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#29 You're getting sexier by the day
A stone cold fact
What’s the point of having theories if they’re not self-serving? Certainly, most of mine are. Generally, they are conceived in the quiet moments I spend staring out windows of moving vehicles, thinking of ways to justify the choices I’ve made. My inertia, my indecision, my lateness.
Or to coddle my insecurities, of which there are less the less I sit on Instagram.
But I really do think I’m onto something here. The theory is, you actually get hotter as you get older.
Sure, there’s a cap, perhaps you peak before you hunch, but I think the peak is so much later than we think.
Youth is beauty, you’ll hear it all the time.
And no one can deny that the plump, lineless faces of young people possess a certain je ne sais quoi. They are vibrant and juicy and ascending the staircase. They’re on the way up, clearing three stairs at a time; breathless and flushed.
But they haven’t reached the top.
I look back on photos of myself when I was in my early 20’s and I remember hating them all at the time, but I can see now that I was nice looking. I have long wavy hair and smooth clear skin. I am smiling widely in different places around the world. A lake, a beach, a yellow slice of Yosemite cliff.
These photos, in all their low res, small silver digital camera-ness, languish in the back blocks of my Facebook, or in a Dropbox folder somewhere as sweet but limp reminders of how I was nice looking and young once. But I was also naïve and saccharin in a way I now know to be unappealing. I wanted every single breathing thing to like me, street dogs and shit blokes alike. I didn’t know who I was, and I wasn’t concerned with finding out. I was only interested in being liked in the kaleidoscope of ways one can be liked.
Elastic, submissive, appeasing.
As I’ve entered my 30’s my concept of hotness has evolved, and as with anything that happens in your own brain, it’s hard to tell if the shift is personal or global. Is it just me who thinks that being hot and being hot are two entirely different things?
How many well-proportioned, clear complexioned, white teeth having people have you met that inspire nothing comparable to heat in your body? And to that end, how many people with creased foreheads, and bitten nails and crooked bottom teeth have you met, that make you palms sweaty?
It’s not the way they look, but the way they look at you. A soft gaze across a sticky table, some quietly spoken vulnerability about a heartbreak years ago, the dying sun making gold a face that sees you. A face with scars and lines, but still a face that sees you.
There is an essay titled ‘What Makes a Person Attractive?’ in Alain De Botton’s School of Life and it lists a series of traits, none of which are to do with appearance.
A sense of being slightly at odds with mainstream society
Colouring inside the lines of convention is exhausting, “what a relief then to note (perhaps via a wry twitch in another’s upper lip) that we are in the presence of someone who knows how to adopt a gently sceptical perspective on prevailing assumptions.”
An unshockable nature
Inside each of us there is an untold amount of shadowy weirdness. Bad things we’ve done, bad things that have been done to us, strange predilections, “what may prove supremely sexy therefore are suggestions that another person has explored their own deeper selves with courage, has a handle on their darkness – and may on this basis be capable of extending an uncensorious perspective on our own.”
A tension between good and ‘bad’
Being an adult comes with so much quiet, mundane responsibility. There’s a laundry list of things you need to do to; eating salads, walking the dog on cold winter mornings, paying your bills. An appealing antidote to all that? “A person alive both to duty and temptation, to the pull of maturity and the draw – at least for a little while in the early hours – of wickedness; a divided person simultaneously responsible and marked by a touch of desperation.”
Vigour and impatience
As an old friend used to say, it’s attractive when someone has “a bit about ‘em”. To me this translates as an occasional spikiness or imperfectly expressed dark energy. Someone who is always good but not always nice, with a potential for an impassioned feistiness that they “manage to keep very sanely under control in daily life, but that they knew how to release at points in private.”
Oh, kindness. What does it look like?
Listening with a tilted head as you explain your anxieties, a friend that understands when you cancel last minute, a note under your windscreen wiper that tells you how great you are, a long phone call, a thoughtful gift. An action that tells you that you are loved and that there is always a shoulder for you, even at 3am on a Tuesday on the other side of the world.
“Someone who could know how much we stand in need of forgiveness and who could laugh generously with and at us – because they knew how to do the same in relation to themselves.”
The gold thread that runs through each of these five traits is clear to me. Wisdom.
Most of us aren’t born with the qualities above, we probably don’t even have them at 22, they’re things that become a part of who we are over time. It takes disappointment, heartbreak, hard work, new experiences, books, films, music, learning to look after yourself, shit jobs, good jobs, failure and success, to be the kind of interesting, appealing, funny, empathetic, curious person other people want to know and love.
No shade to all the 20-year olds who are hot, but you need to earn being hot.
You spend most of your life being not-that-young. In your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond, you have decades of finding new grey hairs and lines in your skin. But as sick-sweet as it sounds, you also have all those decades to cultivate what makes you wondrous.
And I think this is where the caveat to the relation between hotness and ageing comes in, you have to lean way the fuck in to getting older. You need to celebrate the miracle of it. That you were born in the first place is so wildly lucky. That you continue to live, rather than die like millions of others every day, is dizzying in its good fortune.
As Richard Dawkins said, “the chances of each of us coming into existence are infinitesimally small, and even though we shall all die some day, we should count ourselves fantastically lucky to get our decades in the sun.”
A person that fails to see the magic of getting old is a pain to be around. They see ageing as a cruel trick. But the person who understands the miracle of being 34 or 47 or 75, is a pleasure to behold. Because the juicy, exponential joy of growing up and getting to know yourself is verifiably sexy, if you let it be.
JULIA FOX GETS IT
Of course, there will be people reading this who think, “who gives a shit what people think? The point of life isn’t to appeal to others!” and to them I say “teach me”. But beyond that, I think being a flower that attracts bees is part of having an interesting life.
You want good people to come to you, in all relational contexts; familial, platonic, professional, creative and romantic. People who buoy you and listen to you, who cook for you and make you laugh, who challenge you and grow you, who see you and love you, even when you’re a bit shit.
That’s the most compelling reason for being hot in the meaty, soulful ways described above.
And like anything good, being hot is gonna take time. A whole lotta precious time.
That’s my self-serving theory and I’m sticking to it.