“How old are you again?” my son asked me the other night. “Mommy, are you old?” I am 41, so maybe a little bit?
Sometimes I see an old photo of myself or glance in the mirror and realize I didn’t change that much over the years. Tiny wrinkles (from laughing so much) that appear out of nowhere but no grey hair. My elbow is sometimes doing something weird. Not really sure what is going on there. But overall, if this means getting older, it is all good. It is natural. On another note, I don’t understand Snapchat. Technically or philosophically. College students look like babies to me. Like, tiny infants who should be rocked to sleep in a bassinet.
What I like about ageing:
I feel comfortable in my body. I don’t mind that my arms are a little soft. My body can take my kid on bike rides and kiss and tap tap tap on the computer. I love laugh lines; they exist because of all the times you’ve laughed at funny things. And frown lines are good for freaking children out just enough at bedtime.
I still feel really young. Maybe everyone does? “I’ve never got used to the Queen being grown up,” writes Margaret Atwood in Cat’s Eye. “Whenever I see her cut-off head on the money, I think of her as fourteen years old… The Queen has had grandchildren since, discarded thousands of hats, grown a bosom and (heresy to think it) the beginning of a double chin. None of this fools me. She’s in there somewhere, that other one.”
You learn things over the years. That hard work pays off. That I look good in bangs. How to listen. Which gelato flavour to order (i.e., the poppy seed flavour sounds like the worst but is actually the best).
I have mantras. I used to lie awake beating myself up at night about how I might have done some random thing (socially, work-related, parenting, etc.) better or differently. I wouldn’t be able to get over it. Now I think, “I’m learning,” and it feels productive and calming, and nine times out of ten, I’m able to put it (and myself) to bed.
I understand how much older ladies can sit by the window and remember the past. You’re all your ages within one body. It feels good.
Life goes in chapters. Sometimes you feel stuck or lost or heartbroken, but things always change. I’ve been a bookish little girl; a karate-loving teenager; a college student in love; a miserable statistics student; an anxious twentysomething searching for a path; a happy friend; a blissed-out newlywed; an exhausted new mother; an early forty-something woman writing this post. Hard times can feel endless, but they always always end. Who knows what lies ahead?
Based on current celebrity beauty standards:
The goals are clear: you need to look like you’re in your twenties until you’re thirty-five, then look thirty-five until you’re dead. Also, regardless of age or retirement eligibility, all women should have supple, lineless skin with no evidence of sunspots, muscle movement, or laughter. The only indication that you’ve been on Earth long enough to outlive a household pet should be the look in your eyes, which peer wearily out of your flawless, youthful face like a haunted doll.
To get specific about various body parts: boobs, obviously, should be perpetually high and firm, lips full and plump (with the help of Botox!), and your hair long and flowing with the aid of extensions, even as you enter an assisted living facility, where it will invariably get tangled with your breathing equipment and other life-prolonging devices, which would be annoying if you were not so successful clutching to the hallmarks of youth with steadfast determination.
But be careful how you cling. Hands and necks are a dead giveaway that you might have vivid memories of the New Kids on the Block, or worse, Studio 54, so you need to do whatever you can to take care of that whole situation. Hand transplant, neck power blasting, the surgical attachment of permanent, elbow-length gloves – don’t be afraid to get drastic. Just go to your local med spa or plastic surgeon, and say, “Help, the passage of time is evident on my body!”
It is also important to e mindful of changing beauty trends, so you don’t inadvertently age yourself by trying to look young in the old way. For example, right now, filler-plumped, sexy balloon faces are out; skeletal, ageless vampire faces are in. So while just a few years ago, you may have paid some doctor to inject a bunch of goop into your cheeks until you looked like a beautiful, hairless chipmunk, you now need to have that goop sucked out of your cheeks ASAP, so you can look like, well, I guess, whatever the reverse of a chipmunk is. A gazelle? An anteater?
Anyway, it is important to note that even if you follow this advice and update your body as often as you update your phone’s operating system, the thing about ageing as a woman -just like all things related to being a woman – is that there are many, many ways to do it wrong. In fact, you have probably aged incorrectly already. Did you not get preventative Botox in elementary school? Did you get so much Botox you were once mistaken for dead or so much Botox in your lips that someone might have mistaken them for suction cups? Are you not uncanny enough, to the point of normally walking around, for everyone to see, looking like a human woman who has maybe birthed children, frowned at some point, or been in the sun at least once? Did you furrow your brow while reading any of these questions? Uh-oh, another burgeoning flaw to fix.
If this all seems exhausting and impossible, rest assured: it is. You are not imagining it. But take solace in the fact that, one day, things will be easier. Eventually, society will progress and finally ditch unrealistic expectations for women’s looks, or, alternatively, some tech-bro startup will figure out the science required to turn women into walking, occasionally talking, 3-D photo filters. I hope being a filter isn’t too expensive. But then again, I know I won’t spend money on neck and anti-wrinkle face transplants.
What about you? How old are you? Do you feel that age? Funnily enough, I’m actually looking forward to turning 42.