Youth, Body Image and Aging

Youth is the one thing worth having.” ~ Oscar Wilde

It’s not news that we live in a youth- and beauty-obsessed culture. Look around. Society values young, pretty people. If we aren’t young, we better at least look it (and we better be thin and hot). The market for Botox, fillers and other time-freezers show that. And no matter what age you are, you’d better be pretty in a culturally sanctioned way.

mini dress

I'm laughing because I'm wearing a mini well past my prime

So what’s that got to do with me? Well, as my 40th birthday approaches, I’ve started thinking about youth, body image, and aging. I am actually happy to be reaching this milestone. I am actually more confident than I was in my 20s.

It’s hard for me to admit my age on this blog. I don’t want to be discounted by the younger blogging community, silly as that sounds. So it’s cathartic to share how old I am (39) and when I’ll hit the big four-oh (December).

I don’t mind getting older, but I struggle with the idea of looking my age. I’m happy with my body, but I think of ways to prevent wrinkles. The sunscreen isn’t because I fear skin cancer; the sunglasses aren’t because they match my shirt.

That’s the world we live in. A youth-obsessed place.

wheel
Shorts, tights, heels? They’re going to lock me up!

I used to have age limits on what’s acceptable. As a ten-year-old, I was sure that by 30 I’d be wearing frumpy suits. As a 25-year-old, I was prepared to give away my mini skirts within the decade.

But now, as I’ve gotten older, I’m embracing things that I “shouldn’t” be enjoying. I dressed more conservatively 15 years ago than I do now. Now I don’t worry as much and I have more fun. Today, I care less about what others think of my fashion choices, the things I do and the way I act—and that’s liberating.

I’m also making a point of bucking trends. This past spring I read an article about a silly study that shared the ages at which women should stop wearing certain things. Here’s an excerpt of the list:

  • Bikini, 47
  • Miniskirt, 35
  • Boob Tube, 33
  • Stilettos, 51
  • Belly button piercing, 35
  • Knee high boots, 47
  • Trainers, 44
  • Leather trousers, 34
  • Leggings, 45
  • Ugg boots, 45
  • Swimsuit, 61
  • Tight vest, 44
  • See-through chiffon blouse, 40
  • Long hair, 53
  • Ponytail, 51

I’m on a new mission to wear all of those items, well past the “expiration date” given to them. With two exceptions: Uggs (which I think are repulsive, style-wise, on anyone regardless of age) and a belly button piercing (I don’t have one and I don’t want one; I will keep my nose ring indefinitely and keep getting tattoos and I think that counts).

So far, I’ve got to write a few outfit post of me in a miniskirt, boob tube (I think that’s the British word for a tight, strapless top), leather trousers (I will if I can find a vegan alternative), and a see-through chiffon blouse. I’m already not supposed to wear those things (But I will. Just wait!).

So it’s obvious I don’t follow others (or perhaps I like to question authority). As far as fighting aging in other ways, well, I do want to look and feel my best. I eat well and I exercise. I don’t dye my hair (at the moment), although I have. I personally don’t want to be gray and will dye it when that happens. I don’t want Botox or collagen injections. I want to age gracefully. I want to show people that beauty and aging can coexist. I want to be comfortable in my own skin. Confidence and joy are fantastic accessories.

How do you feel about aging? How do you “fight” or “embrace” it? Is there something you’ve learned by getting older? As Oscar Wilde said, “I’m not young enough to know everything.”

~

This a twofer: This post is part of the 2011 Love Your Body Day Blog Carnival, hosted by the National Organization of Women and it’s part of the Feminist Fashion Bloggers monthly group post (which happens to be about Youth and Aging this time). I’m attempting to feed two birds with one hand (and trying to substitute a non-violent expression for the “kill two birds…” saying; it has yet to take off). While I wait for that to happen, check out their sites and see what others have to say.

11 Comments

Filed under Fashion, Feminism

11 responses to “Youth, Body Image and Aging

  1. First let me say that this is one of my favorite posts on jeanofalltrades.com. Thank you for opening up and for sharing your candid thoughts on getting older. Age is a number. I believe that there’s your biological age, and your actual age. If you take care of yourself (and have some great family genes passed down), there’s no real reason to think that you can’t wear a mini skirt because you were born in the 70’s. I would! But first I have to get back to the gym. I’m going tonight, I promise!

    • You are so sweet. Thanks. I’m glad you like the post and my openness. I want to get back to the gym too but I have to wait until open enrollment so I can sign up for 2012 – argh!

      Part of “loving my body” is being proud of how strong it is and how it carries me and keeps me going. I have to be nice to it in return 🙂

  2. I would never have guessed you were 40. Not that I ever particularly thought about it. i always assume everyone’s the same age as me, and it always surprises me when people say their real age. I guess that’s quite self-obsessed! Anyway, I love your idea of wearing all the clothes you’re not supposed to, and you’ll look fab in them!

    • As a December baby I was always used to being the youngest in my class (Dec. being the cutoff for the school year) so it’s still odd for me to not be the youngest in my group of peers. I’m looking forward to 40 because (in a way) it sounds so old! But it’s just a number and I feel great! Thanks for your kind comments.

  3. Whaaaat! your going to be 40?? I would have never guessed. I truly believe that if you feel young, you look young. Think about, stress ages you. But if you feel good and feel free you age better. You look absolutely amazing. Thank you for sharing this post. I love it 😀

    • Thanks! I agree with you about stress. It’s not healthy and isn’t good for us (inside or out). I try to relax and enjoy life and not let things get to me (hard sometimes, but worth it).

  4. carmen

    Here is the UGLY TRUTH about Uggs!!!

    http://www.peta.org/b/thepetafiles/archive/tags/Uggs/default.aspx

    This is VERY hard to watch but we must be aware of what is going on in the world. How people can be so barbaric is beyond belief, but to buy these items and support this brutal practice is just as evil – we must be informed and hopefully there are enough people who care and have compassion!! ♥

    Please don’t promote wearing Uggs of any kind because it will keep them in fashion and people will buy boots that have made animals suffer horribly!!!

    Let’s have FASHION WITH COMPASSION!!!

    Thank you!!!

  5. Love this post, and love your mission to wear all the things you’re not “supposed” to! Those lists are so absurd. I wish more people were willing to thwart them.

  6. Great post, Jean! I totally respect your viewpoint and agree wholeheartedly. And I don’t think I’ll be sharing this with my mother, proud rocker of the ponytail and long hair among other no-nos. Here’s to your goal of bucking the “norm”. Love!

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