Help me accept aging.
September 5, 2009 8:10 AM   Subscribe

"... and loved the sorrows of your changing face." Help me accept the fact that I'm aging.

I don't think of myself as a vain person, but I did, throughout my twenties, occasionally, look in the mirror and think, "Damn, how *you* doin'?" Over the last year (I'm 32), I've noticed a significant (to me) change in the way I look-- when I smile, the skin around my eyes explodes into a network of lines and wrinkles, and the bags under my eyes look darker and more foreboding. It's embarrassing that I even notice, much less think, about this stuff, but it's started to wreak havoc on my self-image. Instead of checking the mirror and feeling confident before strutting out the door, I glance in the mirror and think, "Oh no!"

I know aging is natural, and normal, etc., etc., and I *never* thought I would be someone who cared about this. All those women who inject their faces and lift their brows seemed like alien space invaders to me. Now that my own changing appearance is smacking me in the face, it's a different story.

Some possibly relevant details:
*I'm female.
*I was most recently dating someone a few years younger who told me, after we'd broken up, that he'd initially "had some reservations" about dating someone older-- and that a certain face cream I'd been using made me "look younger."
*I just moved into a new apt. with extremely harsh, unflattering bathroom lighting.
*I am regularly asked out on dates. (Two next week!) This provides some counterbalance to my diminished self-concept.

How can I accept the fact that I look different, and older, than I did, and feel confident about this? How can I relax enough to enjoy my dates next week and not worry every time I laugh (which is often) that my face is a cobweb of lost elasticity?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Ask yourself what it is you are trying to accomplish with "your looks." Will aging negate the ability to do that? Are you a fashion model, or TV star? Do you hope to land a "boy-toy" when you are cougar age?

Otherwise, no sweat. Everything else is getting better. You are smarter now, and getting more intelligent every day. You are more mature and experienced. You easily handle situations that used to befuddle you 5-10 years ago. And the best part, it only gets better.

As someone more than two decades older than you, I can tell you that your best years are still ahead. You have so much to look forward to. Wrinkles? Shmrinkles.
posted by netbros at 8:24 AM on September 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm thirty and I've been struggling with this, too. It seems as if just yesterday I got over thinking I was a fat, awkward teenager, and now it's the Love Song of J. Cathy Guisewite.

The thing is, what's gone is gone and the best we can do is to conserve what we have. You're young enough to moisturize heavily and take proactive care of your skin so that you'll look much fresher that you might have in ten years. And do not forget what was once said: at forty, everyone has the face that they deserve. An angry outlook or a life of stress is going to etch itself into your skin, and it won't wait for forty, either.

The marketplace is full of well-meant messages exhorting women to "love themselves," an empty message for women who have been taught to hate their bodies, for one reason or another, all their lives, and who can see nothing left to love. What you have to do is see what you have that is awesome -- I don't know what that is, but I'm sure that you have it -- love it, and own it forever. It is something that age cannot take from you. There were lots of kinky pinups in the '50s, but who do men remember and revere? Bettie Page -- for the look in her eyes.

And that one guy? Good riddance. It's a time-honored tactic for bad boyfriends to exploit a woman's fear of her own age, or of her own lack of beauty.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:33 AM on September 5, 2009 [14 favorites]

Of similar age to you and average looks here. I am prettier than I ever was. That's because I have several compelling reasons to do so that I didn't have in the past few years. Pretty is as pretty does, and ai find the aesthetic I have now pleasing, albeit slightly older than the one I had before.

Makeup helps, takes me less than five minutes a day to do. White teeth help, too.

I got some pretty expensive spectacles that have a distinctive style, and my jewelry and makeup is distinctive, but classy. I wear colours and looks that suit me. High heels still hurt my feet, though.

For battle armour (dressy clothes) I now check out the stores that ladies my age go to. The stuff is spendier, so you get less of it. Amend your casual style too, be flattering and memorable.

Get a bathroom light that gives you the lighting simulation you want. Alternately a makeup artist (they have them at the department stores) for the brand you like can advise you on what your right colours are for the light where you are.

