Heidi Stevens: My friends and I are turning 50. Now do we get to stop hating our looks?

Heidi Stevens, Tribune News Service on

Published in Lifestyles

A lot of my friends and I are turning 50 this year, which means my calendar is filled with celebrations to mark a half century (!) of life and memories and friendships and mistakes and love and heartbreak and reinvention and redemption.

And my social feeds are filled with ways to look like none of it happened.

There’s a product or procedure for saving every (I mean every) inch of our bodies from looking their age. It’s a little exhausting. We already grew up devouring magazines that spoke to us like the worst friend ever. (“You’re hideous! But don’t worry I can totally fix you!”) We’ve been taught to hate our skin and our thighs and our hair and our bellies for as long as I can remember. I spent years that I’ll never get back worried about my pores. (My pores!)

So none of this is new. Learning to hate our necks maybe is new. I don’t think anyone told us to hate our necks until our 40s. Although Nora Ephron warned us this was coming in her 2008 book, “I Feel Bad About My Neck.” (Nora Ephron warned us about pretty much everything.)

Anyway. The point is we’ve been enrolled in a lifetime seminar on believing we’re not quite right, looks-wise, and the real fun will begin when we can get on top of that.

And like good little students, we tried. We really did. And I don’t begrudge us. Aging is a game that’s rigged against us. Do too much and you’re embarrassing yourself. Do too little and you’re not even trying. Do just the right amount and you’ll look ageless and flawless without looking like you tried to look ageless or flawless.


It’s an invisible pact, writer Sarah Seltzer once observed, that women are supposed to make.

“Be beauty ducks,” Seltzer wrote in a 2014 essay, “who look tranquil and eat hamburgers above the surface but are paddling beneath: working out, dieting, plucking, nipping, tucking and buffing all the time just out of sight, so we can appear this perfect.”

I think 50 is the age to give that all up. Forty or 30 or 20 would also have been good ages to give that up. And some of you did and I’m so proud of you and you can tell me your secret if we ever run into each other at Target. Sixty or 70 is also a good age to give that all up.

Not the plucking and buffing and all the rest. Give them up if you want to; hold onto them if you want to. Dye your hair. Stop dying your hair. Get Botox. Don’t get Botox. Get fillers. Don’t get fillers. Have things tucked and tightened or don’t. Your one beautiful body, like your one beautiful life, is yours and yours alone. You already won the game just by showing up.


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