Around age twenty eight, I began experiencing something new: the You-Don’t-Look-A-Day-Overs. You know what I’m talking about. The strangers, mostly women, who when my age was revealed to them, would gasp in awe and tell me I didn’t look a day over twenty two. Or twenty three. Or nineteen.
My relationship to age has always felt different than those around me. When I was younger, I was a pretty typical preteen/teenager – I loved that I looked older than I was. This meant that I was automatically talked to like an adult instead of a child. The reactions back then were more You’re-Onlys than You-Don’t-Look-A-Day-Overs. Sure, there were the uncomfortable looks from men and my own personal struggle between wanting to shop in both the Juniors and the Womens departments of the store. But for the most part, age to me felt like maturity – like a sign I was worth taking seriously.
Around my mid twenties, the way I looked stopped changing year after year. This was around the time I transitioned away from acting – which was funny, since I had always gone to auditions and been told I looked either too young or too old for the characters I was being called for. Finally, the way I looked and the age I was had leveled out. And I LOVED it. What’s more, I found it fun – confidence-boosting, dare I say? – to speculate how I’d change decade to decade. I didn’t wish I was older, but I also didn’t wish I was younger. I was happy where I was, and excited to see where I would go from there…
So you can imagine my surprise when I got my first You-Don’t-Look-A-Day-Over. I remember it clearly: I’d just taught a cycle class. Sweat flowing. Zero makeup. No frills. Just me. A girl came up and introduced herself to me, asking how long I’d been teaching. When I told her it was close to a decade, her eyes widened and she gave me a once-over. She told me I didn’t look a day over twenty three.
I didn’t know what to say. So I just smiled.
Using a change in appearances – or lack thereof, in this case – as a compliment has always sat weirdly with me. The media’s obsession with youth is part of the problem, sure – but the bigger problem is how we talk about age, and the subtext of what we’re really talking about when we talk about age. Why do we associate getting older with the worst case scenarios, when in reality we’ve got the wisdom, life experience, and self-knowledge to make every single day a best case scenario? What are these comments about how “young” we look – or are supposed to look – doing to our internal monologue about how we are “supposed” to be as the years go on?
When someone marvels at how old I am (and I’m only 30!), it makes me wonder if I should rethink my positive relationship with my metaphorical tree rings. I love my laugh lines. Should I not??
And then I stop. It’s just like any sort of negative self-talk – where confidence is synonymous with narcissism or vanity, and it’s a lot easier to connect over what’s wrong than what’s right. I refuse to do this. Why can’t I love where and how I’m at right now?
It’s for all of these reasons (and more) I was so excited to read Cameron Diaz’s The Longevity Book. Cameron has created something really special: a no-holds-barred conversation about aging and our relationship to it, a conversation that is way too long in the making.
In this book – and the excerpt below – Cameron dives into what it means to age not just gracefully, but with downright pride. Because we can only ever truly love ourselves if we’re down to love ALL versions of ourselves, every single year a little more than the next.
I’m honored to be sharing Cameron’s words here today – words I wish we heard more. Already planning on buying this for every woman in my family for Mothers’ Day (act surprised, mom).
WHEN SOMEONE asks you how old you are, what do you say? I know that there are plenty of women in my line of work—and many other fields in which young people rule the roost—who like to trim their age back a little bit because they believe it makes the people around them feel better when they say they are younger. We live in a culture that celebrates youth, and none of us are immune to the pressures of wanting to seem forever young.
But one of the reasons I wrote this book is because I believe that we would all be a lot happier, feel a lot better, heave a big sigh of relief, if we could just answer “how old are you?” with the truth. Without fear. Without hesitation. Without shame.
Because I believe that age is a marker of achievement.
Shouldn’t we be congratulated for all that we’ve accomplished over the decades instead of being asked to pretend that they didn’t happen? I think those years are a part of what make us the people we are today. I think we should get to keep them, all of them, and proudly. Every time I celebrate a birthday with people that I care about, I think about how blessed I am, how lucky I am, what a gift each year is. That’s why I celebrate. Because I have lived long enough to have learned these lessons, to have earned these relationships, to have discovered all these new layers of myself that I didn’t know existed years ago—or that hadn’t yet developed.Longevity is a gift we should all be celebrating. - @CameronDiaz, @thebodybook Click To Tweet
Longevity is a gift we should all be celebrating. The more years you have enjoyed, the more time you have lived, the more chances you have been given. Chances to take on challenges, to explore possibility, to create your life’s story. Time to forge meaningful connections with others—time to love deeply, to be hurt deeply, to become a role model for all the daughters and nieces and granddaughters and sisters and young friends in your orbit.
So I would like to propose a new way to think about getting older. I would like to boldly suggest that we take those years back. No hiding. No apologizing. No deleting. No erasing.
Instead of dreading whatever the magic number is for you, decide now to honor it and to own it. Let’s push the midlife crisis off a bridge and throw ourselves a party instead. The midlife celebration: a personal holiday that celebrates the journey we’ve made to get here, and the unexpected places we have yet to discover.
Because the best way to age healthfully is to live fully. To take care of your body and your spirit in this moment, where you are now. You can spend your energy on love and not on worry. You can love the world, you can love the people around you, and you can love the person you have spent all these years becoming.
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