I can tell you're beautiful so good luck and have fun!
posted by By The Grace of God at 8:33 AM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't know what your race/ethnicity is, but I think 32 is a little young for wrinkles. Put on your sunscreen, use olive oil to wash your face, drink lots of water and make sure you don't take the good fats out of your diet and become too lean. Use a nice eye cream under your eyes and get tons of sleep.

I don't have undereye circles (I'm a year older than you and not Caucasian), but I used to have this moisturizing stick for under my eyes ( I think by Johnson & Johnson) that was so cooling that it would be soothing to put on just idly while I was in class. I think it was discontinued, but why not spend a little on yourself and do peels and spa treatments? Unless you hate them. I don't think anybody hates spa treatments.
posted by anniecat at 8:36 AM on September 5, 2009

Remember that looking "different" doesn't mean looking "worse"! I tend to stick in a rut when it comes to my appearance (same hairdo and makeup for years and years), so I (try to) think of my new gray hairs and crow's feet as natures way of shaking things up a little for me. Other people seem to like the way you look right now (two dates next week!), so even though you look different, maybe you look better than ever?

But also think about the things that are aging your skin and make sure you're not doing anything that would cause premature aging (not to mention other issues)... do you smoke? Tan? Not wear sunglasses when you're outside?
posted by dayintoday at 8:37 AM on September 5, 2009

Also, your younger boyfriend seemed hung up on age. That was his problem, not yours. You're still very young.
posted by anniecat at 8:39 AM on September 5, 2009

*I just moved into a new apt. with extremely harsh, unflattering bathroom lighting.

Change the lighting in your bathroom, pronto.

Ignore the foolish younger man you were dating. You're 32 and probably somewhere in your sexual prime as woman. You could have rocked his world because of your age, it's his loss if he can't keep up with you.

As the rest, you don't have to be ok with aging. Nature cares not one bit about your feelings on this or anything else. Things are going to happen, things will start to sag, wrinkles will form and frankly, there's not a lot you can do about it.

The only thing you can do, as is the case in so many things, is to make the choice to be happy. You can fret about aging if you want, but you don't have much control over it and what little control you do have will ultimately fail, welcome to the club. You sound like you have a nice life, enjoy it and all its glories. Wear your wrinkles with pride, as each is another note on the scale of wisdom and learning about life.

Finally, you're only 32. Speaking as a 38 year old with the 40 on the rapidly approaching horizon, you don't know how good you have it in some ways. Stop worrying about what you can't enjoy and live your life.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:47 AM on September 5, 2009 [7 favorites]

I am a man; I think lines around a woman's eyes when she smiles are completely beautiful and charming. To me, it means that she smiles a lot, which is way more attractive than any kind of illusion of youthfulness. You mention that you laugh often: awesome.

But on the other hand, what I think as a man doesn't (or shouldn't) matter at all. Your self-esteem can and should come from other places than this or that dude's appraisal, or some imagined appraisal of dudekind.
posted by sleevener at 8:47 AM on September 5, 2009 [4 favorites]

Appreciate 32 because when you're 62 you'll look back and marvel how gorgeous you were. Don't waste precious time worrying about this. I think many women look better in their thirties. I think I grew into my face and look better today than I did at 22.

It sounds like this anxiety about your face might be temporary. The older I get (I'm 36) the more I love my face. It's an average face but it's lovely to me. The more you love and care for your inner self, the more you'll like and accept the package. Aging is inevitable. Our peers are aging at the same rate and we're all in this together.

Exercise, surround yourself with people that love you, get enough sleep, eat right, and have lots of fun. Stop scrutinizing in the mirror if you can. If you take steps to keep yourself healthy and fit, you're going to feel better mentally and feel at peace with your appearance. It's not about makeup, clothes, or potions. Although, they can definitely give you a boost and help you feel better.

This is kind of morbid but I also remind myself that I have this healthy face and body and it has so much potential. Some people have had their faces disfigured in fires and have other deformities. I'm not going to sit around and obsess about a few wrinkles or freckles when I have this normal healthy face that doesn't look too shabby.

Your dates won't be focused on the skin around your eyes. I'm stereotyping but men are going to focus on the general package, mainly the body. They aren't going to notice a minute detail like fine lines around your eyes. Sexiness and attractiveness is an attitude. Confidence is beautiful. You could have a line-free face with a crap personality, or you could embrace life with enthusiasm and not give your "bags" a second thought and be the most attractive person in the room.

