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Erika L. Sánchez Headshot

Embracing Growing Older

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When I was 21, I noticed gray hairs beginning to sprout. That was my first introduction to aging, but I didn't think anything of it. I was young and couldn't fathom that one day I would be old and acabada. Now I'm creeping towards 30, and that gray hair is coming in something fierce. I'm far from haggard, but the suggestion of aging is beginning to manifest itself. I think almost every woman remembers the first moment she catches a glimpse of herself in natural sunlight and sees the beginnings of a wrinkle. It's startling because it means:

1) One day you will die.

2) Before you die, you will gross out society with your withered face and body.

When you are young, you simply can't wrap your mind around not being young. Those old fogies are like Martians. In your mind, you will forever be a compact and pretty young woman. Society tells us that we are aesthetically offensive once we turn 40, so it's hard to have a healthy attitude about aging. But fortunately, when I look at pictures of myself when I was younger, I mostly feel relief. Thank goodness I no longer wear dresses that look like they were stolen from obese and elderly women in the circus. Thinking back on my old wardrobe, it seems as if I went out of my way to make my body look like a sack of ham hocks. I was also perpetually broke when I was younger, so I purchased clothes that didn't fit just because they were on sale. Sure these jeans make me look like I'm wearing a diaper, but they're only $15! I'm also grateful that my face is also no longer round and cherubic (or more accurately, Cabbage Patch-like) so people won't pinch my cheeks unsolicited.

I grow more comfortable with myself as I grow older. I know what clothes look good and I don't obsess over what people may think of me because I realize how little people actually do think of me. It's liberating, really. (RuPaul once said, "What people think of me is none of my business." Preach, sista, preach.) I have also partly come to terms with the Buddhist idea of the body as a sort of bondage. Our bodies are temporary and often pretty gross. It's important to embrace this -- maybe one day those diaper jeans will actually come in handy.

I wonder, though, about those women who base their entire identities on their looks. What happens when they begin to wither? What the hell will Kim Kardashian do when she gets old? Perhaps she'll sell some nice products on QVC. Perhaps she'll have a reality TV show that documents the deterioration of her butt. I don't know. I shouldn't feel sorry for people like her, but so many women desperately grasp onto their youth and humiliate themselves in the public eye. They mangle their faces beyond recognition. Just look at how this lady ended up looking like a lion.

Aging is a complex and sometimes difficult process for even the staunchest of feminists. Even those with a positive self image struggle. Sometimes under the harsh light of a public bathroom, I'm startled by a new crease around my eye. Holy sh*t, I know that wasn't there yesterday. I religiously wear sunscreen as a preventative measure. I dye my gray hair because I'm not quite ready to be a silver-headed poetess (like so many of my literary heroes) I know I'm meant to become. Though I've mostly come to terms with the inevitable, there are, of course, vestiges of resistance. But I take comfort in knowing that because I've valued my brain above everything, I won't frantically inject my face with poison once society decides I'm unboinkable.