People bitch a lot about aging, especially as it pertains to women. Apparently our overall attractiveness level, and thereby our overall HAPPINESS level (because the entirety of a woman's joy and self-worth is dependent on her looks, OBVIOUSLY), is supposed to fade away as the wrinkles and crepeyness and back-fat wings begin to multiply.
Occasionally we hear about good stuff that goes along with getting older, but not enough. So here I'd like to offer you a few things that don't suck about getting older -- all from the horse's mouth ("horse" in this case being me, a bitter-and-proud lady approaching what Victor Hugo reportedly dubbed “the old age of youth" (40 -- thanks, V!).
1. You start giving a smaller shit about how you look. In a good way.
If you're me, you might even start leaving the house regularly in clothes you used to sanctimoniously brag about not even owning. Think yoga pants (aka pajamas), clogs, hoodies, huge old T-shirts... Sometimes you'll even wear this supposedly dowdy uniform ALL DAY -- the nerve! This is not because you're "letting yourself go" or don't take pride in your appearance anymore -- but because you've finally learned to take pride in being comfortable, dammit.
The same goes for makeup. When I was in my late teens up through my mid-twenties, I would wear a full face of makeup pretty much everywhere -- foundation, red lips, cat-eye liner, the works. I'd feel weird about even running across the street to the bodega without lipstick on. I was under the impression that if I didn't constantly look "decent" -- if not my absolute best -- I might bypass the chance of catching some hot stranger's eye, or even BUMPING INTO MY FUTURE HUSBAND!1!. Nowadays I think nothing of going outside without makeup on (er, at least during the day). Maybe I'm scaring off potential husbands with my offensively aging death-mask of a face, but ... oh well.
2. You start recognizing and working on your issues, even when your issues feel kind of impossible.
I've been working on my issues (adoption issues, depression, low self-esteem) for a long-ass time. OK, even longer than long-ass -- try 20-plus years. Sometimes it starts feeling like a waste of time, like I'm some impossible, inscrutable, unsolvable problem.
Still, the way I worked on those issues was immensely different when I was 17 versus how I do it today, at 37. Back then it was about using male attention and drinking to help me numb out. I was also keen on desperately throwing whatever anti-depressant cocktail I could get down my throat, in the hope that the right combo would magically fix me. You know, fix me the easy way, so I wouldn't have to look at my own shit or my own role in said shit.
Now I try to recognize that my shit is MY shit -- no one else's -- and being on a merry-go-round of psych meds has only confirmed that, for me, they don't actually help much anymore. So I try different approaches these days and try not to focus on the Magic Pills. (I'm not saying psych meds can't be super-helpful for some peeps -- they have helped me in the past, and I know tons of people who love and rely on them.)
3. You don't suffer fools gladly. Not as gladly as you used to, at least.
I've written here before about how I've always been a sucker for a particular type of guy -- you might know him as the much maligned "man-child." I call mine the "sad boy," because he's moody and dark and mysterious, with floppy hair and eyes that look like a scared deer's. He's an artist or a writer -- usually a frustrated, secret-scribbling one -- and he's miserable, so I relate to him. Ugh.
The problem, which I've begun to realize in my advancing age, is that these guys may be charismatic, but that doesn't make them loving or solid or communicative or good potential partners. It just makes them awesome sweet-talkers and confusion-makers. My attraction to them is based more on fantasy than anything real. Elusive does not mean deep. Conflicted or ambiguous does not mean "ZOMG PASSIONATE STORMY LOVE HE JUST HASN'T FOUND THE COURAGE TO PROFESS TO YOU YET."
I can try to convince myself that an ambivalent sad-dude gives a whit about me until the cows come home -- if he illustrates the opposite, over and over, case closed. So though I'm still working on being attracted to men who actually like me and demonstrate that in a legit way, I'm glad to have recognized my own pattern. And I've begun to develop ways to avoid falling into those same old traps when it comes to romantic stuff.
4. You know yourself well enough to honor your own interests, values, and beliefs.
In your thirties, while you're working on your career and planning for a family or looking for love or whatever other lofty life goal you're dealing with, you're probably also doing something else -- something so quiet and below-the-surface that you might not even notice it. That thing is knowing yourself better than ever before: your likes, dislikes, habits, preferences, skills, quirks, dealbreakers, et al. This happens partly because you've lived with yourself, for better or worse, long enough to observe your own patterns, and partly because you now put less stock in what others think of you, so you're less apt to just blindly skip along with the flow if you have no interest in said flow.
You'll start understanding yourself well enough to do something fantastic on a regular basis, again without thinking about it: doing what you want, when you want, because it feels good or right to you -- not because it's status quo, not because it's a can't-miss new scenester bar, and definitely not because it's some excruciating new spin class Jenna and Kelly keep mooning about.
For me, doing what felt right looked like giving up drinking, embracing my love of animals (even if it risked me being labeled a crazy cat lady, which ... I am), and starting to hang out with friends who also tend to prefer doing mellow stuff like watching movies instead of getting crazy out on the town. Oh I finally started exercising regularly for health reasons, which I'd never consistently done before. (I dig barre classes -- no spinning for me, thanks.)
So, what do you like or non-like about getting older?