You Could Be Attacked By Aging At Any Moment

A version of this piece appeared on Jezebel here

Nothing is permanent. And everything good goes away eventually. Right? That’s life. That’s the deal.

I’ve been feeling pretty good. I got this little black dress for like $12 at H&M. There’s a chance it might actually be intended to be a shirt, but I’m a rebel, so I’m just wearing it however I feel like wearing it, which is as a dress and not as a shirt. It fits really snugly, like a tank top is supposed to, and comes down mid-thigh. It’s really sexy, but casual, and I wear it with a belt and sandals and go everywhere in it. My legs have been looking good, and, shockingly, so have my arms. Ever since I had that talk with Emily about breasts and she said I was lucky to be able to go braless, I stopped wearing a bra with the dress. The material is thick, so it works. And I love the way it looks and feels. Unencumbered, simple, and hot.

I’ve been walking around the city feeling really good about the way I look and who I am. I’m this fine, confident young woman who has a lot of stories to tell and is definitely going to have some amazing adventures. I might start having an adventure at any moment.

I mean, not everything is great. The handsoap I recently bought, appealingly titled “Crisp Cucumber and Melon,” smells like the same soap that all of the bathrooms in movie theaters and restaurants have, which makes me annoyed at myself for not smelling it before I bought it. The ONE time I just trusted them to come through for me. The one time. It’s back to Milk and Honey, or whatever the last one was called (I think that actually might’ve been it, believe it or not).

And also, it’s all about to change. All that hotness and black-dressness I’m describing. It’s all going to change really soon. When I get older.

As a young woman, there’s always a sense that whatever it is that you have, it’s going to disappear eventually. Probably sooner than you expect. You have to constantly prepare yourself to be older. For your beauty to be ambushed, brutalized, and eventually completely destroyed by the aging process. It’s going to happen. Or you could get a lot of plastic surgery, and everyone can feel sorry for you, because now you’re the woman who got a lot of plastic surgery. Because you just couldn’t let life happen. You had to try to be in control.

That’s it, really. It’s a loss of control. Appearance is a big part of who we are, and it’s scary when something essential about yourself changes of its own accord. You feel helpless. You yell into the night, “Why?! Why does my neck have to sag?!” You never thought a neck could sag. You never noticed other people’s necks sagging, and now you see saggy necks everywhere. Nora Ephron wrote a whole book about this. It’s called, “I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman.” Great book.

(image source here)

As a young woman, looking fresh and hot and tight-skinned is always bittersweet, if you are at all aware. Remember, these are the times you’ll look back on later in order to sigh bitterly and say, “I didn’t even know how hot I was. I was just running around with my veinless legs and my taut neck, totally oblivious. Those were the days…”

By then you’ll be facing a daily barrage of age-disguising creams, botox injections, trunks of makeup, and miracle products that a much older Cindy Crawford is hawking.

Or…

Maybe it’s OK to lose control sometimes. I try to control everything, and it gets exhausting.

My mother had straight hair her entire young life. When she turned forty, it got wavy. It’s really pretty, and totally unexpected. I went with her to look for a dress she could wear to my wedding, and everything she put on looked amazing on her. She tried this deep blue lace gown that was off the shoulder, and it was positively magical. She was regal. She had the experience and the solidness that the gown required. I would’ve looked flimsy in it. There is a chance that she will outshine me at my own wedding. But if she does, I’ll celebrate that, because hey, everyone says we look alike, and that can only bode well for my future.

Many of the women over forty I know talk about feeling awkward and insecure at my age. They surprised themselves by gaining confidence they never expected to have. And by being better able to sort out what matters.

It would be naïve to imagine that older women can ever escape beauty awareness/self-consciousness and all of the pressures placed on them by society to buy things to make them look younger. But it would also be naïve to imagine that the hyperawareness and anxiety with which so many young women approach their appearances can’t evolve, mature, and become something that is surprisingly happier. Or at least, when you’ve done more with your life, there will be a lot of more interesting things to focus on than your appearance. Not that I don’t have plenty of interesting things to focus on. I have soap to pick! But seriously, I actually do hope that my life will continue to get more and more interesting.

I like adventures. Even more, ultimately, then I like control. I’m scared of aging, but maybe by the time I get there I’ll laugh at myself and say, “Yeah, I had nice legs. But I was a total wimp!”

*  *  *  *

Thoughts on aging? Are you scared of it? Or what’s been surprisingly good about it?

