Saturday, April 7, 2012

40 is NOT the new 20 (thank gods) or; stop scratching at the coffin lid

I turned 40 last month. I am now older, not much wiser but about one thing I am quite certain: 40 is not the new 20 and thank god for that! I think I've learned a lot via popular culture about navigating middle age; mainly what NOT to do. I've learned that 40 is not the new 20--and why the fuck would you want it to be? I don't know about other people but I am a HELL of a lot smarter and more together now than at 20. I hate that this analogy or comparison is made; between 20 and 40; as though it would be desirable for 40 to equal 20. Why? For whom? I did 20; it was great. It was 20 years ago, I'm now prepared to leave 20 to the actual 20 year olds.

True, I am aware of a changing of the tides; I have made certain concessions to age, mostly with respect to behaviour, attitude, and most importantly--fashion and personal style. (I'm only sort of joking there.)
If I'm not mistaken, the fear of aging or of *yeegads* appearing old---has to do with vulnerability; or the appearance of vulnerability. No one wants to be the middle aged woman chasing the dragon of youth. No one wants to accidentally appear on the fashion landscape wearing something that underscores her age rather than her youth.

I remember shopping with a friend whose style I admired (and still admire) greatly--we passed baby doll dresses at Beacon's Closet and I pointed them out to her, "Those are you". She responded that she'd ditched the baby dolls after age 35. I'm still impressed by the maturity of that decision! Of course I can clearly see, for myself, the fashion tics I've left behind: pigtails, knee socks, mary janes, most tshirts that aren't either completely plain or have a band logo, miniskirts with bare legs, peter pan collars, and yeah, baby doll dresses. They fell away naturally, I didn't have to think about it. I'm blessed with a sister who is merciless in her fashion critiques; and a partner who is judicious in his sartorial appraisals. From him I learned that you pretty much get one shot at a trend; that means if you wore neon and off the shoulder sweatshirts in the 80s; you don't get another chance now. If you wore acid wash the first time around, you're done. You can keep the same editorial stance in your closet, but some concessions should be made.

In my case I've given this whole transition some thought, and even made a New Year's resolution about it this past January. I adopted a fashion philosophy and a guiding principle which I call "the Witch". The witch fits my personality style perfectly; basically it's lots of eye makeup and black/grey clothes. It's almost like goth light. I don't have the time or energy to invest in anything high maintenance but this seems to fit me. If you can imagine a black and white picture of Stevie Nicks, that might be it. The jewellery is all understated but creepy, should look as though it would be serviceable in casting a spell or two. It's been terribly helpful in culling my existing wardrobe; all the bright colours, flower prints, and pastels are pretty much out.

The best investment in your appearance is staying healthy and grooming. It's boring but true. I don't regret smoking for 15 years because of my skin; I regret it because it sucked up a lot of time and money, and was stupid. I have worn 'wrinkle cream' since I was 18 years old; I'm here to tell you none of it works. I still have the wrinkles of 40 well lived years on my face. It's fine! It's all's funny now that I'm in my prime advertisers demographic years of age fear, I can see the con for what it is. Now I think the most important things to looking good are genes, diet, avoiding cigs and sun, and judicious use of cosmetics. Every woman who puts virtually any effort into her appearance looks good. I call it looking 'sexually viable'--basically it just means that your appearance suggests you considered it in some way before you left the house. Whether it is combing your hair and putting on lipstick, or hair extensions, 100 abdominal crunches a day or a leopard print skirt is immaterial, you showed up and made an effort. For myself I do put in effort every day to look good. I enjoy it. I love makeup and all that crap. I get a kick out of the performance of femininity. And I appreciate that effort in other people.

As for age, the older I get the less I think of plastic surgery. It doesn't make anyone look younger!! I mean, am I missing something? I don't shop at Whole Foods much, it's too expensive and frankly I hate the people who shop there, but it is a great place to go and just get scared about how facial plastic surgery can go wrong. And no one looks a day younger than their age. They just look SCARED. Scared of aging, scared of looking like they have some life experience, scared of not being able to compete in the sexual arena. I'm not talking about breast enhancement, nose jobs, vaginal rejuvenation or what have you, that stuff may be crazy for other reasons, I'm talking about procedures that put you on a surgeon's table in an effort to appear more youthful. I'm talking about clawing at the coffin lid. Because that is all I see anymore.
I guess as the years and decades tick by it's possible that my 'sexual viability' will ebb away too, I'll deal with that when it happens.

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