Women aren’t supposed to age. At least, not according to modern media. From advertisements to movies to runways, the world loves to remind us that a woman’s value and relevance peaks in her mid-twenties. This is, no doubt, related to the fact that women are still (surprise!) objectified in our culture. We’re reminded via plastic surgeons and disturbing romantic age gaps in Hollywood blockbusters that beauty is our commodity. And when we lose it, we lose our worth. I am 19, and yet I already feel like my time is ticking—a small line in my face will surely become a wrinkle in a few years. I aspire to become an actor, but will I make it to my thirties before my type becomes “mother”?
I can sense a fear of aging growing in my peers, as well. It manifests itself in obsessive preventative skin-care routines and ridiculous rumors (“Did you know drinking out of a straw will give you more lip lines?”) This type of thinking is anxiety-inducing and infuriating; we all know that aging is inevitable, yet we are made to see it as a social death, a loss of beauty, a descent into irrelevance. When do we stop seeing the future as an opportunity to grow?
Recently, I’ve been trying to view the love of changing and aging as a radical act. When our bodies cease to retain the youthful qualities they are “supposed” to have, do we not gain more ownership of ourselves? This idea is put brilliantly in a recent interview with Emma Watson: “It’s really exciting that we can move on to being our real selves…aging allows [women] to move from object to subject.” When I release the pressure to fit into a beauty standard that the world imposes on me, I can instead focus on growing to meet my own standards of personal health and happiness.
I want to grow old because I want to live a full life. I want to love myself for more than my skin, and I want to love my skin when it changes. I want to enjoy fashion because it reflects my personality, not because it hides my imperfections. I’m aware that aging isn’t glorious; it’s painful and often messy, and brings its own hardships. Growth, too, is painful, as with any change. I do not intend to diminish the difficulties that inevitably come with getting older.
But the idea that we have to fear it so much that we cannot enjoy youth while it lasts is, to me, ridiculous. I do not know what the future holds, and I still worry a lot about what is to come. But now when I do, I look in the mirror and for a moment I let myself imagine what I will look like at 40, 60, 80! I see a laughing woman, dressed in wild patterns and bright colors, still working hard to learn and grow and create. I see a full person, not just a body. And I love her, wrinkles and all.