Un-Roast: Today I love my knuckles. Sometimes I study my hands, especially when I’m bored and waiting in the DMV for my number to be called. Or the deli line at Zabars. So I know my knuckles well. They don’t stand out at all until I make a fist, and then they look really sharp. It’s cute.

I don’t have time to include un-roasts from yesterday!

But sign up for Cake if you haven’t already and follow me on Twitter and be my friend!

27 Comments »

Kate on July 1st 2010 in beauty, body, life

27 Responses to “You Could Be Attacked By Aging At Any Moment”

  1. Cindy responded on 01 Jul 2010 at 12:04 pm #

    I was a total late bloomer and my ME body and pshyche is a vast improvement over my “hot and 20 something one”

    I was a different person than. Scared, battered, anxiety driven, easily manipulated, total people pleaser. I was always, by far, the youngest in every setting…job, friends. By a decade. I didn’t “get” people, or their jokes, or the teasings. I didn’t like the attention I got, nor did I know how to handle it. I learned real fast how to hide me and strove to be invisible.

    And then something amazing happened. I grew up. I am no longer striving to still be 20 something or even 30 something. I accepted woman hood and all it comes with and I LOVE IT.

    you do finally gain some sort of odd confidence, not sure when. One day you wake up, look in the mirror and say, “well, I’m here now and I can’t go back; no sense being miserable and hating myself because i just blew out 30 or 40 candles”.

    you get tired of chasing the inevitable. you get tired of trying to be something you are not (and maybe never were). You just learn, that you get to be your utter best, by just being YOU.

    I love the ME i’ve morphed into. I’ve worked rather hard at being the best person, mom, wife etc, I can be and it’s paying off becasue I wouldn’t trade a tad more skin tightness and one less grey (I don’t have many yet) for being that scared, manipulated and battered “not so hot” 20 year old for anything.

    I am wondering if it’s way harder for true 20 yo HOTTIES to watch it go, the for some of us who never really had “hotness” in the first place and to grow old graciously.

    oops…novel.

    haha

    another great topic! love that you love you new dress and rock it!

    you go!!!!

  2. Jamie responded on 01 Jul 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    I feel bad about my neck is a GREAT book. I just read it this month and I loved it. Excellent post. I, too, love my body the way it is now (took me years to be able to say that), and I am reluctant for it to change. Make you feel a fierce sense of urgency.

  3. Christine (Blisschick) Reed responded on 01 Jul 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    Age is just a number, as that Olympic swimmer says, and ME, TOO.

    HELLO!? I am 41 and I am stronger, more flexible, more balanced, more graceful, and more creative than I have ever been in my life.

    Returning to dance at FORTY has been a real gift. I could never have danced with this body’s passion and story at the age of 20 something. Puh-lease.

    Much of aging is really about stopping. I am NOT stopping.

  4. Kristin responded on 01 Jul 2010 at 3:28 pm #

    I positively love aging. I’m 30 y.o. My love may come from my friends who reinforce that I get better as I age. It’s true and I know it. I love it. I also credit my 81 y.o. grandmother who lives like she’s never aged a day over 40. She’s vibrant. She inspires me and reminds me that life is exactly what you make of it – so make love! I’m aware of my mortality but I’m not afraid of my physical body changing. I’ve earned those changes. Each line is all mine and it came with a good time or a life lesson.

    The only things I don’t love about aging: 1) The fresh faced college graduate who calls me Ma’am; and 2) The girls from my (Texas) highschool who seem to believe energetic life ends at 30 y.o. (and 34 y.o. is really pushing it on old parenting – what?!?). Sooooo not problems.

    Love, Love, Love, Love, Love! Can’t everyday be a celebration of my birthday? More aging?

    I’ve never unroasted but I’ve been thinking about it: I love my shoulders. I used to think they were too broad, as if they were made for a football player. They are in fact made for playing football, ask the men in my lifeline. They are also made for supporting gorgeous, feminine curves that plenty of women pay lots of money to superimpose on their less curved forms. I will never, ever be able to go braless, and I’m totally envious of women who can, btw. I haven’t always loved my curves either, but now, I like my natural curves and I love my shoulders for carrying them proudly. My yoga practice has transformed these shoulders into art. I love them!

