“Women just get better with age.” That sentence came from my brother-in-law’s mouth one afternoon when I was pregnant with my third child, breastfeeding my second, and chasing around my oldest. I stood there, my mouth agape. It was the first time I had heard that phrase in real life.
Nope, it wasn’t coming from some advertisement in a magazine, it didn’t come from Oprah’s mouth, and it wasn’t something I was reading from a self-help book. Of course he was staring at Demi-fucking-Moore on the television when he said it, but even so, I stood there letting that phrase sink in. At 30, I did not quite feel like I was “better” than I was at 20 (in fact, I felt like a jumbled mess). But after thinking about it more, I realized he was right—so right—and now at 40, I see very clearly why that is. I am not talking about the physical aspects of women. I am talking about their inner beauty, their confidence, their ability to understand others. There is nothing sexier than that.
I see it in my aunts and sisters, the way they carry themselves, the way they speak to others, how they enter a room. There is no place for bullshit in their lives. They are better now than ever. My dear friend from high school, well, at 40 she is smokin’ hot. My college roommate is more beautiful than ever, and my neighbor whom I have known for 11 years looks more vibrant than she did long ago when we met in the middle of our street.
Why do women get better with age? From my own experience, I think these are some of the reasons:
1. We have learned how to please our own damn selves.
I am talking about all the things here—all the things. We know what we like and how we like it. If I like a certain kind of flower, but nobody gets them for me, I get them for myself. If I want something done a certain way, I don’t ask. I don’t wait. I take control and do it. If I want sausage and bacon on my pizza but nobody else does, I order that fucker anyway.
2. We have found our style.
I have been around long enough to know what works for me and what makes me feel like a busted can of biscuits. I have tried all the styles and experimented with myself enough to know what looks best on me. There still may be the occasional mistake (that of course makes it on Facebook), but hey, I learn from that mistake very quickly.
3. We say what we mean.
Mind games are fun for teenagers and can be a little exciting in our early 20s, but as we get older, we no longer feel like playing them. Now those games feel more like mindfucks, and there’s no room for them. Instead, we’ re becoming totally comfortable saying exactly what we mean. We ask for what we want, and if we aren’t asking for it, it’s usually because we aren’t that interested.
And we start to surround ourselves with others who will do the same—people who say what they mean, speak up, and ask for what they need. It doesn’t mean we expect all of our requests to be met with a “yes,” or that we will acquiesce to everyone’s needs or wants. What it means is that we are comfortable with whatever the outcome because we didn’t leave anything unturned. We know by now that if something is meant to be, it will happen.
4. We don’t care if we break the rules.
There was a time when I never wore silver and gold together, white jeans before Memorial Day were a no-no, and disagreeing with say, my boss, was unthinkable. If nobody else was doing it, it somehow felt wrong for me to step out on a limb. Now that I’m older, I get over things very quickly. There is a way to break the rules that is respectful of both myself and others.
5. We have mastered the art of ignoring people.
When we’re younger, it feels very important to be liked and accepted. But as we age, we realize that if a relationship feels forced, it is very freeing to just walk away. It’s more obvious who is worth investing in and who is not. And if we can’t walk away from someone, we at least know how to protect our joy by ignoring negative behavior. What we feed is what grows, and nobody is happy when they are feeding toxic thoughts or relationships.
6. We have learned to stop apologizing.
Women say sorry a lot, mostly for unnecessary things. “Sorry, my house is messy.” “Sorry, I just can’t volunteer.” “Sorry, I can’t get together that night.” We’ve figured out that there is a time and place for apologies, and we don’t owe anyone an apology for not having time to clean the bathroom or volunteer for a school fundraiser.
7. We don’t take things personally.
As we get older, we realize that taking things personally is a bit of a time-suck. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have those feelings anymore; we just realize that 99% of the time, these things that leave us feeling hurt or annoyed really have nothing to do with us.
8. We know how to empower others.
After four decades, it becomes very apparent the way the world works. What you put out is what you get back. If we are tearing each other down, it hurts others, but ultimately it hurts us more. Real women empower; they do not rip others apart. Most of us have done both, but we know what feels better and what is right.
What it comes down to is that we get better with age because we have made some mistakes and we know what it’s like to fail. We’ve been challenged in our careers, in raising families, in friendships, and we have overcome. Along the way, we’ve helped and healed. This is life enrichment. Because of all this, we are just better at life now, and really, nothing is more beautiful than that.
This article was originally published on