Ask Polly I’m Almost 30 And I’m Terrified Of Losing My Looks – The Awl

DearPolly,

I’mawomanwhowillsoonbe30。

Iamterrifiedofwatchingmyphysicalbeautydeteriorateoverthenext?

decade。

I’mconventionallyattractive。

Idon’tbelievethatbeingprettytranslatestoanytangiblesocialpower,butIdogetpositiveattentionfrompeople,whichIenjoy。

Ilovebeinggazedat。

Idon’tmeanstreetharassmentoranythinglikethat,butthewaythatpeople(ofallgenders)getthesedreamy,enrapturedlooksontheirfaceswhentheyseeme。

Ithinkbeautyhassomemagicalqualitytoit,anditmakesmefeelalive。

WhenIlookatmyself,too,IsometimesgetthesamesensationaswhenIbeholdanemotionallystirringworkofart?

—?

shimmering,crackling,breathless。

Theretrulyisnothinglikeabeautifulface。

Andso,theprospectoflosingthis?

—?

andIknowIwillloseit,everyonedoes?

—?

fillsmewithsuchcrushingdread。

ItakecareofmyselfasbestIcanintermsofahealthylifestyleandsunscreen,butIknowthateverydaythatgoesby,Iamaging,andultimatelypowerlesstostopit。

(Idon’thavemuchfaithintheabilityofcosmeticprocedurestokeepmyfacelookingexactlythewayitdoesnow,sothat“option”isoflittlecomfort)。

It’slikeI’vebeengiventhispreciousgiftwiththestipulationthatitwillbeyankedawayfrommebeforemylifeisevenhalfwayover。

Idon’tknowhowtocopewiththis。

IhavethesehorriblemomentsnowinwhichIseeolderwomenaroundmeandfeelavisceralsenseofdisgustandpity?

—?

obviouslyaprojectionofmyown?

fears。

TheprospectoflookingolderissometimessointolerablethatIsometimesplanwaystocommitsuicideinthefuture。

BecauseIrealizethissounds/iscrazy,IlookedintoatreatmentprogramforBodyDysmorphicDisorder。

Iwastold,however,thatIdon’tqualifybecauseIdon’tcurrentlyhatemyappearance。

Istartedseeingatherapistandapsychiatrist,butneitherdiagnosedmewithanything,theyessentiallysaidthat“mostwomenhavetheseconcerns”andI’llprobably“agewellanyway。

”Thepsychiatristofferedtoprescribeasleepingpillifthethoughtskeptmeawakeatnight。

ThetherapistsuggestedthatIreadfeministliterature。

MymothertoldmeImusthavethingsprettygoodifIcanspendsomuchtimefixatingonmyfuture?

face。

Doyouhaveany?

advice?

Dorian

DearDorian,

Iwishyou’dattachedaphotograph,soIcouldgazeupontheemotionallystirringworkofartthatisyourhead。

Idon’tknowhowelsetoconjuretheemotionthat’srequiredofmeatthismoment。

Whatareyougoingtolose,exactly,whenyougetolder?

EvenwhenIpictureyouasGiselle,Iremainunmoved。

Theenrapturedgazes,thecrackling,shimmeringwhatever…It’ssohardtoimagine。

Itmakesmetiredjustthinkingabout?

it。

Yousaythere’strulynothinglikeabeautifulface。

Thatstatementmakesmeimagineagiantplateofdeliciousnachos,agoodbook,andacoldbeer。

Itmakesmethinkaboutdogswithweirdpersonalities,andfunnychildren。

Itmakesmethinkaboutthesoundofrainontheroofwhenyou’retakinganapintheafternoon。

Prettyfacescangofuckthemselves,comparedtopeanutbutter?

cups。

Ifnoneofthatmakessensetoyou,thenletmejustsaythis:Yourprioritiesaregoingtochangedrastically。

EvenifyoukeeplivinginthisbizarreairlessroomwhereyougazeatyourselfalldayliketheevilqueeninSnowWhite(there’sareasontheymakefairytaleswithbig,importantlessonsaboutvanity),you’restillgoingtomatureoverthenextdecadeandfindthatallofthisprettyfacebullshitjustdoesn’thavetheweightthatitoncedid,notevento?

you。

Inthemeantime,though,youreallyneedtofindsomethingelsetooccupyyourmind。

Youdon’tsoundstupid,butyoudosoundextremelybored,andverydepressed。

Theworldissomuchmoreengagingandincrediblethanyou’remakingitseem。

What’skeptyouinthistwo-dimensionalrealmofthemirror?

Whotrappedyouthere?

What’satstake?

Areyoulonely?

Doyoufeellikeyou’rerunningoutoftimetofindlove?

