December 11, 2013

On Wanting to Look My Age.

Over the weekend, I attended a holiday bazaar where one of the many vendors present was an independent consultant for a holistic skincare line.

As I looked over the items on displaying, silently marveling over just expensive “beauty” could be, the consultant handed me her card and some assorted samples. As I thanked her and left, she reminded me that the so-called $90 miracle cream could also be purchased on line and for a limited time only, shipping was free.

As I politely nodded and left, the truth hit me like a ton of bricks: I am now old enough to “need” one of these so-called miracle creams.

This April I will be 37 years old and much closer to 40 than ever before. Back in my careless teens and 20-somethings, I never thought that this day would come or if rather that it would come so quickly. I am steadily entering the world of middle age and expected to fight it every step of the way.

However, I have a secret: I don’t want to fight it nor am I interested in hiding it.

Even as a young child, I had a tendency to look young for my age. The combination of my short stature and Asian heritage caused many to guess that I was years younger than my actual age. As a teenager, I along with most girls my age, yearned to look older. In my case, it was a hopeless battle. When I finally graduated from college, I was still regularly mistaken for being in high school. I was also routinely carded well into my early 30s.

I have to admit that part of it was/is nice. Even now I have had people mistake me for being in my late 20s. However, I cannot deny that I no longer look like a “girl”. No one is going to mistake me for a coed nor mistake my daughter for my baby sister.

And truthfully, I am happy about that.

I am happy that people see me as a grown woman who (hopefully at least) wears some of her well-earned wisdom on her face.

I view the lines on my forehead as something to be proud of rather than something to worry about.

Lest this suggest that I am immune to vanity or how I physically appear to others, I am not suggesting that at all. The  truth is, I worry about my appearance. I probably spend way too much time worrying about how I look. I am also not going to stop taking care of myself or vowing never to dye my hair or even consider plastic surgery sometime in the future.

However, I do not intend to try and look like I am 30 forever.

Many of us know or have heard stories about people (mostly women) who try to remain young and hip forever. I once worked with one who prided herself on borrowing her teenaged daughter’s clothing and “still being carded” for alcohol even though she was over 40. While physically she was in excellent shape, she never seemed very comfortable in her own skin. Indeed, it seemed like she was constantly wearing a persona that she wasn’t quite at ease with, and it showed.

In contrast, I recently met a vibrant artist who is in her 70s and wears what can only be described as ensembles which on me or 99.9 percent of most women would look absurd yet she carries them off. She has a sense of youthfulness that cannot be bought or faked, and instead comes with being at ease with one’s self. Also, she does not make any bones about her age. (In fact, she takes a great amount of pride in the fact that she is a grandmother several times over.)

When I look at how society typically views aging, I cannot fault attitudes like the one of my former co-worker.

Most of us are well-aware that aging women can often become invisible. It’s a message that we are sent time and again especially in popular culture. Actress and producer Trudie Styler recently pointed out that 52 year old George Clooney woes women significantly younger than him onscreen.

She also said,

In life, you see younger men and older women and the majority of marriages don’t have such a huge age gap as we’re used to seeing in films.”

She is correct. Still, as the wife of a highly-successful rock star (Sting) Ms. Styler is probably all-too aware that many of her husband’s peers have been or are with women significantly younger than them. After all, we hear “trophy wife” far more than we hear “trophy husband”.

Regardless, trying to fight aging is not ultimately a losing battle-barring of course that you die early—but one that only tends to reinforce the idea that old automatically equals “ugly,” “undesirable,” etc.

The truth is, there is a beauty in growing older. Beauty of all sorts-both external and internal-is not found only in the youth.

As a whole, we are living longer than ever and perhaps it will be the women of my generation who redefine the conventional notion of  “beauty” or at least expand it to include the aged. Or perhaps the same technology that is being used to extend life will also be utilized to fight aging, too. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I have a choice in how I view getting older and my views will have an impact on my daughter’s attitude on the aging process as well.

I choose not to be afraid. I choose not to hide that I am marching towards middle age, and there is no going back.

I am not delusional enough to deny that there are probably going to be bumps on this journey that I do not like, but I am on the train and not getting off.

I just hope there are also some passengers on board to keep me company.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Bandita/Flickr

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