I turned 37 this week and whilst I have no fear factor when it comes to adding another year to the belt, I am growing more concerned every day with this mid-30s awkward aging process.

There are lines on my forehead that don’t go away anymore. Aches in my joints that didn’t niggle a year ago. Those faint smile wrinkles seem now permanently engrained even when I’m pulling a resting bitch face. And the glow of my once youthful skin is looking a little more haggard every day. And seriously, has that singular mammoth hair been on my chin the whole time?

It’s hard to address this topic without coming across as vain, ungrateful, or self-obsessed. But really I’m just a woman in her 30s who is experiencing a lot of changes to her body and appearance, after only just getting to a point where I thought, “Hey girl, you look alright.” I know aging is inevitable, that it’s just the way life is and I’m grateful to even have got to 37 to be honest. But today, I just need a rant about that fucking hair and the rest of this mid-30s awkward aging process. Because I’m experiencing a whole phase of denial, reality and acceptance, and it would help to know if maybe I’m not the only one?

I’m totally bothered by it and it sucks

I’ve always had a slightly carefree attitude to make up and clothing. Some would say a strange sense of style and a, “fuck it” type attitude to what I look like. Whatever my hair does, it does. Whatever my face looks like, it looks like. I’ll throw on a random combination of clothes and hope for the best. Now all of this was very well and good until the lines appeared and aren’t disappearing. When I could get away with thinking I still looked like I was in my mid-20s. So as someone who never bothered to care too much about my appearance, I’m finding myself bothered by it all. And it totally sucks.

The curve ball

Maybe part of the reason for not caring too much previously is because I’ve always had an uncomfortable struggle with my body and the way it looks. There’s been a lot that I didn’t like about it; My chest developed early, so a lot of negative attention at an early age which lead me to covering up for most of my twenties. I’ve always thought my face is more masculine than feminine, so I suppose I’ve never really appreciated that youthful masculinity before. In general, I probably didn’t care about the make-up, the clothing and all the rest because I didn’t really like what was underneath all of that anyway.

But in my 30s I came to terms with those insecurities. Settled into myself. Began to like the way I looked. I was a late bloomer and finally started thinking, “You know what, you look okay.” I felt confident and started to wear contacts instead of the traditional chunky glasses I’m known for that hid most of my face. Spent a little more time considering my outfit, and felt good when I was all put together instead of feeling like mutton dressed as lamb. Played around with makeup, and tried new things. I felt good experimenting with my style in a way that wasn’t about covering up, but unveiling a more body confident me. And I just thought I would have more time to really enjoy all of that before my body threw me a curve ball.

Send Help! Take me back to my youthful 20s

But no one’s checking my ID anymore. Make no mistake, no one is going to accidentally take me for a 21 year old version of me now. Shit has got real. Age has become SERIOUS. Because that mirror is starting to reveal the years tolling up in very obvious detail. And it just happened one day a couple of years ago, and that’s that. Now, I’m obsessed with thinking up any which way I can fucking fathom to stop this train in its tracks!

How do I use foundation? Will I look five years younger if I get my eyebrows waxed? Is Botox really that bad? Should I eat more Kale? Will three litres of water a day add that spring to my skin? If I run twice a week will that help? Can I get away with that outfit? I’ve become that person obsessed with face creams, ways to look younger, ways to feel younger, methods to hide the increasing lines on my face. I’m suddenly so very aware of my age. And not because of the number of years old I am, but because of the telling signs of my declining youth staring back at me in the mirror each morning.  

The awkward aging delights of our mid-30s

And it all happened just as I was feeling more confident than ever in my own skin. Knew myself a little better. Had so much more wisdom and perspective to handle life and I felt damn good about it all. But right at that very moment your body begins to show the signs of aging. It has taken best part of 30+ years to get comfortable, only to be right back into uncomfortable territory again.

And the thing is, you go into your 30s with all these worries about getting older, but actually your 20s to your 30s isn’t a bad transition. When you do turn 3.0 you go into it with your youthful looks still firmly intact. It’s the mid-30s that really get you. When you look in the mirror one day and your face seems to have changed overnight. Now probably no-one else notices, I don’t look a damn sight different to them. But to me, I can see it. My youth slowly seeping away. Hair sprouting in places I never had to think about preening before. Less waking up fresh as a daisy and more drifting from sleep with another line that isn’t the imprint of a pillow on your face.

