On turning 27, or My Fear of Aging
This week, I turned 27. As I jokingly said goodbye to my youth, a troubling thought lingered: why am I so concerned about aging? Does this stem from a general reluctance to inching closer to death while not exactly being where I want to be in my career, or is this purely linked to the supposed decline of my physique and being “past my peak”? Is this existential dread completely based on looks?
Unfortunately, I think it might be.
This morning, I gazed down at my hips which are, at the moment, a bit larger than I would like them to be. I took stock of my belly which has gained girth in recent months (though if I’m honest with myself, I’ve always had a little bit of a belly). I rubbed at my thighs – too wobbly, I winced – and I grabbed the meat of my arms and sighed with disappointment. If I am not perfect now, I certainly won’t be then. And if I’m not perfect then, would I be letting myself down?
I do not talk about diets. I do not retrieve to the bathroom post-meals to disgorge my food. I don’t ascribe to “thinsperation” and I haven’t seen the inside of a gym in over a year. I write about body positivity. I talk about unrealistic expectations and representations of women. I preach feminism, inclusivity of differences, diversity of shapes. On the surface, I spend very little time thinking, or caring, about my body. And yet, on my birthday, I felt depressed because I was fearful of getting (looking) older, and because, as I swallowed down an entire pack of cookies, I felt my appearance was beyond my control. But why should it matter?
As you most likely know, this blog started as a mission to answer these questions. Though I’m aware that my being self-conscious of the way I look is, intellectually speaking, asinine, I’m also mindful that no matter how constructed ideals of womanhood are, and therefore how meaningless they should be, they nonetheless impact my sense of self and how I choose to present myself in the world. That I am more drawn to makeup than I am diets is not only because it appeals to my creative side, it’s also an easy fix. I’m in no way a patient person, and that’s only worsened when I’m hungry. Creating a slick eyeliner look elevates my appearance (in my eyes at least) in a matter of seconds (on a good day). Skipping a meal? I’ll be thinking about it for the next 16 hours.
This is not to insinuate that I should be skipping a meal. Of course not. Unless you’re fasting for religious purposes, no one should be. What I’m saying is this: I hate that many women are unhappy with how they look. I hate that I hate how I look. I hate that I’m aware that I shouldn’t be unhappy with how I look. So what’s the solution?
This year, with an adage of wisdom (I hope), I want to make an actionable effort in feeling better about myself, no matter what size clothing I wear, or how much more visible my laugh-lines are, or how much darker my under eye circles appear. I want to take up dance classes. Not just for the aim of slimming down (though I can’t deny I wouldn't be pleased at this result), but because I realize how much of an impact moving around has on my psyche. I don’t want to be (repeatedly) reaching for the cookies, because I know how much power sugar has on my mood. I also don't want to deny myself a delicious slice of apple tart if I ever come across one.
Most importantly, I want to push the boundaries of my comfort zone with my body. I want to force myself to go makeup-free more often, show up to work with no mascara, and wear the clothes I’ve been wanting to wear but haven’t because I’m unhappy with how they frame my body. To some, this seems easy, but for me, it’s taken a longer dive into what I’m guessing is now adulthood to be able to somewhat confront. Self-esteem is, I believe, something that can be healthily improved and worked on. But is there really a one-step (or two-step, etc) formula? Does it mean giving up makeup entirely?
When people ask me how I can love beauty work, but still call myself a feminist, I respond simply: Because I enjoy it. Because it’s created a space for me, here, and it’s landed me a voice. Because it makes me feel good. Because it's brought me into a wonderful community of bloggers, and because as I've repeatedly written, I find great comfort in the time it brings me with myself. I just hope, as I continue onward with another year of life, that I can learn to value, more and more, to love myself for who I am, for what I do and don't look like, and for the imperfections that, at the end of the day, really don't matter at all.