Do you ever look in the mirror and wonder who the fuck that is staring back?
Last week, I woke up and went to the bathroom after I had consumed a generous 3 alcoholic beverages the night before. I noticed that a wrinkle, which has been trying stake claim on the left corner of my lower forehead (but which has so far not succeeded), was inching closer to victory. In response to this development, I began feverishly researching the efficacy of various anti-aging products and, simultaneously, became a little annoyed at myself for caring so much. I didn’t think I’d resist nature taking its course and now, at a still-tender 28, I’m freaking about a thing my face does when I squint? Come on!
Historically, I have looked to women like Joan Didion or Iris Apfel or my own grandmother as beacons of advanced beauty. I have withdrawn myself from conversations on the necessity of makeup as it relates to aging and have openly lauded my burgeoning wrinkles, the very ones which I now want to eradicate. Aging is beautiful and graceful — good and cool until, I guess, it starts happening to you.
And look, I know I’m still practically an infant on this square of the roll of toilet paper that is life. When I watch The Sweetest Thing and see Cameron Diaz talking about her boobs “sagging” at 28, I wonder if she rolls her eyes at herself while watching it now. Still, there is something to be said about entering the vanity vacuum otherwise known as your late 20s, and beginning to wonder all sorts of things you thought you’d never have to ask. Like, for example: Would I ever get Botox? Should I get Botox?
This question is not a big deal for many people, least not being those who get it. Plastic surgeons and dermatologists routinely preach the benefits of Botox as a preventative measure for younger women concerned with their complexion. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and it’s not sitting exactly right with me. Not because I feel holier than thou — like I am above Botox — or because of the stance I have taken against makeup (a function of being 24 — nothing more, nothing less) and pro “going natural.” Mostly, it’s a little sobering to be met by the chilling new truth that I’m not going to be young forever. It sounds so predictable, right? So…compliant with the cues of our youth-obsessed culture. I’d have thought when I got here, I’d be above (or maybe below) this stuff, but it turns out I’m not.
Or maybeeeeeeee, I’m just getting used to my new normal.
When you reach your late 20s, the routine you have developed over the previous decade no longer suffices. You can’t skip nights of washing your face. You wake up with a headache no matter how much, or little, you drank. You have to have water next to your bed because you dehydrate like a house plant. Your boobs don’t sag, but they definitely start to warn you (no matter the cup size) that they are not immune to the rules of gravity. When you run, your knees kind of hurt. And, to my chagrin, you can no longer earnestly write about why you don’t wear makeup because, you know, you do wear makeup. With every passing adjustment to your routine (rotating drinks with water, replacing cardio with yoga, writing about foundation with the same passion you once assigned to bare skin), it becomes clear as day that getting older isn’t exciting the way it was when you were 15 and gunning for a driver’s permit, or 20 and gunning for a real ID.
When you’re 28, reality stands firmly ahead. You’re only going to get older. You have to! If you don’t, the alternative is much worse.
Maybe this is not the experience of other late 20-somethings, but do you remember the first episode of the first season of Girls? Hannah Horvath’s gynecologist told her that she couldn’t pay her any sum of money to go back to her 20s. I did not get it at all when I was 23 and the show aired, but now that I’m paradoxically trying to accelerate time (I want Botox to look younger, but also to hit 30 — where I have heard your shit starts to really fall into place — before these last two years kill me), I think I get it.
Decades grace us with their wisdom at different stages. You hit the social basics between ages 7 and 9, the formative years of learning your cues. You are your most emotionally fertile between 15 and 17. And by the time you hit 28? You are practically emerging from an existential birth canal wherein you think you know yourself, you realize you don’t, you start learning yourself and then…I don’t know, I’m still in the birth canal. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I am probably not going to get Botox. It feels like reacting to a headline without actually having read the article. An inkling of emotional response, but not enough information.
Photos by Edith Young.