Aging Gracefully

A few days ago, I celebrated my 46th birthday. I am not ashamed of my age. I refuse to hide it, because many years ago I made a promise to myself that I would go about aging gracefully.

When I was in high school, I went on a trip with my then boyfriend to visit his family. I remember being struck by the beauty and poise of one of his aunts – she had the most amazingly long, thick, grey silver hair that she wore in a braid all the way down her back. She was relatively fit, from what I remember, and she had wrinkles. She didn’t wear makeup or fancy clothes, at least not when I saw her. I have no recollection of how old she was, though she was definitely not what I would call elderly. Despite all of the signs of aging, she was youthful, and had an energy and vibrancy to her.

Seeing her, I made a promise to myself to grow grey gracefully.

Aging Gracefully
collage of grey hair, dark skinned woman with grey hair, pale woman with grey hair

I honestly got excited when I started seeing grey and silver hair on my own head. I was a little sad when I realized that the promise I made to myself meant that I could no longer color my hair when I wanted a pick me up. There are no hair colors on the market any more that DON’T cover grey.

I rarely wear makeup, and when I do, I see its purpose as enhancing my natural beauty, not something I wear to be beautiful. I don’t worry about covering up wrinkles or age spots. The one place I am vain about is the dark circles under my eyes! Still, that is only when I choose to wear makeup.

I know how to do contouring, although when I learned it for the stage we called it corrective makeup. I don’t do it, though, because I do not feel the need to shapeshift. (If you don’t know what I mean, you have to watch this hilarious video!) I don’t like the feeling of that much stuff on my face. And then I have to wash it all off, and it’s just a pain in the neck.

In Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, Emily and Amelia Nagoski talk about the “bikini industrial complex”:

The Bikini Industrial Complex. That’s our name for the $100 billion cluster of businesses that profit by setting an unachievable “aspirational ideal,” convincing us that we can and should — indeed we must — conform with the ideal, and then selling us ineffective but plausible strategies for achieving that ideal. It’s like old cat pee in the carpet, powerful and pervasive and it makes you uncomfortable every day but it’s invisible and no one can remember a time when it didn’t smell.

Do you judge your own body? Here’s how to view it with love, not shame; Mar 28, 2019 / Emily Nagoski + Amelia Nagoski

The Bikini Industrial Complex wants us to think we are not good enough. It encourages us to seek the fountain of youth and claims to have the secret formula to keep you looking young and pretty forever – as long as you keep paying.

I’m not naïve enough to think that I am immune to the BIC. I still buy makeup now and then, and hair products that promise more curl. I still get caught by clickbait titles of “this one simple morning routine will melt away fat”. Though I rarely, if ever, buy the thing.

Western society doesn’t want us aging gracefully

Western society, and possibly other cultures that have become influenced by Western media, are uncomfortable with older people, and especially with older women. Becoming comfortable with aging starts with becoming comfortable with my own aging. It is beyond time that we remember how to honor the wisdom of our elders.

Aging isn’t always pretty, and it certainly isn’t always fun. (Hello, hot flashes. I’m talking to you.) Yet there is so much to be learned from those who have been around longer than we have. You begin to see the patterns and cycles more clearly. More and more, you also release the cares about what other people think. It becomes easier to “tell it like it is”, tempered with compassion and empathy.

So I’m going to continue to be proud of my “wisdom highlights”, my smile lines and worry lines. They are all signs that I have lived and loved, and I choose aging gracefully.