Yoga helps me love myself so much it's ridiculous. The kind of yoga I practice has mirrors on the wall and all you do (besides practice postures) is concentrate on yourself in the mirror. It's not a critical time like some bathroom primping sessions can be. It's a time of appreciation for your beautiful face and body, and what they can do.

32 is so young. You still got it going on. Have fun on your dates!
posted by Fairchild at 9:06 AM on September 5, 2009 [16 favorites]

Re: bags under your eyes, those have less to do with aging and more to do with your sleep schedule and nutrient intake. Try getting more (or less!) rest and make sure you're eating right. The bags under my eyes are terrible when I've slept too long.
posted by scrutiny at 9:44 AM on September 5, 2009

Every day when I look in the mirror (at fifty-something), I am reminded of something I heard Coco Chanel once said:
(this is surely paraphrasing - if anyone knows the exact quote, I'd love it)
Young girls are not pretty - they are blank, their faces don't show any experience in life. It is only after a woman has lived, and experienced life, that she is truly beautiful.

I figure, if it's good enough for Coco, it's good enough for me. So I'm proud of every line and wrinkle on my face. The jowl-sagging that's just started is taking some getting used to, but I'm sure I'll adjust.

I think it's extremely unhealthy that there is an entire industry out there convincing us (as women) that any sign of aging is unattractive and needs to be 'fixed'. There's a group of women out there putting poison in their face, immobilizing the most expressive thing in the human face - all so they don't look 'old'. And then you look at their hands - and it's all for naught. Just embrace who you are on the inside, find as much joy in life as you can (so you get smile lines instead of frown lines), and live a little!
posted by dbmcd at 10:17 AM on September 5, 2009 [6 favorites]

Concurring with dbmcd - I'm a man who finds faces and bodies with a little uniqueness and character a lot sexier and interesting than perfectly smooth unblemished makeup retouched magazine ad looks.

Plus, I know people that get Botox from time to time and think it makes a huge difference. I can't really tell, except for the first couple of days when it makes you look like a circus freak.

My wife thinks I'm just saying that to make her feel better, but I'm much more attracted to 'real' people.
posted by ctmf at 10:47 AM on September 5, 2009

Thirty-two? You're a *baby*. Just wait until you're really old like me :)

Seriously though - lots of good advice here. As a woman past 40, I think about this a lot. Men age and they are "distinctive," women age and they are just old. Keeping this cultural double-standard in mind allows me to channel my inner punk-rocker and rebel against all the forces that are telling me that I need Botox, etc. Eye cream helps, as do the aforementioned white teeth, and a good hair colorist. I never thought I'd be one of those women who colors her grey, but you know, it makes me feel a whole heck of a lot better when I do.
posted by chez shoes at 10:51 AM on September 5, 2009

I turned 40 this year. I had the same startling experience at 32 that you describe. I glanced into a mirror at a store and didn't recognize myself: undereye circles, wrinkles, some flab. It was a very tough year (divorce, flew out of Boston on 9/11, car was stolen, cat died...), but I know now that I was in better shape and looked better than I thought I did. And I know now that I looked better at 13, 18, 23, 27 than I ever thought I did at those ages.

Aging has been a little scary, but I realize now it's more because I thought there was going to be some magical moment I knew I was an adult: confident, successful, loved, happy, set. Maybe that moment exists for some people, but it hasn't yet unveiled itself to me, and I live now as if it may never. So when I find myself critical of my aging physical appearance, I say "Hey! Cocoa! Snap out of it! When you're 60 you're going to kick yourself for not realizing what an amazing, beautiful, crazy-wonderful woman you are right now."

Also, never underestimate the power of having too much fun to have time to look in the mirror.
posted by cocoagirl at 10:51 AM on September 5, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'm the same age as you and in a similar situation, minus the guy who chose to end things on a jackass note - which sucks, and I'm sorry you had to deal with that. Adjusting to aging in this culture is challenging enough without having that kind of unpleasantness thrown at you. Here's hoping one of your dates next week helps put that comment right out of your mind.

