Until the age of 30, there wasn’t the slightest sign of my age. If ever I was asked how old I was, I would cheekily ask “How old do you think I am?” The answer always came back about 5 years younger than my actual age. And people weren’t just saying it to be nice… I genuinely looked (not to mention behaved!) much younger than I was.
But when 30 hit, it brought with it a “coup de vieux” (literally, an “attack of old”) as they would say here in France. Somehow, almost overnight, my work hard, play hard lifestyle caught up with me and I started to look my age. These days people pick me as early 30s. Which is exactly where I am.
At first I found this change a little annoying… I had quite enjoyed looking young for my age. But at the same time, I didn’t necessarily see the difference that others were seeing…
All that changed the day I started wearing glasses full-time. From one day to the next, the woman looking back at me in the mirror aged 10 years. The depth and quantity of my wrinkles suddenly leapt out at me. I finally saw the early 30s woman that everyone else was seeing…
The sudden discovery of my wrinkles came as quite a shock. I theoretically knew that everyone gets wrinkles. But, as crazy as it may seem, I’d never stopped to consider that they would eventually happen to me. Or the impact they would have. What it would feel like to have a more mature face staring back at me from the mirror.
And it doesn’t just stop at the wrinkles. We’ve all heard the horror stories about how it becomes more difficult to maintain a healthy weight as the body ages. I heard it. But somehow I didn’t think it applied to me. I thought I would be able to keep eating whatever I wanted as long as I kept exercising. I even thought a little break in the exercise habit wouldn’t hurt. You know, when in Paris, do as the Parisians do. Eat lots of cheese. Drink lots of wine. Don’t go out running.
But now that I’ve decided to turn it all around and start exercising again, I’ve made an unfortunate discovery. The kilos don’t just fall off these days. In fact, I’m having trouble budging them at all. I think I have a little bit of luck when half a kilo comes off. But then it goes back on again. The weight is simply more difficult to lose in one’s 30s than one’s 20s.
So why am I sharing all this? Because I don’t think we talk about the aging process and how it impacts us nearly enough in our society. We are constantly bombarded by images of this and that celebrity who’ve had this and that cosmetic surgery in a quest for ever-lasting youth. And… don’t they look amazing???
Well, that depends on what definition of amazing you want to go by. The ideas of beauty that the media feeds us constantly… smooth, completely wrinkle-free skin, even at the age of 55 à la Madonna? Or something, say, well, a little more natural?
I once had a Frenchman who was trying to charm me tell me he liked the wrinkles around my eyes, explaining to me that to him they showed that I smile a lot and find joy in life. At the time, I was deeply upset. How offensive that someone should comment on my wrinkles!!!
But now I have a) accepted that the wrinkles have arrived and b) accepted that they are here to stay, I see the beauty in what this man was trying to tell me. My crow’s feet bear visible witness to the fun and laughter I’ve experienced. They are the battle scars of time well spent.
So next time you look in the mirror, take another look at those wrinkles. Think of the all laughs you’ve had, and even the sadness. The richness of life’s experiences that show on your face. Think of all the things you’ve made with your hands that are more lined than they used to be. All the wonderful meals you’ve eaten that contributed to that slightly-rounder waistline you’d like to shrink.
Just like a good red wine, we improve with age on the inside. We learn, we grow, we develop. And just like a good book, we get visibly worn around the edges as the years pass. It’s just how nature intended it.
The aging process is not a myth. It’s a fact. And it happens to us all. So why are we fighting it? Let’s stop listening to the media and start listening to our bodies. Let’s call a truce on the unwinnable war and embrace our older selves. Just as we are. Wrinkles and all.
* Image courtesy of www.sxc.hu