And sure, you accept your age is creeping up and you know one day you’ll be 70 and look 70. But I suppose I just hadn’t really considered what the in-between process would feel like.

Growing Older Ungracefully

Because it’s an alarmingly fast descent that started a couple of years ago and no matter how much I try, I can’t stop it. I’m helpless to the process. I can try to cover it up. Investigate a variety of different methods to slow it down. But I can’t halt my body doing what it naturally wants to do. Because it wants to grow older, gracefully. Whereas I’m tackling the whole situation rather ungracefully.

I’m sure there is a way to handle all of this with grace – probably by not writing an article about it – but I sure as hell don’t seem to have that bit figured out. I’m fighting full on panic mode about aging mid-30s whilst also feeling this calm that comes with being a bit older and more accepting of who I am and what I look like. It’s a bit of a mind fuck; to be bothered and not bothered too. Doing this little dance in your head back and forth between the two sides.

Where’s the disclaimer, please?

But if there was a way to be a little less helpless with it all, and combat the shock factor of my mid-30s aging acceptance, I’d have liked a full disclaimer that hair was going to appear on my neck, my chin, my god damn nipples! And not just small hairs may I add. Big ones. Like, “Has this thing been there for years or just sprouted that length over-night?” scenarios.

I’d have wanted a little pep talk on how my skin would just stop being all ‘glowy’ one day and now feels a little more like old newspaper – You don’t even realise how amazing youthful skin is until you watch it start to fade and everything seems, well, less youthful. Nowadays my hair needs three doses of conditioning treatment to not be as dry as the Sahara and don’t even get me started on the grey hairs!

But the thing is, a disclaimer wouldn’t help really. I knew it was going to happen of course. I think it’s just the shock factor of realizing that the process has absolutely begun and realizing that you can’t ever really prepare for what it feels like.

No-one seems to talk about these mid-30s changes

Getting older is always referred to in generalized terms, not the specifics, not the defining moments of realization, struggle and acceptance of this aging process in your mid-30s. Well I lie actually, because the very reason for this article is because I brought this up with some friends recently who felt exactly the same. But you feel vain for starting a conversation about it, possibly even ungrateful. Because getting older and having another year of life is a fortunate thing, and in no way undervalued by myself or them, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that I feel this whole load of emotions about watching the aging process happen to me right before my very eyes.

And once we started talking it felt good to know I wasn’t alone, that we could resonate and support one another, and laugh about those fucking hairs on our chins that materialize without warning. Because we all know one day we might be fortunate enough to get to 70. We know one day, we’re going to look like we’re 70. But this in-between part, handling the cliff drop moment where we realise that there are many years in between now and 70 that we have to watch the process slowly happening whilst clinging onto the edge grasping with both hands hollering for anyone, or anything to give us a hand up, that’s what really happens in your mid-30s and realizing you’ve got some cracking peeps to share the crazy journey does make it all seem a little less frightening.

The backwards irony of aging

For me though, I do still look back and regret; I should have gotten more comfortable with my body and looks way before my early 30s, then maybe I wouldn’t be so sad about it all. But maybe none of us get comfortable with our bodies until we get older? Maybe it’s like this backwards irony of aging?

And that’s the good news story here (no, unfortunately I haven’t found the fountain of youth … yet) I think there is this backwards irony where my youth is fading, I’m going through this mid-30s awkward aging process just as my self-confidence and self-assurance all gain speed. I feel simultaneously more confident and at home in my body than I ever did in my twenties, whilst also experiencing aggravated annoyance and disappointment that its just started to consider showing signs of wear right when I’ve just begun to love it for all that it is.

So if you’re heading into your 30s, pre-youth fading, I could say enjoy every moment that those youthful looks remain, because that train is going to hit hard and without warning. But that’s the irony, you don’t realise how wonderful those youthful looks were to have until they start to fade.

How are you handing the mid-30s awkward aging process? Are you growing older gracefully or ungracefully AF? I’d love to know.

By Amy Roullier
By Amy Roullier

Amy is the Founder and Editor of The Authentic Optimist. She talks all things life. From the highs to the lows, to all those messy bits in-between. She is a writer, rambler, lover of carbs (her true soulmate) and she is especially passionate about dispelling myths about women in their 30s. Amy lives in Lincolnshire with her two greyhounds.

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