuable (yay parents!).
I feel like a bad feminist even contemplating the idea that I will somehow feel lesser as I age but I would be lying if I said it doesn’t scare me at all, or if I told you that I’m unfazed by finding the occasional gray hair lately. The conundrum of what to do about the gray (which comes on early in my family) is one that I know will get louder, what are you going to do about it? Let it go or start pouring money into coloring it? Is dying away premature grays a slippery slope to botox and facelifts down the line?
Off course, there is a lot of money to be made off of instilling this fear in women. The Real Housewives of Every Affluent Zip Code Ever didn’t get like that because they felt secure about aging.
And you know what? It’s bullshit. We’re all doomed to spending the first half of our lives feeling fat and the second half feeling old? I, for one, am not going out like that. And unlike the assault of diet products that started getting shoved down my throat at age ten or so, maybe I can be mature enough to see this onslaught for what it is and not give into it.
And before anybody goes all Lori Gotlieb on me and points out that we should all be afraid, that men go for young women because biology; I don’t want to be with a man who doesn’t recognize that woman are human beings who age accordingly- I didn’t want that kind of man when I was twenty four, I don’t want him now and I really don’t imagine wanting him ten years from now.
There are plenty of beautiful older women out there (Helen Mirren, Susan Surandon, Jamie Lee Curtis) and it occurs to me that it’s not so much a question of losing one’s looks as much as having them change. My mother will be sixty next year and she’s stunning ; she was always lovely but there’s something more interesting about the way she looks now, like she’s earned it.
I’m not going to say I’m completely against getting work done: it’s deeply unfair the way our society sets up unrealistic expectations for women and then judges them for trying to do something about it; they get you coming and going. But I do think it would be a missed opportunity in some ways to never see how your face would change on its own.
I’m still probably going to dye my hair though.