It’s official: I’m completely obsessed with the aging process. Not only mine, but others’ too. If you’re a woman over age thirty and we’ve crossed paths recently, I’ve already examined you for the following:
Spider Veins
Varicose Veins
Gray hairs
Age spots
Stretch marks

I’m not quite sure why I’m obsessed with all this lately. I thought I was beyond this nonsense, but I suspect it has something to do with an article I read in Vogue a few years ago. I wish I could find it now so I could quote it directly, but the gist of it was this: The author felt that women reach the pinnacle of beauty at age thirty-four. At thirty-four, she explained, women still have the glow of youth, but the confidence and depth that younger women lack. At 34, many women are very accomplished professionally and/or mothers – two experiences that instill a certain inner strength, and therefore, beauty. Nora Ephron echoes this sentiment in one of my favorite books, I Feel Bad About My Neck, when she writes, “Anything you think is wrong with your body at thirty-five, you will be nostalgic for at forty-five.”

So now I have it in my head that by the time you reach thirty-six (my age), you’re totally screwed. Sure you could lose weight or get a better haircut, but when it comes to your looks, it’s all downhill from here. And of course it’s not all about how we look, right? It’s about what’s inside. That’s what I tell my daughters and that’s what I truly believe in my heart, but doesn’t make my fading youth any easier to swallow.

What’s fascinating to me is how certain things like sun, smoking, exercise (or lack thereof), stress levels and diet impact a woman’s appearance, and why some women age so poorly and some so well. I have a 50ish friend who drinks like a fish and eats whatever she pleases but looks thirty. Another friend runs marathons but is sometimes mistaken for her toddler’s grandmother. I’ve been known to grill women with fabulous skin to find out what their secret is. It turns out there’s not one consistent answer and if one more person says “lots of water,” I’ll punch her in her pretty face.

I also find it interesting that lots of things I might consider a flaw on myself are quite endearing on others. Take, for example, the striking thirty-year-old I met at a party recently. She was absolutely stunning with jet black, glossy hair and fair skin, the type of woman you can’t take your eyes off of. As we were chatting I noticed a patch of wiry gray hairs sprouting from her part. How charming those gray hairs were. How impressed I was that she wasn’t trying to cover them up and that she was flaunting them like a badge of honor. On the flipside, how horrified I would be if I had the same on my head!

And how about the attractive woman I spotted in CVS? Her head-to-toe Lulumon ensemble plus her perfect posture and toned arms indicated to me that she’s hard core into yoga or Pilates. But what’s that I see there – a little cottage cheese peeking out from under those shorts? It was like a flaw on a perfectly cut, sparkly diamond. The cellulite didn’t take away from her beauty in my eyes. So why do I want to cry at the slightest dimple on my own thigh?

So if someday we meet and you catch me leaning in close and staring deeply into your eyes, rest assured I’m not trying to make a move on you. I’m just admiring your hard earned crow’s feet and wondering what eye cream you use.

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