I didn't think I was going to be the kind of person who was thrown by the start of laugh lines, but I am. This is wrinkling, that's sagging, my knees creak, I've found a few gray hairs ... but I try to focus on the fact that, right now, I have a healthy, able body and want to enjoy my time in it, because who knows when that could change? I nearly lost a friend of the same age to cancer this year, and she's got a long, slow, recovery with a lot of physical restrictions ahead of her. This has put my incipient crow's feet in perspective.

The joy that you take in your life will show on your face. Unless you want to get into the expensive, time-consuming and anxiety-reinforcing business of fighting aging tooth and nail, I think the best route to take is to try to ensure that the lines your face takes on are put there by laughter. (By The Grace of God, Brandon Blatcher, and Fairchild offered some good advice in that respect.)
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:51 AM on September 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

Good god. And I'm 52! It's a mystery why I haven't killed myself before now...

Okay, okay... I do understand that lots of women, even women who don't think they're vain, are a LOT more hung up on their appearance than I've ever been. I pretty much grew up not really caring. I mean... I don't want to frighten small children when I walk out on the street but, otherwise, it's just not that important to me.

So, I guess the only advice I can offer is that you should do some really serious thinking about how deeply stupid it is to be upset about a process that, if you're a living creature, is inevitable: aging. We all do it. We are all going to deteriorate physically. Every. Single. One. Of. Us.

Special creams and make-up and exercises and injections and surgeries... It's all so pathetic! It's especially pathetic for people who've got more to offer the world than just their looks. You have more to offer, right? You are SO MUCH MORE than just your physical appearance. And think about this: would you REALLY want to be involved romantically with someone for whom that made a difference? Jeez, I sure wouldn't.

Your body is just the meaty covering of YOU. As long as the meat isn't rotting, well... who cares? (I think I'd better stop with the meat metaphor before I get myself into trouble.)

I have to admit I've found this whole aging thing kind of interesting. If you're bothered by wrinkles, just wait until after menopause when the fat on your ass suddenly migrates around to your belly. Now, that's disappointing! ;-)
posted by rhartong at 11:12 AM on September 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Special creams and make-up and exercises and injections and surgeries... It's all so pathetic!

What are the alternatives? Buy into the hype and give up completely? I think that's pathetic. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look good as you get older. If that means different makeup or a new haircut or a little nip and tuck, it's nobody business but your own. You're never going to look 20 again and trying is a waste of time, but you can make 30, 40, 50 and onwards look great. My mother is in her 50s and she's never looked better.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:30 AM on September 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

Definitely change the lighting in your bathroom. One of the bathrooms in my school has awful lighting, and it's surprising how much worse I look in that mirror compared to the one in my bathroom.
posted by kylej at 12:06 PM on September 5, 2009

Have you looked into "facial yoga"?

Yeah, it sounds laughably, irredeemably vain, but exercising the muscles of the face really does work, and fairly quickly.
posted by darth_tedious at 1:28 PM on September 5, 2009

I get over this by feeling angry that society thinks women are somehow only valuable when they are beautiful. Men get to be old, and wise, and distinguished; women feel they have to dye their greying hair and get facelifts to retain their immaturity.

So think how much wiser you are than two years ago, or five, or ten, and make sure to organise your life so you keep getting wiser!
posted by emilyw at 1:34 PM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Look down into a mirror, -- and you are ten years older; look up into a mirror -- and you are ten years younger. Hence Benjamin Francklin's championing the woman for the honor of supine repose.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:08 PM on September 5, 2009

What are the alternatives? Buy into the hype and give up completely? I think that's pathetic. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look good as you get older. If that means different makeup or a new haircut or a little nip and tuck, it's nobody business but your own.

What hype is that? Where's the mass-media push for "giving up completely"? Please do cite me some sources. I'd love to see the fashion-mag covers on the "giving up completely" bandwagon.

It's also a little disturbing that you equate "different makeup or a new haircut" with "a little nip and tuck." You do know that they don't perform surgery at Bergdorf's makeup counter, right? There's a reason for that.

