Over the past couple of years, I’ve dramatically repaired my relationship with my body in many important ways. Growing up, I always dreamed of losing weight—I even had a vision my thin self in my head, decked out in a lime-green spaghetti-strap tank and low-rise jeans. (It was the 2000s—cut me some slack.) I would silently plead to the (weight?) gods to allow me to become the me I always wanted to be. I was never fully entrenched in diet culture, most likely due to how unsustainable diets are by design, but I certainly gave my fair share of them a shot.
Even when I wasn’t dieting, I was labeling certain foods as good or bad, thereby putting my brain into restriction mode.
It wasn’t until I landed a job at a body-positive startup that I began to heal myself after hating my body for so long. I’ve transformed how I feel about myself, at least physically, and it took immersing myself in the fat-acceptance movement to do it. But one way in which my body positivity or self-acceptance is seriously lacking is in regards to aging. I can feel at peace with my body and my weight when I look in the mirror, but any evidence on my skin or in my hair of aging sets me into a spiral.
Why is it so hard for me to accept this very natural part of my life?
It’s no secret that society, as it stands today, views youth as a major asset. We’re hypercritical of women celebrities as they age, while we become enamoured with silver-haired men like George Clooney. In the same way that an entire industry has been built on teaching women how to lose weight and get thin, the skincare industry makes money off of our obsession with youth. Have a few gray hairs? Here are a million different ways to conceal them. See a wrinkle forming between your eyebrows? Try any number of surgical or nonsurgical ways to get rid of it.
As much as I understand that I’m falling victim to a societal notion of what beauty is, I can’t shake my discomfort with getting older.
What is it that’s so bad about getting older? Sure, there’s the pressure to accomplish everything you were hoping to do by certain ages. If you’re in your late twenties or early thirties and unattached, that’s seen by many people as a big no-no. But with women having children at increasingly older ages, and advancements like egg freezing and in vitro fertilization helping to ease the incessant ticking of our biological clocks, why is youth still such a prize? I’m not even sure I want to have children, so why is aging still so hard for me to process?
Maybe it’s nothing more than losing grip of something I once had. Saying goodbye to certain things about my appearance that I had taken for granted. As someone who’s so invested in shattering the norms of what beauty is and how it looks, I hate that I’m still so infatuated with delaying the physical onset of aging.
I wish I was one of those women who felt confident going all gray or who saw each line as a sign of a life well led, but I’m just not there yet.
I wonder if I’ll need to fully ensconce myself in a pro-aging movement like I had to do to repair my relationship with my body, or if something will just click in my brain one day. I don’t enjoy freaking out when my grays, which started growing in when I was 18, become visible at my hairline. I don’t like rubbing at the line between my eyebrows that pops up every morning until it goes away. I want to spend more time enjoying my life, and less time on skin-deep anxieties.
I guess we’re all works in progress in one way or another, right?