Life is dictated by time. We breathe by the seconds of the ticking clocks, rising from our beds at the sound of alarms and steering to the side of the road at the scream of sirens. At age nine, we yearn to be old enough to sit in the front seat alongside Dad. But when we are as old as Dad, with the wrinkles and the wisdom to show for it, we want to return to the days of innocent youth, of having to listen to him with feigned embarrassment from the backseat as he wails along with the Rolling Stones on the way to soccer practice.
America's Center for Disease Control determines that the average life expectancy for a human individual is 78.8 years, yet Misao Okawa died at age 117 in April, citing "sushi and sleep" as her key ingredients to a lengthy life. Regardless of one's personal preference of sashimi, there is no debate that we as human beings are racing against the clocks of time - the hourglasses of life, so to speak - to accomplish as much as we can while looking the best that we can.
Strangers are often surprised to discover that I am, in fact, eighteen. They'll tell me they thought I was at least twenty-one - if I'm lucky, twenty-five. When I hear these misconceptions I am flattered; at the cusp of legal adulthood, it is a compliment to be mistaken as older because that is how I would like to be perceived. However, it seems as if there is a desperate urgency to hold onto one's youth, to look as young as possible even as time runs out.
At what age does a person stop wanting to be older and instead yearn to be younger?
This phenomenon is nothing new. Oscar Wilde wrote an entire novel detailing one man's desire to be eternally beautiful, no matter what it costs him. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde dictates that "as long as a woman can look ten years younger than her daughter, she is perfectly satisfied." While this sentiment, shared with the world upon the book's publication in 1890, still holds truth today, I remain puzzled. Why would a mother want to look younger than her daughter? Wouldn't she want her majestic life - replete with bad decisions, lessons learned, smiles, frowns, laughs, and tears - to be illustrated on her face?
My ideologies seem more in line with those of the French, who embrace aging with an endearing nonchalance. "Some people seem to put their fantasy of 'the ideal woman' onto the Parisian woman, while the Parisian woman doesn't have an ideal," Caroline de Maigret told Vogue UK. "Maybe the key is to let go and be ok with who you are rather than fantasizing about perfection." Peers often ask me if my mother was a "teen mom", because she looks so young for her age. I understand why my mom would take this as a compliment, but I wish she - and other "women of a certain age" - would recognize that aging is inevitable, and the truest form of beauty is sharing the wisdom learned throughout years that may or may not be shown on through "unsightly" wrinkles, laugh lines, and crows-feet galore.
Whether you're American or French, young or old, female or male, the object is simple: Life is about living. Eventually old age steals that youthful glow from everyone, gifting wrinkles and joint-pain as tokens of a life well lived. It is never to late to slip into the backseat; imagine Dad is crooning "Dead Flowers" at the top of his lungs, now driving you into the future unknown. You're just a bit older now, but that inner youthful magic will never fade.
Image via Today.com.