July has been a weird month. I am sitting in bed typing this in the notes section of my phone because I am far too zen right now to even consider opening my laptop. July has been a weird month. For me and maybe for you too? I often think that I come across as vain or conceited. I post a lot of selfies on Twitter, I play with my hair and use my screen as a mirror when I do Instagram Stories, I generally come across as someone who is quite into herself. Recently I an article on the internet posed a very big opening question
Are you conceited or just incredibly insecure?
July answered this question many times. I’m just really fucking insecure. In my search for digital validation and the perfect selfie, I have carved out this mask of confidence but underneath it is just this tired, kind of lonely woman who is terrified of ageing.
One of the stand out moments of July was the launch and then viral bomb that is FaceApp. Weeks ago we all rushed to download this magic little time machine that would give us a glimpse into our future selves and I tried my best to ignore it all. I didn’t want to time travel. Future me could miss present me, I was not interested. Then one morning my dad (who is a complete joker) sent me a pic of myself that he had run through FaceApp. My immediate reaction was “fuck, I look gross”. There was no twinkle of humour, there was no rush to share the picture. I was a little horrified. I’m aware that this can come across as being a little dramatic so maybe I should explain that July has also been a bit of black hole with regards to depression. Most of this month has felt like I was trying to claw my way out of a tar pit of negative emotion.
Every day I looked in the mirror and I saw someone a little uglier than the person who was there the day before. I took a million selfies a million times and each one just made me feel worse about myself. And then fucking FaceApp happened and it was all a bit much.
As I stared at this wrinkled, saggy version of myself I tried to consider what exactly bothered me so much. I have always feared ageing. That was nothing new. If I think about death too much I start to feel panicked and claustrophobic. I’m not ashamed to admit that growing old makes me uncomfortable. We could go down the road of me reminding myself (and you) that beauty is a social construct and I could get verbose about how society conditions us to think of ageing as something we as women need to overcome or defeat. But I won’t because we know this and truthfully we can’t lay the blame at society’s feet when we are society and as such need to assume some of that blame too. No. Let’s not go there today.
The truth is, I feel like I am in the prime of my life. I’m happy with my career, I’m having the best sex of my existence, my skin is clear, I’m making healthy choices and for the first time in my life, I feel myself ageing. Not just getting older, but physically ageing. I’ve always thought of myself as being 28. I’m not particularly attached to that number, but when I think of myself, I feel more like 28 than my actual age. I think a lot of women have this, like phantom limb syndrome, we move past this age but still feel like in our hearts, that’s our true age. I don’t know if this makes. I do know that from a very young age we are taught to cherish and applaud beauty and when you start to feel the loss of that youthful beauty it can be really difficult to come to terms with.
Even our conversations around ageing are so prescribed. You are either fearless fifty or some terrified loser. You’re ageing gracefully or looking haggard. You’re looking great for your age or just looking your age. We can’t even allow ourselves to age in a safe space, everything continues to be measured around some invisible standard that keeps getting raised and keeping up feels so impossible.
Leandra Medine from manrepeller.com said:
“Women are often fed two contradictory messages simultaneously:
Be yourself; authenticity is everything and;
Be perfect; youth and beauty are everything.”
Often I feel like we are only allowed to be our most authentic selves when it fits neatly into a comfortable or accepted narrative and ageing is no exception.
Last week I wrote a post about pleated skirts and I said something about how confidence was the real key to unlocking beauty. I’m starting to think that the best cure for my ageing blues is to just become completely vain for a while. To wear my self assured mask until it isn’t a mask anymore. To go back to my 8-step daily skincare routine, to dress up and wear makeup and work it until I start to feel myself again.
There is so much pressure to do everything a certain way, whether it’s to wear bike shorts (vom) for summer or to age without complaint or intervention. I am telling you guys right now, there is nothing wrong with feeling down about your grey hairs or looking at botox prices or splurging and face creams you know won’t work. There’s nothing wrong with publically proclaiming that you’re not happy about this whole getting older business. On some level I have to believe that part of my fear of letting go of my youth is because I am so content with where I am right now and even though there is no evidence to suggest this contentment will disappear with my youth, I’m still not ready to accept this very physical representation of the loss of time.
Oh, God. There it is. That’s it isn’t it? The loss of time. The realisation that I have missed my chance to make the 30 under 30 lists, the realization that I am running out of time to get my shit together, that nagging feeling that I still don’t know what having a happy life means to me… Because let’s be honest, if I had to sit down and make a list about what I fear most, being old and ugly wouldn’t even feature, but growing old without ever realising my full potential or achieving my goals or ticking things off my bucket list? That’s the real terror, isn’t it?
July has been a weird month. It’s been an insecure month. A month of really cosying up to my fears and letting them big spoon me. I’m kind of over it. I know that I will never be the one who stares down 60 with a great big fuck you, I’ll be the one examining my wrinkles in my magnifying mirror, sighing and complaining all the way to grave. Ageing gracefully just isn’t my cup of tea. I’m going to learn to be OK with the inevitable and maybe to turn those fears into fuel so I don’t arrive at death’s door feeling unfulfilled and full of regrets.