  5. Diane responded on 01 Jul 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    A wise friend recently sent me this lovely quote:

    “There is no old age. There is, as there always was, just you.”
    -Carol Matthau

    I truly feel that way – I am the same me I always have been – evolving, of course, but my internal workings factor more into my age than does the shape of my body. As another commenter said, I have earned my lines and they tell my story. I don’t want to deny them. My body may not look like it did in high school, but it is strong and right now it is round, soft, and full of baby. I am proud of what it has accomplished and excited to see what will happen next.

    I have more than a few gray hairs at 30, but they don’t bother me. That is my un-roast for the day: My gray hairs create a lovely streak that frames my face and looks like a natural highlight. I decided a while ago not to let it bother me. I want my (future) children to see me as an example of someone who ages gracefully and unafraid.

  6. Justine responded on 01 Jul 2010 at 4:08 pm #

    I actually seem to feel better about myself the older I get. I like to think it’s because I’m a Capricorn and we’re supposed to age backwards, but it’s probably just because I think the longer you’re in a body the more comfortable you are with it. I rarely meet a woman over 40 who is awkward. I think it’s sort of strange that we don’t celebrate the grace and knowledge that comes with age, especially since the awkwardness of youth can be so cringe-worthy sometimes. Take someone like Kristen Stewart, I feel her pain whenever I see her, but that’s what your supposed to be like at 20! Give her another 20 years and she’ll probably be 10 times as gorgeous because she will have grown into herself. I hope I’m right about this, it really keeps me from freaking out about getting older.

  7. Cathy responded on 01 Jul 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    Great post! I’m 42 now and way happier and more attractive than I was when I was younger. I think it’s just life–when I was in my 20s I worried so much about making mistakes. And I made them anyway–bad marriage, dissatisfaction with my career, financial problems. Lots of “learning experiences”. Or as a good friend would say, “another fucking learning experience!” By the time I was 34 I felt like I had seriously messed up my life. But something in me just wouldn’t give up trying and believing I was worthwhile. So at 36 I traded in my career that I had long since been tired of in a city I hated for the adventure of moving to the Deep South and marrying a great guy I met online. I got pregnant on our honeymoon and 5 years later we live in the Rockies and have a gorgeous daughter. I’m not any smarter or better looking than most people I think but the one thing I did right was not give up on myself when things were their worst.

    I’m a lot easier on myself now and a lot more compassionate and understanding towards others, and also less of a doormat than I was 20 years ago. Having made so many mistakes and lived to prosper in the end I am a lot less afraid of making mistakes and looking stupid now. I guess that’s confidence. Regarding women losing hotness as they age, my husband had some interesting observations on that. He has been married twice before me and dated just about every kind of woman out there, including former supermodels and actresses–lots of glamour and talent. And he remarked that he thought women who were super-gorgeous when they were young, to the point that they could open doors with a smile, had it really rough when the looks started to go because they had often no alternative strategy for making it in the world. Women who had to develop other talents however seemed to bloom as they got older, he said, because they had had to do something other than just look good and therefore usually had lots of confidence, good stories to tell and perspective on life.

    And his comment on my large Germanic farm woman body? “Strong squaw bear many manchild!” Yes, he is the most politically incorrect man on the planet. But he loves sturdy women and he loves me. Nice to know as gravity continues to do its work on my flesh….LOL

  8. Beth responded on 01 Jul 2010 at 5:01 pm #

    “Age is an attitude not a number” – My grandma

    I turned 40 in April and I don’t care. I have always been pretty indifferent to birthdays, but honestly age is meaningless to me. My dad is 84 and doesn’t look or act anywhere near the idea of what most people believe 84 looks like. My grandma was active and happy until she passed away in her 90s.

    I love myself a lot more now than I ever did in my 20s or even my 30s (which were pretty darn awesome). I’m proud of who I am and what I’ve learned and all of the life experiences I’ve had along the way.

    According to my husband I am more beautiful now because I’m confident and secure and I own who I am. I don’t worry about losing my looks, and I never say never about anything, but from where I sit right now surgery and botox and whatever are not for me.

    I got kind of miffed when I turned 40 and so many people said “Don’t worry, you don’t LOOK 40!” because excuse me, but what the hell is wrong with looking like I’m 40? I AM 40!

  9. Maggie responded on 01 Jul 2010 at 6:50 pm #

    I was going braless for a while and then I started to feel self conscious. I don’t know why – it’s not like I have boobs (I like the fact that they are small; this is a good thing).

    I have started to look at my forehead and scan for wrinkles. None yet, but I keep expecting them.

