by thethreepennyguignol

It’s my birthday this month.

I’m officially going to be in my late twenties – way closer to thirty than my teens – and I’m genuinely really looking forward to it. Every year since I’ve turned twenty-five has been better than the last, as I get a little surer in myself, my body, my mind, and, if the trend continues, I’ve got every reason to look forward to growing older.

And it’s funny, because I didn’t really think of my late twenties as “old”. Because they’re not, in the grand scheme. I have no idea the path my life or my health will take in the future, but twenty-eight years or so isn’t a huge amount of time to spend on the planet, all things considered.

But, it seems, society disagrees with me. Because in the last few months, I have been absolutely hounded with targeted ads and advice on how I can slow the ageing process, keep my body from ever reflecting even thirty seconds of time I might have lived in it, how I can keep my face smooth and wrinkle-free. And I will be quite honest: I am fucking fuming about it.

Don’t drink out of straws, because they give you wrinkles. Don’t move your face, because it’ll make you look old. Do this fifteen-step skincare routine and sleep on silk or watch your face crumple up like a wet napkin. Get fillers to plump out those cheeks. Botox. Surgery. Pay an extraordinary amount of money to deny the fact you have lived more than fifteen minutes. There’s an argument to be made that people – let’s be honest, mostly women – can choose to alter their bodies how they see fit, and I’m not going to slap the needle out of anyone’s hands if that’s what they really want to do, but the proliferation of this stuff, the commodification of it, can only really happen in a society that demands an unnatural amount of youth (or the pretence of it) from the people within it. It’s hard for me to believe that the choice to engage with this kind of stuff is genuinely organic – that it doesn’t come from the overbearing, foul urge to push women towards immaturity and passivity instead of celebrating ageing and old women the way we do youthful ones. I want to be clear that I’m not trying to shit on or raise myself above people who do buy into anti-ageing products, because the hypocrisy of pretending I’ve never been drawn into trying to fulfill arbitrary, expensive beauty standards would be too much even for me, but rather on the industry that so aggressively begins to target people going through this natural and morally neutral process as something that needs to be addressed.

I’m not angry because of the implication that I am starting to look older than I did ten years ago, because I am. I have stretch marks on my boobs, I have smile lines around my eyes and wrinkles in my brow from raising my eyebrows too much in sarcastic delight. I have lumps and bumps and misshapen bits, and I am so grateful for them. It’s a fucking privilege to live as long as I have, and I know all too well that not everyone gets the chance to. If my changing body is the price of admission to another decade of life, I will slap that shit down on the counter as fast as I can get it out of my purse.

It’s so sad and infuriating to see, up-close, how early it starts, how fast brands and social media and the world at large starts to treat women’s ageing like an obstacle to be overcome, not a natural, normal part of life that comes when we actually get to live it. I am anti-anti-ageing. I am turning another year old, and I will take every single change to my physical appearance that comes with it, because it’s proof I’m still here.

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