You will now need caffeine with your booze to stay awake.
I’m developing a love-hate relationship with the big 3-0 birthday looming ahead next summer. There are days when I can’t wait to shed my 20s like a cocoon and emerge as my Adult Self, leaving behind all of the uncertainties and mistakes of the past 10 years. Other times I’m eyeing it with fear and dread, mentally preparing to mourn the bygone era of IKEA furniture and SpaghettiO’s for dinner.
As a ‘90s kid I could rely on Girls’ Life magazine to answer every bizarre puberty question that popped into my head. Unfortunately, there is no such guide for what to expect as we enter our 30s. This is my attempt.
Facial Dryness and Fine Lines
Though I’ve never struggled with full-blown acne, the skin on my face has always been oily. Whenever my high school friends and I held contests to see who could fill up one of those blotting sheets the fastest (we had some down time in band, OK?), I was the unequivocal winner.
But recently, something new began accompanying the zits I still get regularly: dry, crinkly patches around my eyes and lips, along with fine lines. A nightly moisturizer works wonders on these areas, reducing redness, taming flaking, and keeping skin smooth and quenched.
There it was as I passed by the mirror. A sheen. An unmistakably silver sheen.
I’ve always enjoyed coloring my hair with temporary demi-permanent dyes. When I decided to ditch the box and return to my natural roots a few months ago, I was greeted by some new friends. If new grey hairs bother you, use a gentle, non-permanent dye to conceal them at the roots. But if you’re unfazed, let ‘em shine.
The “what is your hair doing?” conversation with the girls is a sure sign that you’re knocking on the door of the next decade. And I don’t mean the hair on your head. Remember how strange it was when that dark, thick hair started to grow on and between your legs and under your armpits? There’s more where that came from in some areas and less in others, thanks to dipping estrogen levels. My friends and I like to take inventory of what’s happening where.
The Incredible Migrating Breasts
Birds aren’t the only creatures that head south. I first noticed this last year when, suddenly, my sports bras seemed to fit a little differently. The elastic band at the bottom wasn’t working its usual magic. Maybe I need new bras, I thought.
As with all things body-related, I decided to Ask Mom. “You don’t need new bras,” she concluded.
I didn’t understand. “They’ve been in the same place since high school. Where are they trying to go?”
There it was: that knowing, rite-of-passage smile. “They’re saying hi to your toes!”
For years, I prided myself on having an ass you could bounce quarters off of. And then, rather ceremoniously on my 27th birthday, nature gifted me a big box of cellulite. (Yes, I’ve always been thin, but cellulite does not discriminate.)
The elasticity of our teens and 20s gradually fades with age. Even if we remain the same size, the shape and composition of our bodies change: thighs fill out, upper arm skin becomes less taut, and dimples appear on the other set of cheeks. Lift a little if you want to tighten things up (I use kettle bell weights), but more importantly, love yourself a lot. You and your body are evolving from the girl you were into the woman you will be, and that’s a pretty amazing thing.
More Intense, Longer-Lasting Hangovers
When I was 22, I could meet up with my friends for karaoke, throw back a few cocktails, and wake the next morning feeling fantastic. But as Robert Frost tells us, nothing gold can stay.
Drinking after 25 means many things. You will now need caffeine with your booze to stay awake. You will need to keep consistently hydrated. You will need to take your Advil before you go to sleep instead of waiting until morning, when it’s too late to do anything about the day-long splitting headache. And shots? No longer worth it. Step away.
Changes in Zzzzs
If you’ve been finding it harder to fall and/or stay asleep in recent years, you’re not alone. We generally sleep less as we age, but that’s in part because our sleep becomes lighter and more easily disturbed. Urban environments, lengthy commutes, and other adulthood stressors can complicate getting a full eight hours, as can the gradual depletion of neurons that regulate sleep patterns. Combat that zombie feeling by turning your bedroom into a sanctuary: cool temperatures, comfortable bedding, lavender oil, and a zone free of electronic devices.
Chances are, your style preferences will shift dramatically between 20 and 30 due to changes in income, interests, and lifestyle. If you find yourself with a nicer salary, for instance, you may feel more comfortable putting money into quality wardrobe staples that will last much longer. As your career moves forward, you may seek out more versatile pieces that transition from work day to evening.
Even if you find yourself swapping bodycon for blazers, you should never feel obligated to abandon anything you still feel great wearing. I don’t imagine that my penchant for leather and wild lipstick colors will go away anytime soon, and it’s actually a fun challenge to incorporate these things into newer outfits.
To Baby or Not to Baby?
If and when it hits, the urge to procreate can blow in like a gale-force wind. A college friend of mine once confessed to “wanting a baby so badly that [her] ovaries hurt,” while I, like Margaret Cho, felt I ovulated sand.
The desire for children strikes at all kinds of different times. Some women feel born to be mothers. Others don’t become starry-eyed over onesies and basinets until much later in life, if ever. No matter how your feelings on children change, you are never abnormal or less of a woman for something your body does or does not want.
The Bottom Line: You’ll Love Your Body (and Yourself) More
I used to think my mom was full of it whenever she said I’d love my body more with age, but it’s completely true. As women grow older, we gain a greater awareness of our bodies as our own self-controlled, self-sustaining vessels apart from juvenile fads and pressures.
The truth about all of this cellulite/grey hair/fine line business? You’ll be more comfortable in your own skin. You’ll accept your features as characteristics that tell a story, not imperfections that detract from your worth. (And as a happy side note, all of that body confidence leads to amazingly better sex.)
Joyce Carol Oates once asked, “Does it matter that our old selves are lost to us as surely as the past is lost, or is it enough to know yes we lived then, and we are living now, and the connection must be there?” Our bodies are that connection: developing in front of our mirrors, responding to our touches, carrying us across nations and continents. They are repositories of memory and experience, and for that, we should love them at every stage of life.
Chelsea Cristene is a communications associate and English professor based in Washington, DC. She has been published by the Good Men Project, Salon, xoJane, and MamaMia, and runs a film review blog, Catch Up, with fellow Role Reboot contributor Telaina Eriksen. Find her on Twitter.