Surgery (even "a nip and tuck") is always invasive. (Google MRSA.) Facial surgery is especially risky in terms of nerve damage. Good surgeons most often do good work; once a particular procedure becomes a money-maker, crappy surgeons, who most often do crappy work, will be drawn to the cash. And it is cash, because most insurance plans don't cover eyelifts, etc.

I'm glad that you and your mother are happy with whatever highlighting and contouring and nipping and tucking she's had done, which is (I agree) no one's business but hers and apparently yours and now ours.

I'm not at all glad that you're making declarations about issues you yourself know nothing about and using your mother as a proxy.
posted by dogrose at 2:09 PM on September 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

> you should do some really serious thinking about how deeply stupid it is to be upset about a process that, if you're a living creature, is inevitable: aging.
> As long as the meat isn't rotting, well... who cares?

True, what we're really talking about here is facing our own mortality, but I don't think it's stupid to be upset about it. A robust inner dialogue about your own mortality is useful, but accepting mortality in the abstract (everybody dies) is much different from suddenly seeing physical signs of mortality in yourself. I mean, the meat is rotting, or at least not regenerating at the rate and strength and collagen content :-) it used to. Creams and serums and tucks and hair color are all positioned as a way to achieve Beauty-capital-B, but Beauty's just stand in for Alive, who's usually in denial about Death.

In some ways I think women have an advantage in that this issue is somewhat forced on us in the guise of attaining beauty, and that we have the opportunity to realize our mortality a lot sooner and more viscerally than men. And then get on with life. Which is why most of the things people have suggested here (exercise, sleep, water, a basic moisturizer, clothes you feel good in, confidence, dumping a BF focused on age) are not ways to avoid aging (you can't), but they are ways to extend your health. There's a big difference between being a happy 88-year-old in good health who can walk herself to meet a friend to lunch, and a bitter 88-year-old home-bound with osteoporosis, skin cancer, and insomnia.

Derail over.
posted by cocoagirl at 2:28 PM on September 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

It's embarrassing that I even notice, much less think, about this stuff

There's nothing to be embarrassed about. We live in a world that idolizes the young. It's taken as a given that aging is something for women to dread and hide - products marketed to older women are invariably labeled "anti-aging," and many of the world's most prominent women choose to mutilate their faces into death masks rather than reveal a wrinkle or two. Until now, for you, those things were always something that other people had to worry about - it's easy not to care about something that doesn't apply to you. But you're not superhuman, none of us are. The emotional issues about aging are complicated enough to address without criticizing yourself for experiencing them at all.

I have to say, living in San Francisco has completely changed my perception of aging. I'm 26, the age my old-maid mother was when she got married, and I feel like a wide-eyed infant here. I was really surprised when I opened the thread and you said you were only 32. Everyone here is 32, and their lives are just beginning.

If it's the skin stuff specifically you're concerned about, and taking care of it would really make you feel better, that's easy to address. Up to 80-90% of the effects of aging are caused by sun damage, so make sure you're using a good sunscreen every day (I like this one and this one) and see if you can get a prescription for a topical retinoid like Retin-A. This is a good resource for similar information. (You may have to join to access the page, but it's a great site anyway, so that shouldn't be too much of a hardship.)
posted by granted at 3:35 PM on September 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yoga helps me love myself so much it's ridiculous.
posted by Fairchild at 11:06 AM on September 5

This. Yoga is where it's at. (Though I'd say this if your question was "How can I learn to paint an car?" or "I have polio and my husband just left me after tying me to a railroad track and it appears that I'm about to be hit by a train -- what should I do?") I've been practicing for two years now, still astonished at the young women in the shala, by which I mean the young women in their forties, and fifties, and sixties, who are just flat-out gorgeous, who are so goddamn beautiful... Gawd. You feel better, you look better, yoga is so good -- it opens your body up so that all the good stuff can flow around (or whatever it is that it does), it's totally different from weight training or running or whatever else. And I'm not talking some whippy, lame-ass yoga class where they're playing stupid songs and jumping up and down in their yoga togs (though you can start there, and maybe get drawn into the real thing) -- I'm talking about a yoga practice.

