Aging as a woman is thrilling, exciting, invigorating, life-affirming, and super cool. With my 39th birthday arriving on the first day of summer, I am finding myself ever-enthralled with the changes I’m seeing in my face, my hair, my skin, as I mature. Woo!
I’m just like Gwyneth Paltrow, who said, “I like being older. It’s nice to really know yourself and feel relaxed. And I actually think I look better now than I did when I was 24, so I’m very comfortable with myself.”
Exactly! I was hideous as a 20-something. Ask anyone. Almost-40 is the bomb diggety doo (or whatever the kids are saying now).
I don’t ever want the signs of aging to stop, frankly. In the morning, when the sun pours through my east-facing bathroom window and splashes my not-17 or 25 or 30-year-old face with its splendid golden radiance, it highlights the ridges of the wrinkles that form under my eyes when I squint. I love it when this happens.
The wrinkles under my eyes are usually only visible if the sun falls on me just so – and I’ll actually turn my face to catch that special light when I have a few extra minutes in front of a mirror – but the laugh lines take no such work. With just the thought of a half-smile, it’s “Voila! Instant character!” As a teenager, I would notice the way the outer corners of my father’s eyes wrinkled when he laughed, and I couldn’t wait to be his age, to have a face that was interesting like his. Young people’s faces are far too smooth to have personality, as everyone knows.
I also used to covet my dad’s gray hair. It’s a silver gray, with not a trace of yellow, and the pattern of light and dark is so balanced and polished that it looks intentional. My own grays are coming in, not in random places on my head but in a clump on my left temple, and I just know it’s the start of a fashionable, Stacy London-esque stripe on my head. I’d dye it gray right now if it wouldn’t be so impossible to maintain. (Gold highlights are much easier, so I’ll probably keep doing that for a while.)
It’s true what they say about nearing 40 and coming into your own, gaining confidence, feeling “at home” in your body, and all the other lovely things that are best to focus on when you don’t want to get freaked the fuck out about aging.
Look, I know 39 isn’t “old.” (“If you’re a tree,” said a pin I gave my dad on his 40th birthday.) I’m not lying when I say I love the somewhat premature lines on my forehead the hairstylist wanted to cover with bangs. I earned those things, lady, with almost a straight year of worry-face when Ian was in Iraq. They’re my life tattoo, and there’s no shame in ’em.
And sometimes, I truly am fascinated – not even in a negative way – by the changes taking place right now, at this young age. I love my two or thirteen or whatever gray hairs.
But some day, there will be thousands of them and I’ll have gray-head. I’m still young enough for this to not quite penetrate. Full gray? Me? Me who was just a 16-year-old spraying Sun-In on my hair and sweating myself to death outside on a hot summer day because I had proven I had no Peroxide skills? Me who was, I swear, just a 12-year-old feeling very cool sitting in the back of the school bus?
And wrinkles… Young wrinkles – that is, 40-year-old wrinkles – add character, yes. They’re kind of fun, if they’re in the right spot. Wrinkles in the right spot say, “I have laughed. I will probably continue to laugh, and therefore I will probably collect a whole lot more of these.” But what other wrinkles will come? How many, and where?
How the hell old am I going to look, anyway?
What if aging means becoming the woman who wrongly thinks the hairstyle I’ve worn since I was 25 is classic, eternally fashionable, like beehives some old ladies still wear?
What if I’m 75 and wearing the equivalent of a brown polyester pantsuit because, hey, my flared Guess jeans looked great and plenty stylish when I was 39? (Wait – are they?)
Worse, what if it means buying clothes that are way too young for me because I simply have no idea how to dress age-appropriately and someone seeing me from behind thinks I’m 28 until I turn around and they’re all “Yagh!”?
What if aging means waking up every morning feeling 25, having exciting morning coffee, and then stepping in front of the mirror before a shower in that bathroom with the sunny window and seeing my reflection and thinking, “Wait–what the f–?”
Because that’s what I think it might be. And that’s really the only thing that scares me about aging physically. It’s not that I fear getting older, because it seriously is great. (I’m not just saying that.) I’m already excited about my birthday, and I hope to live to be 100. “Die young and leave a good-looking corpse” is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard in my life.
It’s also not a fear of looking “ugly,” even though the beauty product manufacturers and morning shows and magazines try and try and try so very hard to make women believe “aging” and “ugly” are synonymous.
It’s mostly the fear of being 45 or 57 or 62 and getting a look that says, “Stop acting 30! You look like a fool!”
I already get that look when I have a hard time remembering I’m not 19.