Things No One Told Me About Aging and Why I’m Not Mad About It

I often feel a little envious of Gen-Z. They’ve grown up in the era of TikTok, where they are exposed every day to the importance of a good skincare routine. I often come across a wrinkle-free twenty-two-year-old on my feed showing us her seventeen-step bedtime skin care routine while I’m half-heartedly swiping at my makeup with a Neutrogena wipe (if I even remove my makeup at all).

The rest of us didn’t grow up with the kind of access Gen-Z has to education about skin care. In fact, we didn’t have the same kind of access to any kind of education as they have. We were brought up learning about aging, health, and well-being from our moms or grandmothers, who often felt that those topics were taboo or shameful to talk about. We grew up in the “never ask a woman her age” era. Women were secretive about the tricks they used to remain looking and feeling young because admitting they used those tricks was a screaming announcement that they were, indeed, getting older. They unintentionally gate-kept the sage insights about getting older from us, and now some of us are paying the price.

I do have to laugh. It’s been a fun little adventure making my way toward forty. It seems like every day I make some new discovery about getting older that I didn’t know was coming for me. It’s like a neat little surprise. Here are a few of the things I’m learning about getting older that no one bothered to tell me about:

#1. If you have somewhere to be in the morning, you have to factor pillow-creases into your timing when you set your alarm.

Do you remember back in the day, when the creases from your pillow left a tiny little nighttime kiss on your skin the next morning? And how they just seemed to disappear from your supple skin within moments? Not anymore. I wake up looking like I’ve been in a boxing match with a lion, and it can take hours for those creases to disappear.

#2. My body doesn’t know I’m done exercising until at least thirty minutes later.

There was a time in my life when I could go straight to the gym shower after my workout, get cleaned up and dressed for work, and head straight there, feeling accomplished and ready to start my workday. Now, I have to allow myself at least thirty minutes after my workout before getting in the shower so that my body will stop sweating. Otherwise, I’ll get out of the shower and keep pouring sweat down my freshly cleaned body.

3. Somehow, makeup ages me now.

Doing your makeup in your late thirties means gradually watching yourself turn into your mother. I really can’t explain it any better than that.

#4. Smells are starting to change.

It took me a while to understand where the smell of dog poop in my house was coming from. It was only in the mornings, and only certain mornings. Through a bit of trial and error, I came to learn that my son’s Cheerios in milk was the culprit. And now it’s all I can smell every time he eats it. There are other things, too, that have started to smell different as the years have gone on. No clue why, but maybe I should see a doctor.

#5. Speaking of that, suddenly everything requires a doctor visit.

Everything is a possible health crisis these days. That suspicious mole, that twinge in your back. Unlike my younger days when these things seemed like minor inconveniences, now they give me concern.

#6. The goddamn neck wrinkles.

No one told me. No. One. Told. Me.

#7. I am both so much more patient, and so much less so.

This is the strangest paradox of aging. On one hand, I have become a much more patient person than I was in my twenties. I’ve learned that people often suck, and most of us are operating from our own wounds and hardships. It’s given me perspective, which has brought patience. On the other hand, I am so much less patient with other things. I don’t have time for childishness, entitlement, or fragility. I don’t have time for gossiping, or drama, or petty bull shit. I guess the difference is I’ve become more patient with the things that deserve it, and less patient with the things that don’t.

I do wish someone had told me about all these changes—both the good and the bad. But it is, I guess, kind of like one of those “choose your adventure” books I liked to read when I was growing up. Every day, I’m discovering something new, learning something about what it means to evolve, to grow, to self-actualize. Some of the changes give me the chance to learn to not take myself so seriously and to have a sense of humor about things. Other changes have given me an opportunity to cultivate qualities like resilience, perspective, and patience.

I’m learning that getting older doesn’t have to be something to dread (as our grandparents and society at large have led many of us to believe). It can be a beautiful, exhilarating, and transformative experience if we will let it.

As long as we have a healthy dose of humor.

Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.

Check out her blog called Compassionate Feminism on Psychology Today to join a feminist conversation centered in openness, empathy, and equity.

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