    If you want some good soap you should go to Sabon. It’s on 61st and Lex.

  10. Anna responded on 01 Jul 2010 at 8:12 pm #

    My birthday is 12 days away, and for the first time in my life I’m not super excited about it. I’ll be turning 22, which is WAY more adult than I’m comfortable with. I’m not afraid of physically aging, but I am afraid of emotionally aging I suppose. Well, really just afraid of having to take on adult responsibilities. Meh.

    On a more positive note, here’s an unroast for ya- today I really like my hair. I like how it looks in 2 braids with a rolled bandana headband, which is my go-to work hairdo (note: I work on a farm). I think it looks playful and I feel cute in it.

  11. Julianna responded on 01 Jul 2010 at 9:36 pm #

    Wow, aging…there are days when I feel older than my 27 years and many a day where I feel like a confused teenager. This might have to do with my current living situation as I’m sorta couch surfing and looking for work. This economy has been less than kind in establishing myself post undergrad. But that is another story, for another time.

    As for the aging process, I think the best compliment I got was a few years ago, from a friend I’d not seen in years, when he just quipped, “Damn girl, you’ve really grown into yourself.”

    I’ll admit that I’ve always been kinda “eh” when it comes to my looks, but recently I’ve been plagued by the thoughts that I was better looking years ago. Stupid media and all their focus on teenagers and twenty-somethings that lack womanly curves.

    I do the braless thing too. What I lack in front-sets I more than make up for in ass-sets. That’s my unroast for the day: I love my asset! ;)

    On a completely fangirly note, I love what you’re doing on this site and look forward to reading it every day. You are giving me inspiration to be more comfortable with myself. Keep up the good work.

  12. Kate responded on 02 Jul 2010 at 12:17 am #

    @Beth
    I really want to be exactly like you describe yourself. I want to say, “Looking forty is hot!” We shouldn’t put up with being complimented by being compared to things we aren’t, we should be able to be hot being exactly what we are.

  13. sui responded on 02 Jul 2010 at 12:44 am #

    I just stumbled across your site and I’m so glad I did.. though I feel like I’ve heard of your site before many times.

    Inspiring & awesome writing. :) ))

  14. Wei-Wei responded on 02 Jul 2010 at 6:28 am #

    Hey, you should post a photo of yourself in that dress! Sounds hot ;)

    I’m probably younger than most of the people here, and I guess it’s that old saying again: count your blessings. My mom is always talking about how she would have taken advantage of her youth a lot better than she did ;)

    Wei-Wei

  15. A@ Please Don't Eat Me! responded on 02 Jul 2010 at 9:02 am #

    im turning 28 next month and it kinda scares me, i do feel halfway between adulthood and teenage years. i live with my parents after moving out and then coming back home again with my daughter.. and there are days where it DOES feel like im still 18. so emotionally i might have backslid about 10 years when i came home, but i’ll stick it out.. and get out as soon as possible.
    at the same time, getting older doesnt really worrry me. i try and take care of myself, use my wrinkle cream and eye serum.. i see lines that no one sees, but they all think im 19 anyway ;) not a bad thing!

  16. bobbie responded on 02 Jul 2010 at 9:39 am #

    I don’t think of me as 48, but sometimes my body reminds me. I play tennis better than I ever have, but my knees can really hurt afterwards. That didn’t happen at 40. I exercise a lot, but the flab under my arms [what would be my triceps muscles] is flabby and that’s that. The skin on my face is better than ever, but the skin on my face is looser [did i spell that right?] than ever. So, that’s aging. It kinda sneaks up on you…

  17. Julie responded on 02 Jul 2010 at 4:17 pm #

    I just celebrated my 40th birthday this past winter, with a huge, happy celeltration of my life and family and friends. My husband hosted this party in honor of me, so many people came – older and younger friends – and my dear, parents who were so touched to see their only child reach “middle age.” I felt beautiful and honored, as much as on my wedding day. AND, I giggled and talked and ate, and I felt so young!! Don’t get me wrong, I am young – I cannot believe the number 40 because I truly feel about 25, and am stronger in so many ways than when I was in my twenties and early 30s…emotionally, spiritually, physically, intellectually. I am so glad that my eldest daughter has a mother in her 40s as she reaches adolescence (she’s 11) because I have such a healthier perspective to offer her than I had just 5 years ago. At my birthday party, my parents shared letters they wrote when my mom was pregnant with me – so intimate and hopeful about this new life, and that made me feel young because I still have so much I want to do and see and be. Mom gave me a birthday card that sits on my dresser still – I think I want to frame it. It reads,
    “Beautiful women have no age”
    -Japanese Proverb
    I feel and believe this to to my core. Don’t worry ladies, it really, truly, does just get better!
    Love your writing, Kate. xoxoxo

