I'm Sick Of Everyone Acting Like My Aging Body Needs To Be 'Fixed'

Photo: The author
Joanna Schroeder, a blonde white woman, looks at the camera, smiling
Self

The first time I got Botox, I wasn't even 40 years old. 

I had lines on top of my lip that I hated, and my dermatologist suggested I try a little Botox.

These were my first real wrinkles — or at least the first ones that bothered me — and the first sign that serious aging had begun. I wanted to get ahead of it.

After all, celebrities and influencers somehow managed to look young well into their fifties and sixties. How harmful could it be?

Turns out, I hate Botox. I felt like a fraud and hated feeling like my face wasn't moving normally.

One time I got a little too much and couldn't drink out of a straw without dribbling. Dribbling while drinking absolutely did not fit into my ideas of what it meant to be "youthful".

As I've aged, I've grown more wrinkles, more lumpy flesh, more rippled skin, more folds and rolls and uneven skin tone. 

I've also become more comfortable with myself. 

See, I learned that the whole idea of "anti-aging" is a lie. It is a marketing gimmick designed to make women feel bad for simply existing in aging bodies.

We are told to fight against our own bodies and, frankly, I'm sick of it.

I'm sick of being told that the progression of time has made my body somehow less-than.

I'm sick of being told that things like gaining weight or having wrinkles are personal failings, signs I'm not fighting hard enough. 

There are beautiful, powerful body positivity movements around fat acceptance, postpartum bodies, and even stretch marks. I'm so thankful those exist, and I hope they continue to undermine the awful messages to the contrary.

But where is the body positivity movement for aging people?

What we need is a movement that shows how bodies change as we grow older, the ways in which adipose tissue is re-distributed on our bodies, how our skin texture changes, and everything else. 

We need an aging-positivity movement that isn't aimed at teaching us how to minimize the effects of aging, but rather how to embrace it. 

Because as of this moment, aging women are bombarded with images and advertising that insists older bodies are disgusting, and it's rich white men who profit most from making us feel like sh*t. 

We're told we need to work out more, to eat like cavemen, to trick our bodies into thinking we're starving, or to buy into whatever restrictive diet is currently trending.

To be clear, if you want to fast half the day or eat only plants, and that makes you feel good, I think that's great. I think you should eat, exercise, and do beauty stuff however you want.

But nothing is going to reverse time. You're going to age. 

Why can't that just be OK? Why do we have to deal with so much body- and skin-shaming? 

RELATED: 8 Important Lifestyle Habits Of People Who Seem To 'Age Well'

Celebrities and influencers often lie about how they stay looking young

I know all the celebrity secrets. I live among the rich and famous here in Los Angeles and have worked with celebrities for many years.

When you're friends with movie stars and super models, you learn that a big part of their job as a famous person is to stay thin and fight against aging. And they work at it like a job. 

Abstaining from french fries isn't a dietary preference, it's a requirement. Having your eyebrows microbladed or your hips CoolSculpted is work and it's essentially required — and so is lying about how you look the way you do.

They don't look like that because of yoga and drinking a lot of mineral water, I promise you. But how would the general public know that, if most of what's touted as "natural beauty" among celebs and influencers is a total lie?

We need a major wakeup call.

Here's an incomplete list of how celebrities stay thin and young-looking as they age:

Cosmetic surgery, injections of toxins and fillers, micro-surgery, microblading, weekly or bi-weekly facials that cost more than $150 each, skin treatments involving tiny needles or lasers or human blood or all of the above, creams that cost $200 or more per bottle, standing in front of red lights, ultrasonic machines being placed against their flesh, deep tissue fascia-blasting that leaves them bruised for weeks, hair color and cuts that cost more than $500 every six to eight weeks, great lighting, talented and expensive makeup artists, personal trainers, home gyms/pilates studios, personal chefs, medication, illegal and unregulated substances, dangerous starvation diets and "cleanses," personal shoppers and professional stylists, high-quality spray tans, Coolsculpting, and Photoshop/FaceTune. 

The result of this anti-aging lie is that the rest of us believe we aren't aging "well" in comparison, and we blame ourselves. We believe we didn't work out hard enough or stick to the anti-aging fad diet strictly enough. 

But it's not true, and it never was.

(As a sidenote, almost nobody can stick to fad diets or highly restrictive food plans over long periods of time!)

Gravity and the passage of time have become twisted to feel like they're personal failings.

I know this because I've been there. I've gone on unhealthy restrictive diets. I've exercised to exhaustion. I've made fitting into my pre-pregnancy pants a goal. 

And I was miserable.

I want a new aging-positivity model so that we can start to see the beauty in aging. We need to let go of the garbage others expect from us and find inspiration in other women who have been there. 

We need to talk about the beauty of aging more and bust the anti-aging lie. 

I don't want to be a woman in my forties whose main goal is to be beautiful or to look young.

Because of the way the beauty and fitness industries market anti-aging products, I didn't even realize there was an option but to buy into the myth. 

I think that's why this quote from Glennon Doyle blew my mind. It was a reminder that there's another way to see aging — as something freeing.

I revisit this quote often, to remind myself who and where I want to be as a 40-plus year-old woman.

It reads: 

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Oh holy yes. Aging is the best thing to ever happen to me. Aging is Unbecoming all the women I thought I was supposed to be and breathing for God’s sake.
Aging is like being one of those Russian nesting dolls and peeling off costumes one at a time- till I’m left as that little solid doll. Just that one. Nothing too big or wobbly.
I believe the spiritual/ official explanation for a wise woman aging is: LOOK AT HER! SHE HAS RUNNETH OUT OF EFFS TO GIVE.
Beloveds in your twenties and thirties: It GETS BETTER!!!!!

Surprising things are going to happen to your body as you age, and it's OK.

You are still you. And your aging body and face are beautiful and worthy of love — even from yourself

You don't have to use Botox or fill in your lines or lips. You don't have to do anything, and you will still be worthy of love. 

photo courtesy of the author

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After decades of restrictive and other types of disordered eating, I've stopped abusing myself to try to look a certain way — and that includes trying to look younger.

My goals today are different: To be as happy and healthy as I can reasonably be, to enjoy my life, to raise healthy kids, to finish my book and sell a few others, and to write for The New York Times.

I've been fortunate to even have the opportunity to achieve goals like these, and they come from an immense amount of privilege.

These goals, focused outside of the way I look, have helped me find my center when relating to my aging body. 

When critical thoughts about my body or skin come up, I try to tell myself that this is my body and I appreciate it. 

I remind myself that I don't want to participate in a system designed to oppress me.

I don't want to participate in a system that will, someday, tell my daughter that her body isn't good enough.

And I want society to stop telling us that we need to "fix" aging, as if it's a disease. 

I want my daughter to know that I prioritized fun and joy as I aged, so she knows that she, too, can give the middle finger to impossible beauty standards and enjoy life in her own body.

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Joanna Schroeder is a feminist writer and media critic whose writing has appeared in The New York Times, Time, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, BuzzFeed, Esquire, Vox, and more. She has a degree in gender studies from UCLA and is raising three very busy kids while working from home. Follow her on Twitter for more.