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Musings on my upcoming birthday.
It’s my 30th birthday next week and I have a lot of feelings.
I thought I was really excited about my thirties. And on the whole, I still am. But until a few weeks ago, I’d never had a problem with getting older. I think it’s probably because I’ve never really felt the tangible threat of aging, as most twenty-somethings don’t. It’s also probably because I live in New York City, the place where we all refuse to grow up. I will caveat this essay with the fact that I’m very conscious of any readers who are over 30 and likely rolling their eyes at me right now. Don’t worry, I’m rolling my eyes at myself! But, as I’m sure you felt on the cusp of 30, I’m genuinely surprised by the several, unwelcome little thoughts that have crept in over the past few weeks. So I want to talk it out.
I saw this question in Diem the other day and it summarizes my first existential crisis. It’s also the one that I’m perhaps most conflicted by: beauty and aging. As women, we are put in a tricky spot when it comes to our appearance (which may be the understatement of the century).
More specifically, we have to outwardly pretend we don’t care about our looks changing when that is in direct contrast to everything we engage with every single day. The idealized version of developing wrinkles is annoyingly called “aging gracefully,” which for all of us women in the know, basically means spending good money on Botox. To genuinely say—and mean—‘I’m so excited to get wrinkles,’ is not easy. Is anyone excited about that? I have always been conventionally pretty—I’ve used it to my advantage on a multitude of occasions and I know how powerful it can be. I both love and hate this power, often wishing my other qualities (like my brain) would get the same attention. Fortunately, they’ve started to as I’ve progressed professionally. But that’s also why I’m so conflicted.
I love the wisdom and experience that come with age. I do worry a little about losing ‘relevancy,’ as that Diemer put it, in a society that continually places value on our youthful looks and ability to reproduce. Recently, I found Allie Rowbottom’s piece on aging incredibly comforting. This particular quote resonates on so many levels:
“My fear of aging and my enjoyment of the wisdom and accomplishments that come with age coexist in the form of a question to which there is no answer. I know I’m not the only one…Privileging youth the way we do in American culture–with a maniacal fervor–is a trend and tenet of capitalism. Just as beauty standards privilege extreme thinness because it’s nearly impossible for most bodies to attain or maintain, telling women we’re only attractive or valuable during a slim window of time (coincidentally, a window in which our senses of sexual agency and self-esteem are still in the early phases of development and are therefore extra vulnerable) and then selling us products that promise to return us to that slim window is at best lucrative, at worst psychological warfare.”
On another existential note— was I ‘scandalous’ enough in my 20s!? Do I have enough stories? I know it’s dumb. Being scandalous has nothing to do with age. But still. Society gives us free rein to be kind of wild in our twenties. On a physical level, we do have more energy and stamina to bounce back from no sleep. But really, I’ve always hated staying up past 1 a.m., so why am I suddenly panicked, convinced I need to stay out until dawn ‘one last time in my twenties’? I feel insane. Especially as I know I absolutely prefer my Saturday 8 a.m. Solidcore classes over an 8 a.m. bedtime.
The existential crisis I’m finding it hardest to write about is anticipatory grief. No close family members or friends in my life have died yet. I had one grandparent pass away before I was born. I’m not prepared for death, or grief, but I guess no one is. I think the reminder that I’m aging—with this milestone birthday—is simply a reminder that everyone I love is aging too. Or as Kate Lindsay put it in a recent essay on a similar topic: “Things like Friday nights in and picking out tile… [are] the first dominoes to fall in a sprint towards death that gets exponentially faster with every passing milestone.”
Funnily enough, I’m not freaking out about the typical things you’re supposed to freak out about when you turn 30—marriage, buying a house, having babies. Fortunately, I feel very fulfilled by my career choices, relationships, lifestyle, and friendships at this stage of my life. Yes, I’m jealous of friends who have meaningful savings or enough money to actually purchase a home (read: not spent their entire twenties working at startups). I did get on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list though, so maybe the financial sacrifice was worth it (jk). I’m also genuinely just happy for those who have gotten married or had babies—I don’t feel myself comparing my choices to theirs. I quite simply don’t want that yet. In fact, the only times I’ve felt the pressure to have those things are when I think about my loved ones not being able to experience those milestones with me.
I wonder what I’ll do in my thirties. Perhaps I’ll get over my fear of needles and have Botox for the first time! I’ll likely have to grapple with grief. Maybe I’ll get married or one day develop enough of a maternal pull to have a baby. Maybe I’ll IPO or sell this company! 😉 I’ll absolutely continue to enjoy going to bed at 10 p.m. I know that I’ll definitely have to start paying full price for my Soho House membership, which is perhaps the greatest sadness of them all. I’m kidding, but also I am actually pretty sad about that.
I’d love to hear from you. What advice do you have for me? Are you scared of aging? How did you feel turning 30?
And yes, I will accept all gifts and well wishes on the 11th. I love my birthday.
This Week’s Diem Commentary
👀 I’m missing romance and excitement in my marriage and i don’t know how to move forward. Read more and share advice with this Diemer.
👀 What are the things you wish someone had told you as a girl? Reminisce here.
👀 Have you ever had the ‘body count’ talk with your partner? Spill the tea.
👀 I have this deep-rooted fear that men will judge me for having 2 baby daddies. Thoughts? Talk it out with this Diemer.
👀 How can I “loosen” up my vagina? Share tips.
👀 I have really high credit card debt. What should I do? How did others manage? Share you get rich quick advice.
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