I'm in my twenties. My generation defines beauty and style right now. We're Lady Gaga. We're the iPad. We're it. Many of us are completely broke, but we're the hottest thing out there.
I've been walking around Manhattan feeling really good about the way I look and who I am. I'm this fine, confident young woman who has a lot of stories to tell and is definitely going to have some amazing adventures. I might start having an adventure at any moment.
I mean, not everything is great. The hand soap I recently bought, appealingly titled "Crisp Cucumber and Melon," smells like the same soap that all of the bathrooms in movie theaters and restaurants have, which makes me annoyed at myself for not smelling it before I bought it. The ONE time I just trusted them to come through for me.
And also, it's all about to change. All that hotness and black-dressness I'm describing. It's all going to change really soon. When I get older.
As a young woman, there's always a sense that whatever it is that you have, it's going to disappear eventually. Probably sooner than you expect. You have to constantly prepare yourself to be older. For your beauty to be ambushed, brutalized, and eventually completely destroyed by the aging process. It's going to happen. Or you could get a lot of plastic surgery, and everyone can feel sorry for you, because now you're the woman who got a lot of plastic surgery. Because you just couldn't let life happen. You had to try to be in control.
That's it, really. It's a loss of control. Appearance is a big part of who we are, and it's scary when something essential about yourself changes of its own accord. You feel helpless. You yell into the night, "Why?! Why does my neck have to sag?!" You never thought a neck could sag. You never noticed other people's necks sagging, and now you see saggy necks everywhere. Nora Ephron wrote a whole book about this. It's called, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman. Great book.
As a young woman, looking fresh and hot and tight-skinned is always bittersweet, if you are at all aware. Remember, these are the times you'll look back on later in order to sigh bitterly and say, "I didn't even know how hot I was. I was just running around with my veinless legs and my taut neck, totally oblivious. Those were the days ..."
By then you'll be facing a daily barrage of age-disguising creams, botox injections, trunks of makeup, and miracle products that a much older Cindy Crawford is hawking.
Maybe it's OK to lose control sometimes. I try to control everything, and it gets exhausting.
My mother had straight hair her entire young life. When she turned forty, it got wavy. It's really pretty, and totally unexpected. I went with her to look for a dress she could wear to my wedding, and everything she put on looked amazing on her. She tried this deep blue lace gown that was off the shoulder, and it was positively magical. She was regal. She had the experience and the solidness that the gown required. I would've looked flimsy in it. There is a chance that she will outshine me at my own wedding. But if she does, I'll celebrate that, because hey, everyone says we look alike, and that can only bode well for my future.
Many of the women over forty I know talk about feeling awkward and insecure at my age. They surprised themselves by gaining confidence they never expected to have. And by being better able to sort out what matters.
It would be naive to imagine that older women can ever escape beauty awareness/self-consciousness and all of the pressures placed on them by society to buy things to make them look younger. But it would also be naive to imagine that the hyper-awareness and anxiety with which so many young women approach their appearances can't evolve, mature, and become something that is surprisingly happier. Or at least, when you've done more with your life, there will be a lot of more interesting things to focus on than your appearance. Not that I don't have plenty of interesting things to focus on. I have soap to pick! But seriously, I actually do hope that my life will continue to get more and more interesting.
I like adventures. Even more, ultimately, then I like control. I'm scared of aging, but maybe by the time I get there I'll laugh at myself and say, "Yeah, I had nice legs. But I was a total wimp!"