ON AGING, AT 34

I started writing this post on my birthday, and it’s taken me two months to complete my thoughts on turning 34 and what it means to me. Last year I posted about beating the Birthday Blues on my 33rd by infusing self-love into your special day. The year before that, a fun little outfit post about my short skirtsmiling wide at 32. This year, I’m posting about ‘getting older’ because in the last year, my relationship with age has completely changed – suddenly I was ‘aging’. AGING. I’ve felt so many different emotions towards it, had so many different experiences with it, and sought out so many different ‘solutions’ for it this year – as if it’s a force to be reckoned with that I must control, deny and accept, all at the same time.

I hate disclaimers, and yet I am about to throw one out here because the topic of age, just like weight (remember when I wrote that Fat B*!#% post?), is a sensitive and subjective one. But this post is not written to garner sympathy or to call attention to wrinkles you can’t even see (but I can). It’s to expose how silly and emotional and PERSONAL and hideous and joyful and ironic and wonderful and ugly and brave and humbling and laughable getting older as a woman feels – is anyone else feeling this?! 

I can sum up all of these emotions in a few short stories:

1. This year was the most difficult year of my professional life. Our company faced major changes that directly impacted my work, and it was very hard. Most days, I reached new depths of stress, waking up to a face I stopped recognizing with dark circles, a sallow complexion, sad eyes, a deep frown, skin that showed acne scars and didn’t regenerate as quickly. If I look back on photos from 18 months ago and compare them to today, I see features that have matured due to stress and desperation to change my circumstances. Who was this version of myself? 

2. I recently encountered a woman who would not stop gushing about how young my fianc√© looks. He’s 42 and is blessed with phenomenal genes that make him look 32. She ‘never would have guessed that he and I weren’t the same age‘ and couldn’t believe we are eight whole years apart. And while you might interpret that as a compliment because she didn’t say I looked older than 34, it was the utter absence of any reassuring comments that I too looked young for my age that threw me off. I know – so silly and insecure, but since I was feeling sensitive about the havoc my job had wreaked on me, I found myself bursting into tears as soon as we were out of earshot. Poor Evan didn’t know how to handle an ‘aging’ woman. I was a blubbering idiot.

3. I’ve always been a late bloomer, so to contemplate ‘aging’ feels in direct opposition to what I would expect. Boobs, periods, hips, boyfriends, engagements, career, marriage, kids, etc. have all (or will all) come later in life for me than for most women. I assumed the realities of aging would, too. But no dice. To be honest, it’s significantly harder to maintain my weight this year, I have spider veins and stretch marks, all the zits over the years are leaving pock marks on my chin now, and forget bouncing back from a late night out (it now takes a full day to recover). What the heck, body?!

4. This leads me to admit that I spend more time editing my photos than I ever did when I started this blog. Yep, I bump up the brightness, scour all the filters, and cyber-zap my acne to hide imperfections. As a style and beauty blogger these days, there’s a lot of pressure to have perfect images if you want to compete. In fact, some brands won’t even work with you if you are above 30, as if our opinions and experiences stopped mattering upon entering our third decade! A model’s career is over by the time she reaches her early 20s, yet magazines put these same women in ads for designer items only a person who has been working for at least a decade after college can afford. Aspiration is pushed on us all with zero realism. Mixed messages abound.

5. And finally, these events led me to spend a gross amount of time and money purchasing creams and treatments that promise to hide any and all signs of age. Hell, I’ve pushed things like SNAIL MUCIN (snail mucin?!) on all of you so hard this year that it’s no surprise where I’m going with this…which is that I RAN to the internet and looked up Juvederm, Botox and other injectable options that offered me a fountain-of-youth-hail-mary. And I am surprised at myself for doing it. I don’t look down on these things – I simply don’t understand them. I see women on The Real Housewives (guilty pleasure) and snootily laugh at how robotic and plastic they look. I feel sorry for their belief that procedures make them look younger when in fact, they look less human and more alien. And yet, in a fit of panic, I found myself actually going there for solutions. Embarrassing but alas – guilty.

 So where will I end up? With a forehead full of botox or a face full of laugh lines? I’m simply not sure yet. I won’t stop trying new creams and researching skincare innovation. I love playing with beauty products too much to let that go. But as I reflect on the photos of myself on my birthday over the last 3 years, I see a woman who has stopped smiling as big as she should when the big day arrives. I see a woman who let the domino effect of a bad workday and some cellulite get to her. This isn’t what I want for myself – or for you if you are struggling to make sense of getting older, too. To win this ‘battle,’ though, I’ll need to look beneath my skin and beyond my lotions to find my inner happy. It certainly won’t come from work, compliments, a tight ass or snail mucin, y’all!

Remember, I’m not looking for reassurance of my youthful looks from you, Dear Reader. If anything, I’m putting this out there to other women who might be struggling with the same inner turmoil of ‘aging’. You aren’t alone – but I am begging you to believe you are beautiful, no matter what. That your partner finds you lovely, just as she or he did the day you fell in love. That you are relevant, no matter the age box you check. That you are 34 (or 44, or 54, or 64, or 74…) years young, no matter the birthday. 

Me on my 34th birthday

Me on my 34th birthday

Me on my 33rd birthday

Me on my 33rd birthday

Me on my 32nd birthday

Me on my 32nd birthday