When I’m 80, I’ll eat cake every day. I won’t remember what burpees are, or why anyone cared about avocados. I’ll never get a spray tan, ever again.
Every day, I’ll feel each inch of my ageing skin, smoothing my hands over the papery creases and crevices, made during a life well lived. I’ll welcome aboard new age spots, adding them to the census of freckles and moles that I’ve housed forever. The pillowy dimples across my thighs will be rubbed and squeezed with affection, warming them through on cold mornings.
George Bernard Shaw once said, “youth is wasted on the young”. I think maybe that statement is less true now that it ever was. After years of bad unemployment, astronomical house prices, and digital revolution, it seems lots of us are abandoning dreams of a corner office and white picket fences in favour of entrepreneurialism and backpacking. However, the variation of this infamous quote, ‘beauty is wasted on the young’ seems ever truer. While many of us have new, ‘millennial’ visions for our lives, our limited visions of beauty are still stuck in the previous century.
Of course, beauty and youth are in no way intrinsically linked. But, that unique time of fun, youthful, care-free loveliness seems wasted on us. So many of us choose to criticise our bodies, rather than to embrace each bit with abandon. Why wait until we’re old to love our seasoned bodies? When time is so short, and summer so fleeting, why waste it worrying that our beauty isn’t quite beautiful enough?
A recent survey found that 70% of women aged 18 to 35 regularly edit their images before posting them on social media. Sadly, this is anything but surprising. It shows that really young women have already decided that their bodies score low on the beauty barometer. How far can we warp reality, before our bodies are no longer a real part of ourselves? And, more importantly, what can we do to protect and nurture future generations of girls who are coming of age in a digitally re-mastered world online?
This is a question that’s played on my mind for a while. And I don’t have a solution just yet, but I’m thinking about it. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe we all need to think about how, individually, we talk about bodies and beauty. Let’s try to be guided by our wiser, 80-year-old selves – do they cherish the memories of how we were, or do they wish our beauty hadn’t been wasted on the young?