  18. Rochelle responded on 03 Jul 2010 at 1:20 am #

    i love your blog. i just turned 49 and often forget my age. i feel like i should be 29, not because of my fitness (or non fitness as the case may be) but because my thoughts and outlooks on life are youthful and because when i look at myself, i don’t look like my parents generation did when they were my age. sometimes i feel sad that i am no longer young and toned and fit – but then again, i now have a confidence and attitude i could not have had when i was 29. and i am not as fearful as i was then either (although i do have my moments and then i have to remind myself – hey, you are an adult now). my un-roast: i make the best pies – including pie crust, which takes some maturity and experience -, even better than the local apple ranch and i’m proud of it! AND I’m not afraid to eat and enjoy every crumb of my pie!

  19. Shyra responded on 03 Jul 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    I’m only 24, but as they say “Black don’t crack” so I’m not really worried about aging. I think the most I may do is a chemical peel. My mom is almost 60 and she’s getting her first one this summer. So in my mind the list for my anti aging is chemical peel and maybe a lifestyle lift when I turn 75. I also plan on getting laser eye surgery and maybe lipo if I have another baby. I feel worse about my body as I get older, but ppl tell me all the time I have a gorgeous face so it balances out. I look back 10 years ago and I wish I could tell my former self how cute I was. :)

  20. sherilee responded on 04 Jul 2010 at 1:01 am #

    I can relate to a lot of the comments above, the ones from “older” women. I spend time around 20-somethings and have to remind myself, Oh yeah, I’m not 20… I’m 41. I don’t feel it most days. But I know that I love my self and my body a whole lot more at 40+ than I ever did in my 20s; a lot more confidence, a lot more inner strength and beauty coming through. I definitely get complimented more post-35, which at first I found odd, but not anymore. Love it!

    Great post. I’ve been following for awhile, but hadn’t commented. Glad you’re rockin’ the dress! Nothing feels so fabulous as a good-fitting dress.

  21. Jess responded on 05 Jul 2010 at 11:20 am #

    THANK YOU so much for posting this, it was just what I needed. Reading all of the comments, especially from older sisters, has been a big confidence boost. I’m 25. Only just this year have I actually worried about my age and its effects on my appearance. I don’t know why I became concerned so suddenly. Nice to know I’m not the only one who struggles with growing up, with aging; and who believes older women are beautiful.

  22. Emily responded on 06 Jul 2010 at 12:40 am #

    I loved reading this post and hearing how so many women are actually enjoying aging! I am only 24 and I have enjoyed getting to this point. What’s awesome is that I am getting happier and more confident with every year.
    I was surprised recently to find that this is not an uncommon experience. In happiness studies, they have found that most people report getting happier as they age. Apparently youth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and aging might be a very good thing that we should look forward to.

  23. Gena responded on 06 Jul 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    Great post, Kate!

    I have become markedly happier with each year of my life, and I hope that trend continues. I’ll take wrinkles and sagging and an expanding body if that’s the price of wisdom and self awareness.

  24. Nicole responded on 12 Jul 2010 at 1:54 pm #

    I just discovered your blog, too – and it’s exactly what I needed right now. I’ve always struggled with body image and while I had a handle on it for awhile, I got into the fitness industry 4 years ago and eventually destroyed any ounce of positive body image I had. Having realized all this, I kind of feel like I’ve been struck by a wrecking ball: I know what it feels like to love myself because I have before, but now I just feel broken, as if I might never get back there again. Your blog posts + even the stories I have read in the comments have been very inspiring though. Thank you, everyone, for sharing your stories.

  25. career coach certification responded on 05 Aug 2010 at 3:28 am #

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  26. Eat the Damn Cake » I can’t wait to be a lot older responded on 21 Jan 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    [...] wrote a really similar post about aging here. I think it’s different enough to justify this post, though. Also, it was a pretty long time [...]

  27. Eat the Damn Cake » tired face syndrome responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    [...] truth is, I can see where this is headed. I’m smart. Let’s not pretend. My neck is going to sag one day. Not yet. But one day. It’s [...]

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