Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Old But Fine

Today I liked this post by Autumn on The Beheld.

It's about a lot of things, as you might expect from a piece titled "Evolutionary Psychology, Aging, Beauty, and the Baby Dreams," but the part I particularly noticed is the reflection that people look different at different stages of life, and are attractive in different ways.

Writing of herself at 20, the author says,
There’s an attractiveness I had then that I’ll never have again. And there’s an attractiveness I have now that I definitely didn’t have then.
This reminded me of something I was thinking about a few years back, also about aging and attractiveness.

You know how, lots of times, when you look old photos of yourself, you're kind of astounded at how young you looked? And how many times have you thought, or heard someone else say, "I was so insecure back then and thought I was completely hideous, but looking back, I looked perfectly fine." Maybe "except for that unfortunate haircut/outfit."

And you sort of wish the knowledge and experience you've gained since then could somehow transfer back, so maybe Younger You would spend less time worrying about it. 'Cause even the haircut, that was the era, it wasn't totally your fault!

I had been sort of fretting over the inevitable signs of aging at this time--is that a gray hair?--and happened to have stumbled across a lot of those "I thought I looked awful but I wish I'd known how good I actually looked" comments here and there.

I tried to imagine myself being 10 or 15 years older than I was at the time, and I realized "when I look back at pictures from this time, I'm going to be amazed at how young I was, and how perfectly fine I looked, and I'm going to kind of shake my head at the idea that I spent time worrying about being completely hideous."

It was actually kind of cool. And it still works! Because I'm older, but 10 years from now, I'm still going to think I looked so young today, and I may even think "yeah, I looked pretty good."

And I'm going to think that, 10 years from now, whether I spend much time today worrying about looking hideous or not. Because in 10 years, I'm going to realize that, you know, I looked perfectly fine.

It's a different perspective, and kind of made me worry less about what I looked like. I mean, I brush my hair and bathe and try to dress semi-presentably, but I look like I look, and if I'm not pinched with illness or bug-eyed with coughing, I look perfectly fine. I do look older than I did 10 years ago, because I am older. That probably shouldn't surprise me.

If I got paid for looking good in some way, it would make sense to put effort into keeping that specific look, but that's not my job*, so why should I spend more than maintenance amounts of time on it?

Of course, that's kind of easy for me to say because I've never really done much with my appearance, but have enough attributes of conventionally attractive femininity that I don't usually rouse the ire of the "how dare you leave the house without first making yourself attractive to me" police, so I don't mean to sound smug or as if this is a life-changing revelation. Certainly I'm not saying anyone who thinks a lot about their appearance is doing something wrong.

But still, I think imagining yourself 10 years older is kind of an interesting way to re-think where you are. You hear this recommended for thinking about your career plans and stuff, so why not for just thinking about your attitude to yourself in general?

Because you're still you in 10 years, you just have enough additional experience and knowledge that you're not caught up in exactly what you're doing right now.

Is 10-Years-Older Me going to shudder and say "yikes, I was hideous! And oh no, is that a gray hair?" Naw. I'm going to look at pictures from this time and think how young I looked. And was. And that I looked perfectly fine.

It's usually easier to be sympathetic and think kindly towards your younger self, once you're older and realize how much you didn't know and hadn't done. Well, you're still young to somebody (oldest person in the world obviously excepted), and there's still a lot you don't know, so why not have a little of that sympathy for yourself now?

You look perfectly fine.

*Put in any jokes you want about the monstrous appearance of librarians.

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