My birthday is coming up. I’ll turn 35 the first week in June. And…Yay! I’m really excited! I love my birthday. And I love getting older. No, seriously. My life (and my looks) get better and better the older I get.
For several years now, I have been noticing the people in my life start to freak out about getting older. More and more of them every year. I can almost understand it. Almost. I mean most of my friends are in their 30s, like me. But it does not escape me that we live in a culture that glorifies youth and shames aging. As if we have any control over it. Like if we were good boys and girls time would stop at 23. (By the way, you could not pay me to be 23 again!)
When I was 30, I was a personal assistant. My boss and I were shopping at a fancy department store, when this woman walked up to me and spread something on the lines around my mouth. It started to burn. As I tried to wipe it off, I demanded, “What is that!?” She said it was a wrinkle reducer. Botox without the injection. Then she asked how old I was. When I said I was 30, she looked surprised. “You look good!” I was appalled! I wanted to yell at her You think I’m in my 20s and you want to give me skin irritant to reduce my wrinkles!?!? Are you out of your effing mind!?!? But I was at work. So I held my tongue.
Shortly after that I had a conversation that had me start to understand why this was a thing. Why so many people didn’t like getting older. And why I didn’t get it. I was dancing with a modern dance company. I was back stage with one of the other dancers. We were about the same age. She sighed and asked, “Remember when you were 16 and your body was perfect and the world was yours?” Of course I laughed. I said, “Um yeah, no. That’s not how my life went.”
That was the first time it had occurred to me that not everybody’s life gets better and better. Because, personally, entering my 30s was the second greatest thing that ever happened to me. (Getting control of my eating was by far the greatest.) I had finally come into my own. I was finally understanding who I was and what I wanted. And I was suddenly capable of getting what I wanted. Emotionally and physically capable. Plus I got hot! Who knew!?!? So this passing comment from a fellow dancer was a wake-up call as to how lucky I was. While I was better at 30 than at 16 (and better looking), most people were having the opposite experience. At least they felt like they were.
And I don’t know if it’s their perception or the reality. Or if their perception is creating the reality. Because I keep getting more beautiful. No, really. I wasn’t just better looking at 30 than 16 because I had been fat and got thin. I was better looking at 33 than 30. I’m better looking at (almost) 35 than 33. And I even asked a friend to make sure I wasn’t crazy. “Am I better looking now than I was when you met me 2 1/2 years ago?” Her reply was “Absolutely!” (And I trust her. She’s not the kind of friend who blows sunshine up your ass.)
So I started to think about why. What is it about my life that makes me get better with age? And I have decided that it’s several things. But, (in case you couldn’t guess) they all come down to getting control of my eating.
First, of course, my body works better. At 16, and probably about 270 lbs (the truth is, I don’t know what I weighed then. Not quite 300 by that point, but not too far off), living in my body was a chore. An exhausting chore. To be thin and beautiful now is an incredible gift. And to be more fit, more agile, and stronger at 35 than 16 makes me feel great about my body. I don’t see all of the things I can’t do (or can’t do as easily) anymore. Everything is easier. Everything feels better. Everything about my body is improved compared to 19 years ago.
Also, I eat really well. Real food. Lots of it. Protein, fruit and vegetables. And lots of fat. Real fat. Butter, olive oil, egg yolks, whole milk, bacon. My body is nourished. Regularly. Not over fed. I’m quite thin. But not under fed, either. I’m not “on a diet”, I have a diet. I eat. I just don’t eat compulsively. And I think that eating well keeps me looking young. Don’t get me wrong. I have laugh lines (that I love) and worry lines (those I could do without) and some gray hair (meh, it doesn’t bother me) but I am regularly told that I look younger than I am. And I’m very open about my age. I earned my age. I’m not about to cheat myself out of even one year!
But there’s something else that I think contributes to me looking young, and it, too, is a direct result of getting control of my eating. I have a sparkle. You can see it in my eyes. I glow. And I think it is a combination of being present, confident, and free. Carefree.
I am present because I don’t live in a sugar fog anymore. I don’t even visit the sugar fog. I’m confident because I love my body. I love my life! Because not eating compulsively allows me to maintain my personal integrity. Keeping control of the food gives me self-respect. And liking and respecting myself makes me feel beautiful.
And my heart is free. I am not a slave to food anymore. Or to self-loathing. Of course, I’m still neurotic. I am a New Yorker after all. I’ve got a lot of chatter in my head. About all of the things that could possibly go wrong in the next moment, or the forseeable future…or the unforeseeable future. But getting a handle on my eating changed the frequency of that chatter. Now it’s like a radio tuned between stations. Sometimes it comes in clearly, but sometimes it’s just scratchy noise in the background. I reclaimed my innocence when I stopped eating compulsively. Or rather, I acquired a whole new innocence. A kind of trust in the benevolence of life and the world. I got peace. So sometimes when people are surprised by my age, I think more than my face and body looking young, it’s that my heart looks young. That my aura looks young. I think they are seeing my freedom.
I was in a lot of pain growing up. I had a very unhappy life. But I think there is something of a gift in having your joy, happiness, confidence and peace work Benjamin Button style. (And beauty! Yes, I’m vain…) When I think about the fact that so many people in my life are sorry for their age, and pining for their youth, I can’t regret that my own youth made aging a blessing. I don’t expect to look young forever. I’m not a fool. But I do expect to grow old gracefully. And to be beautiful for the rest of my life. And I don’t think that’s expecting too much.
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