When I was in my early twenties, I was already gripped with fear over aging. My religious application of anti-wrinkle cream every night definitely got some laughs at the sorority house. But when I looked to the movies, music, and pop culture surrounding me at the time the message was clear: the world belongs to the young. Thirty stood lurking in front of me like some sort of dark deadline. I had to get EVERYTHING done by then — make a name for myself in a creative career, find and marry the right guy, put down roots in the right town. And whenever things weren’t going well in any area, I’d lean on the comforting thought, “Well, at least I’m still in my twenties.” I achieved some of my goals, but on nowhere near the time frame I had set out for myself. By the time the big 3-0 rolled around, it was comically underwhelming. Surprisingly, I didn’t disappear into surburbia or wake up with a head full of grey hair. In fact, I had one of the best birthdays of my life. I had finally gotten a great creative job at an ad agency, was surrounded by loving friends, and felt more attractive than I’d felt in years. I was deeply content. And I still had goals for my future. In many ways, life was just beginning.
When I look ahead, I’m still a bit apprehensive of aging. I think about health issues and how my body will feel differently as it ages. But I’ve recognized that if you really unravel it, the root fear for most of us is of feeling unattractive. And one can feel attractive or unattractive at any age, right? Perhaps part of our issue as a culture is that we don’t celebrate enough people like Linda Rodin (pictured here), who can inspire our vision of life after 50. It doesn’t have to be a black hole. Lately, we’ve been discussing the older women whose style we admire most (ladies like Linda, Meryl Streep, Blythe Danner, and Wini Burkeman) in the office. We’ve noticed that each of these women have allowed some natural aging to happen (be it “happy lines” or a shock of white hair). And that reads as pure confidence.
Soaking up the fun and comfort of my thirties, I feel foolish for the time I spent worrying in my twenties. And as a woman, I hope to see more of us taking pride in the years of experience that make us who we are instead of being uncomfortable with them. Who knows, maybe we can even influence the next generation of girls to actually look forward to bigger birthdays. When it comes to aging, I think FDR was right: there’s nothing to fear but fear itself.
image via the coveteur
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