Monday, May 6, 2013

What I Like About Getting Older

When I think about it, 33 seems like a lot of years. At 33 years old, my mom was readying a 13 year old me to fly off to Berlin, where I'd spend a whole year mostly doing my own thing under the permissive eye of my aunt and uncle. At this same age, various relatives yet another generation removed were running their own businesses, inventing things, and finishing up their childbearing years with not a pair, but a brood.

I suppose, unless lifespans change dramatically in the next few decades, that I am one-third of my way toward my eventual death, and when I think about it that way 33 years seems like an astonishing number of years. I am not one of those people who will feel forever 16 because even when I was 16 I think I felt about 45. (A childhood in which the weight of the world rests squarely on your shoulders will do that to you.) But still.

Getting older, the media will tell you, is a slow descent into irrelevancy and invisibility. First, I strongly disagree. Yes, ageism exists, and I'm sure someday I will be on the receiving end of it and it will make me mad, but the media only shows one side of the getting older story. The worst side, of course, because it wants to sell you something. Face cream. Hair dye. A "lifetyle". And second, I've worked hard to be mostly invisible anyway!

So if you're totally super scared of getting older - and I don't blame you - here are some of the upsides I'm enjoying at 33:
  • Cut back to, say, 10 or so years ago, and I was catcalled and harassed fairly frequently. Going out might mean having some half-drunk idiot get mad at me because I didn't want to dance and didn't want a drink and maybe didn't even want to talk, but telling someone straight out "I don't want to talk to you" is hard. I'm not bad looking a decade later, but I am 33 looking and married on top of that, which means I essentially have a protective bubble shielding me from the kinds of creepy guys I used to have to deal with all the time.
  • I would never want to be in high school again. And I've never understood people who look back on their teen years with unadulterated fondness. Being a teenager is hard, even when you're popular. One huge thing I like about getting older is that I just don't care as much about what people think. Of course I want people to like me and think I'm pretty and fun, but I'm not going to chase approval down - or sob into my pillow when it's not there. I care about what the mister thinks of me. And my kids. Family and friends and next on the list. Everyone else can suck it.
  • I'm more comfortable in my own skin. I may not be utterly thrilled with what I see in the mirror, but the mister seems to like it well enough and everything works just fine. Health is pretty important and I have it. In fact, I'm probably healthier now than I have ever been in my entire life, save for certain points in childhood.
  • At this point, I am far less afraid of failure than I have ever been. Mainly because I know that most people who have achieved great things failed many times before succeeding. And then many have failed again after. If you're not failing, the saying goes, you're not challenging yourself. There is no perfect age at which to finally succeed so I may as well keep trying. A certain John Lowe took up ballet at 79 and at 91, was quite the dancer.
  • I am no longer many marketers' target demographic. Madison Avenue is looking to grab the eyeballs of teenagers and twenty-somethings. As a mom, I am also in a coveted demographic but I'm media literate enough to ignore the messages when I want to. (Not having cable service goes a long way toward avoiding advertising in the home, if you find yourself easily swayed.)
None of this, of course, is a balm for the absolute terror I feel as I watch more lines show up on my face. How the skin around my eyes now crinkles up when I'm feeling joyous. What was once a tiny crop of gray hairs hiding among my naturally brown locks has recently become quite obvious, leaving me at a crossroads at which I need to choose: to dye or not to dye, that is the question. My body is somewhat... looser than it was once upon a time. Not heavier. Leaner, in fact. But looser. And do NOT even get me started on my boobs.

That said, there is a lot to like about getting older. My physical self aside, I'm a better person than I was five years ago, ten years ago, or even before that. I have my moments of feeling off kilter, like we all do, but I am generally good at this game we call life.

getting older - christa terry

What do you like about getting older? 
Or do you hate every minute and wish you could transport yourself right back to high school?


  1. For some reason when you said "I am one-third of my way toward my eventual death" it gave me this really creepy feeling.
    I love your reasons for enjoying getting older though. I also would never ever want to go back to high school. I like my life better now than I ever have.

    1. "I like my life better now than I ever have."

      That's awesome! Me, too!

  2. Own it! I especially liked turning 30 because it sounded like an important number.

    1. Oddly, I didn't feel much when I turned. This year was different, though. Bo, who's going to be my last baby, was born two days before my birthday so it was kind of moving.

  3. Turning 50 sounded old until I realize that it's me next week. I'm healthier and more physically active now than ever before. I've run 5 marathons since I turned 45, will run a 1/2 at the end of this month, and riding a bike 50-100 miles in a days is fun. I have time to visit family now. The kids are well on their way to being productive members of society. Only wish one thing was different, but I'm getting by nicely and I think he would be proud of me.

    Oh and by the way won't be dyeing my hair anytime soon!

    1. :)

      You're actually my inspiration for NOT dyeing my hair! I remember our conversation about growing it out and cutting it and how it has to be when you stop dyeing after dyeing. Right now, my plan is to let it go. I'm kind of fascinated by the idea of a long head of gray/white/silver hair - what does that even look like? I figure I can always dye - but un-dyeing is hard.

  4. I just turned 42, and as a wonderful friend of mine pointed out, I am now the answer (at least according to Douglas Adams) and that is totally awesome.

    I enjoyed my teen years for the most part, but I would never ever want to go back. I am more confident and sure of myself than ever, and it is a nice place to be.

  5. I totally agree with you about the high school thing. I tell my kids that high school is not the "best time of your life", that really, for me it kinda sucked.

    This post was rather timely, I will turn 40 on May 27th, and I've been pretty down/depressed about it. I know it's just a number, and I'm healthy, active, etc. I can't really put my finger on why it is bumming me out so dang bad. Maybe it is somehow related to the idea of being middle-age-ish. Maybe it's that I feel like I'm entering a new stage of my life and that is scary. Maybe it is just that it makes me FEEL old.

    I love my life. I love what I do. I'm excited about the future and I'm sad over a number that I can't manage to get past.

  6. I think the only thing I am enjoying about being older, aside from really enjoying watching my kids explore the world as they age, is that for the most part I feel in control of how I view myself for the first time. I don't get depressed about not making that friend or getting invited to that party. I'm largely able to rebound from the horrible things my family continues to say and do. Their words have far far less power over me. I'm feeling more in control of how I look and what I can do to change that for the better. Which is a far cry from 12 year old me who had the "fuck it" moment and shoved a powdered donut in her face because after years of being told how worthless and ugly and fat I was, i decided if I was going to be those things I was at least going to enjoy it.

  7. You're so pretty. And young.


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