Young girls are not pretty - they are blank, their faces don't show any experience in life. It is only after a woman has lived, and experienced life, that she is truly beautiful.
posted by dbmcd at 12:17 PM on September 5

And This, too. It's the truth. Young women are a yawn. "And then my mother said..." "So I said to my mother..." (I'm over here snoring.) I mean, yeah, they're hot or whatever, but they're not citizens, not yet, it takes time to grow up, to become an interesting companion. My good buddy Emily was a real beautiful young woman who wasn't lovely at all, stuck early in a dead-end marriage, she finally bailed and she traveled the world and found out who she was and is and she now she can barely walk down the street, guys of every description falling out left and right. Because she is happy. She's about your age now, she's joking and smiling and cutting up and so is everyone else around her, she's got wrinkles but no-one ever notices them. (Except her mother, an L.A. botoxer, pretty except that she's not, not inside, she's all the time telling Emmer to do this, do that, lose ten pounds, blah blah blah -- it takes Em about a week to detox after being around her mother.)

Men age and they are "distinctive," women age and they are just old.
posted by chez shoes at 12:51 PM on September 5

I'm going to call bullshit on this one. Some men are distinctive, just like some women; some are just old and aged and decrepit, staggering around, moaning, bitching about whatever. Yeah, there is some truth to it -- women do bloom young, it's set up that way, human beings are designed that way, you get all of your oils to your skin young, the bloom of youth, etc and etc, whereas men, while we're dying inside, acheful with wanting you when we're young and you're in bloom, at that same age we have to drink beer and scratch ourselves, takes us a while to find ourselves. And don't forget -- when we were acheful inside and dying with wanting you, you were with the older guys, and now we're older, and turnabout's fair play, right? Right?

ANYWAYS, do take care of yourself, as everyone upthread has mentioned, sleep, rest, eat right, yoga, etc. If you are smoking, you can forget about anything, resign yourself to haggard skin, to looking dead -- I believe it's the single worst thing a woman can do to wipe out her beauty. Yeah, it's not much good for men either but it just tears women up. And if you do decide to botox or dye or nip and/or tuck, well, do it. But don't think it's going to make you happy; you've got to find happiness somehow (on your yoga mat hint hint) and then go from there.

I'm an old guy -- 54 -- and as I've gotten older (wiser, I'd hope) I'm absolutely much more interested in 'warm' over 'hot' -- I want a woman with heart, and with a heart, I look right through most of the beauties, yawning, looking for someone who's got the goods. I think often of Laura, who is maybe not my age but she's close, and she's so goddamn beautiful, I still long for her, she's good and she's funny and she's done all the things to make herself a citizen, just to hold her hand and I was happy because I knew/know how great she is and how lucky I was to be with her, or going to a movie, we had so much fun together, we laughed and we talked and etc and etc, a warm woman... I think of her. It wasn't to be, my stars seem crossed for whatever reason. But I think of her. I don't think of bland beauties, not yet written upon by their lives -- let some fool hang with them, and suffer accordingly.

You sound great. You say you laugh a lot -- cool. Means you're happy, means you're fun. Keep it up. This thing is beautiful. Keep on noticing that and keep on laughing and being happy. Start a yoga practice -- have I mentioned that anywheres?
posted by dancestoblue at 3:54 PM on September 5, 2009 [14 favorites]

So many replies here are so very wrong. Aging is not inevitable. You're lucky - lucky beyond all understanding - if you get to age. There's an alternative to getting older, believe me. It's an alternative you and I will be picking up far too soon anyway, so live it up.
posted by eccnineten at 7:44 PM on September 5, 2009 [5 favorites]

There's an old but related question. The post by b33j was a real eye-opener for me.
posted by yaymukund at 9:31 PM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

It fun to enjoy your looks, but you should really think about what you will want to focus on when you are 40, 50, 60, etc.

Maybe it would help to look at plastic surgery websites and see how awful people look when they don't "age gracefully."
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:53 AM on September 6, 2009

So you have gone from being a formless child to a full adult; you have gained some wisdom, acquired some knowledge, achieved some success, learned some insights about human behavior. You are growing. Growth leads to changes in form. Learn to accept that while the years bring wrinkles they also provide opportunities for improvement, for achievement, for fulfillment.

