Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of backlash on social media against the notion of “anti-aging”. And I 100% get it: women have, for so long, been judged not only on some unobtainable (for many) notion of beauty, but we’re also expected to “age gracefully”–a term which, as far as I can tell, is completely loaded. Because on its face, it sounds like it’s an encouragement to embrace aging, not to fight it kicking and screaming. But that’s actually exactly what it means. And if you don’t, people whisper behind your back. “Oh, poor so-and-so: she isn’t aging well.”
What does that even mean? I suspect the notion of “aging well” has to do with getting physically older without looking like we’re physically older. So if it wasn’t enough pressure to be beautiful while we’re young, we’re also expected to look young as we get old. And it’s not enough simply to take care of yourself: we’re all expected to keep up with the Joneses, and let us not forget that the Joneses are getting Botox in their twenties, microabrasioning their skin half to death, and getting lifts, nips, and tucks like there’s no tomorrow.
So if you’re one of those who aren’t doing those things, guess what? You look even older, because your peers are paying good money to shave 5-10 years off their faces.
It’s a no-win situation.
So when I see tweets like the following, part of me applauds:
But then part of me also panics.
Because I want to be part of the resistance. I want to be the woman who wears her wrinkles and her gray hair proudly.
But I’m not that woman. At least not yet.
I Haven’t Always Been Proud of My Face. Or the Rest of Me, Either
Part of the reason I got into skincare was because I had a very damaged relationship with my appearance. Not just my body, which I think most American women struggle with on some level, but also with being “ethnic”: my hair, my wide nose, my brown skin were all things I either actively tried to hide or at least actively hated.
With the advent of social media, however, I started to see people who looked like me used right alongside the word “beautiful”. It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually these images of women chipped away at enough of my negative self image that I was able to see past my own bullshit and see myself the way my husband, my kids, my friends saw me: Worthy.
But that didn’t come without a price. You see, once I was able to claim my own beauty, I was hellbent of holding onto it. Nothing was going to stand between me and finally, finally feeling good about the way I looked. I finally felt like I could share the selfies, wear the sexy dress, make the beauty video. I’d always wanted that for myself. It only took me upward of 35 years to get there.
The problem was, by the time I really started to believe I could be beautiful, I was running headlong toward that “middle-aged” precipice, and that scared the shit out of me. I had wasted my youth believing I could never be beautiful, and now that I was within a hair’s breadth of true self-appreciation, all I could think was that pretty soon it was all going to go to hell. My hair is already getting thinner and losing its curl; the lines around my eyes are starting to show up in photos. I became obsessed not with youth exactly, but with preserving my status quo so I could luxuriate in my newfound confidence for just. A little. Longer.
I hear what you’re saying. “If you were really in a good place of self-love and confidence, you wouldn’t be freaking out about aging.” And I hear that criticism. I do. And yet, it’s not necessarily aging that scares me to death. It’s the unknown. I fought hard to learn to love certain aspects of myself. If, tomorrow, I’m faced with new challenges, how long will it take me to embrace those? Another 35 years?
Change Is a Bitch.
Let’s face it: I’m not special. When society tells me that youth = beauty, I buy into that. When I see other women who are successfully ratcheting up their careers in the beauty or lifestyle industry, I can’t help but notice that these women are young. We do still value youth as a culture. And that scares me. As I work to launch my career as a video content personality and skincare consultant, I worry that I’m too late. That I missed my window. That nobody values female personalities who don’t look a certain way.
Maybe that’s bullshit. I hope it is. But I still worry.
I worry and I slather on my serums and my oils and my masks. Because I want to hold on to what I have.
Because it took me forever to get here.
Because I don’t want to miss my chance.
So, yes. I stand in solidarity with everyone who vocally decries the sexist nonsense that is anti-aging marketing. My hat off to every woman who eschews that surgery, who flaunts her natural self, who flies the finger at toxic notions of beauty. But I also feel every single one of you who still wants to hold onto her youth. Who wants to stave off change for as long as possible. Who is fighting to feel confident and beautiful even as life exacts its tolls.
It’s ok to age. It’s ok to look your age. But it’s also ok if you’re not ready for it. The only person you have to answer to is yourself.