Aging Gracefully As A Feminist Is A Heck Of A Lot Harder Than I Thought It'd Be

There's no wrong (or right) way to age gracefully.

Image of author up close Courtesy Of Author

I've been thinking a lot about the wrinkles around my mouth lately, and about aging gracefully as a feminist.

I didn't take great care of my body from ages 15-25, and I've found that the signs of aging that come from that negligence — too much sun, too many cigarettes, too many years of starving my body — are the ones that I hate and want to go. 

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Despite swearing I'd grow old gracefully, I recently had the wrinkles on my top lip Botoxed by my amazing dermo.

I did it after a couple of years of looking at the lines and hating them, and hating what they stood for. 

It wasn't an easy decision. After all, I'm a feminist from a long line of feminists.

But the change was subtle. I felt like I looked like myself again, and pretty much nobody but me noticed. It felt like a truly feminist decision, and I didn't try to hide it. 


Photo: Author

The weird thing was how the Botox made me feel better about the whole aging process. It also taught me that there are aspects of my face and body today that betray my age, that remind me that I'm growing older, but that I love. 

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The day my doctor did my lip, she also asked to do my "11s" (those lines between my eyes) and I was shocked ... because of those wrinkles I like. And I had no idea there was a way to truly like your wrinkles until that moment.

Those lines show who I am, my serious and intensely analytical nature.

My furrowed brow is proven by my 11s. And I love them.


But then I went to someone other than my doctor for a Botox touch-up and ended up with a partially frozen top lip. My speech pattern changed. I couldn't drink out of a soda can. I laughed at myself, at how ridiculous I felt, but it bothered me deeply. 

I spent a week thinking of how to fix it, especially since it made my lip wrinkles look worse.

Then I gave in.

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I'd been perfectly proud of the subtle Botox, but the messed-up Botox felt shameful. Like I'd failed at this "aging gracefully" thing.

Until I realized that failing at aging gracefully is also a part of aging gracefully.


Sometimes, for me, aging gracefully means no make-up, no hair color, freckles, and wrinkles. Sometimes it means Botox and make-up on my age spots. I'm not going to apologize for either.

Who knows what else will come? This is life at 38, it's dynamic just like aging is. It doesn't follow anyone's planned trajectory (including mine). And it's great.

I wouldn't go back to 22 if you paid me, and certainly not 32. God, no.


The best part of growing older is understanding that some parts of life get to be lived on our own terms, and feeling better about staking claim to those.

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Joanna Schroeder is a parenting writer and media critic whose writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and more. She is co-author of the upcoming book Talk To Your Boys from Workman Publishing.