I'm 52. I've lost the bloom of youth and I'm a little sad that never again will old ladies stop me on the street to tell me what beautiful skin I have, on the other hand I have a lover who tells me how smooth and creamy and soft my thighs are. I no longer get wolf whistles on the street, on the other hand I no longer feel like a piece of meat on display to the carnivores. I no longer have the ability to walk all day in high heels, on the other hand I don't feel like I have to impress anyone by wearing high heels because I can still charm them with my smile, make them laugh with my humor and wow them with my confidence and knowledge.

In other words, I still have parts that are sexy and desirable but there is plenty more to me than being sexy and desirable and I don't feel like I have to impress every stranger I meet with my appearance. I plan to live another 40 years (both my grandmothers did) and I plan on squeezing all the zest, all the pleasure, all the excitement I can from those years remaining to me. Wrinkles won't stop that from happening.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:36 AM on September 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

Here's my first thought when I read this. When I was 13 I would look at 17 year old guys and think "ew, gross, they're so old." When I was 19 I would look at 17 year old guy and think "they look like little boys!" Yet 25 year olds still looked old to me, and I worried what I was gonna do when I was in my 20's - how I would ever be attracted to someone that old, or someone who is *gasp* 30?! Now that I am 24, I find men as old as 32 attractive. So of course men are a little different because 60 year old men still find 22 year olds attractive, but overall, as you age you are surrounded with people your age who are also changing, and they are more likely to think of you as attractive, even with some lines, because people are often attracted to people with similar qualities.

So surround yourself with people your age - this way you'll be used to seeing lines around the eyes everywhere - it won't just be a shock to you when you look in the mirror. And take care of yourself - work out, drink water, get massages, and do things that make you feel good. I'm sure if you were hot stuff in your 20's the you're still hot stuff, and even in your 40's and 50's you will keep looking good - older, but beautiful for your age.

And when you look in the mirror don't look at the parts you don't like. Focus on something you do like and you'll forget about worrying about the wrinkles.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 10:18 AM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

When I was 30, I looked back with anxiety on how I looked when I was 20.

When I turned 40, I was upset with photographs that showed me looking as if I was 40, and no longer 30. Because suddenly my 30 year old self looked pretty fine.

When I turned 50, I realized that when I was 40 I was beautiful.

I anticipate that when I turn 60, I will look at photographs of myself at my 50th birthday party and think, as I do not now, that I looked lovely.

Moral: beauty is a moving target, and anguish over aging is, in restrospect, a waste of time and emotional energy. Take care of your body-- yoga, definitely-- express yourself in how you dress, feel confident and act like you are, and trust that somewhere, somebody thinks that you are gorgeous. And then try to be that person.
posted by jokeefe at 2:49 PM on September 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

From the original poster
Thank you, everyone who took time to respond. These are all extremely thoughtful, and I'm taking them all to heart. I already feel better, and I think the key for me is simply creating a new "set point" of what I look like in my mind: "This is how I look now, and it's *fine.*" The alternative to aging is much, MUCH worse, and DAMN, the world is so freaking amazing that it's ridiculous to not just run outside and enjoy it. (With sunscreen, of course. :)) I just saw the off-Broadway performance of Our Town last night, and for anyone else who's troubled by similar concerns-- see a performance of Our Town. Seriously.

Sleevener: thanks-- this is great.
Fairchild: yes.
cocoagirl: too much fun to look in the mirror-- yes.
dancestoblue: thanks.
Secret Life of Gravy: may you live to 92, like your grandmothers.

I changed the bathroom lighting, and found a yoga studio. Oh, and that younger guy I was dating? He also spent a lot of time telling me how sexy and sultry I was, and how I drove him crazy with desire. So it wasn't all bad. :)
posted by mathowie at 9:00 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ditto much of the above.

I'm a 45yo man, who's currently romancing the oldest, and oldest-looking, lady of my entire lovelife (as I often have... duh). She's hot hot hot. I can see all the wrinkles & imperfections, and sometimes muse to myself, "Man, my 20yo self wouldn't get this at all!", but damn she's hot hot hot.

Many men out there want a woman who looks "like a woman" to them - which is shorthand for "near my age". Growl, 40-something women...

posted by IAmBroom at 7:15 PM on September 8, 2009

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