There’ssomethingelsetothispicturethatyou’renotaddressing,andwithoutknowingmoreIcan’ttellyouthatmuch。

Youshoulddefinitelyfindatherapistwho’sinterestedindelvingintothisquestionwithyou,whoseemsdeterminedtodigthroughallofthedimensionsofwhatyourexperiencing。

Mostly,Ihavetotellyouthattimedoesn’trunoutasfastasyouthink。

MostwomenIknowlookedliketheywere29foraboutadecade,honestly。

Andyes,thingschangeinyour40s,butmostly,ifyou’relivingright,youjustwantmoretimetodostuff。

Evenwhenyoustarttohavetomakeadjustmentstothetired-lookingwomaninthemirror,youfindwaystolovethatperson,too。

Thehideousoldfaceyouimaginenowisn’tyours。

Thefacethatisyoursmightdisappointyousometimes,butitwon’tbeasdevastatingasyou?

think。

YouneedtolistentothatAlanisMorissettealbum,theonewhereshethanksIndiaandproclaimsthatshe’llbegoodevenifshegainstenpounds。

Alanisisjusttheticketforyourightnow。

She’llmakeyouseehowpoisonousyoursuperioritycomplexis。

Youmayhatetheold,uglypersonyouthinkyou’llbecomebecauseyou’renotsurewhatelseyouhavetooffer,besidesyourface。

Youshoulddedicateyourselftobecomingsomeonewhomyou’llfeelproudof,withoutorwithouttheshimmeringandthecrackling。

Haven’tyouevermetanyonewhowasn’tconventionallyattractive,butwhowasincrediblycharismaticandenviable?

Ifnot,youreallyneedtogetoutmore。

Insteadofgazingatyourownheart-stoppingface,youshouldthrowoutyourmirroranddedicateyourselftosomethingthatfeedsyoursoulandmakesyoufeelevenmorealivethan,Idon’tknow,admiringyourownimage?

It’sabadhabit。

Andapparentlyitmakesyoufeelpowerless,becauseyou’regettingoffonsomethingyoufeelyou’reaboutto?

lose。

Here’sthetruth,andyou’rejustgoingtohavetotrustmeonthis:You’renotnearlyasoldorasbeautifulasyouthinkyouare。

Andevenifyouarethemostravishingwomanalive,I’dadviseyoutoimagine,instead,thatyouareveryyoungandveryplain。

Thenwalkoutintotheworld,andbearegularpersonamongtheotherregularpeople,withyourwholelifeaheadofyou。

You’llbesurprisedathowgoodthat?

feels。

Youpitytheoldladies。

Whatyoudon’tknowisthattheypityyouevenmore。

Theyknowwhataburdenyou’recarryingaround,andtheyknowhowbaditmakesyoufeel,tothinkoflosingthisthingthat’sactuallyacrutchthatkeepsyoufrommaturingandconnectingwiththereal?

world。

Iknowyou’rejustbeinghonest。

Idon’twanttogiveyoushitforthat。

Ijustthinkyouneedtogetabadhaircutandeatabigpieceofcherrypieandjointherestofus。

Whenyoudo,you’llseethetruthatlast:Lifeisbeautiful。

Prettyfacesareadimea?

dozen。

Polly

DearPolly,

I’minmyearly40s;anaspiringwriterandgraphicdesigner;havebeeninarelationshipforovertenyearswithmy‘fiance’;desperatelydesiringachildandfeelinglikeI’verunoutof?

time。

Iputthewordfianceinquotesbecausewe’vebeenaffiancedforalmosttenyearsnow,withnoprospectofactuallygettingmarriedbecausehe’sbeentheretwiceandis‘donewiththatshit。

’I’vebeenmarriedoncebeforetoo,andwhileIrespecthisdecision,Ikindoffeelunhappythatit’shisdecisionandnot?

ours。

I’vewaitedallthistimeforhimtocomearoundtohavingachildwithme,buthe’salwaysputitoff(healreadyhasone[withapreviouspartner]andhe’snotreadyforthatresponsibilityagain;oneofuswasinthemiddleofjobs;wewererenting;weownedaplaceofourownbutitwasanapartment,notahouse),andnowitfeelslikemybiologicalclockstruckmidnightalongtimeagoandneitherofusnoticed。

Becausenowhesayshe’sreadytothinkofhavinganotherkid。

Yetmanytimesthesepastyears,wheneverI’vebroughtupmywantingababy,he’spointedatmycatandmyparrotandmadeOldCrazyCatLadyjokes。

Ineverfoundthem?

funny。

Ileftmysteadyjoblastyeartogobacktograduateschool?

—?

I’mpursuingadegreeingraphicdesign。

WetalkedaboutthisbeforeImadethemovebecauseitwasadrasticcareerchangeforme(Iwasmiddlemanagerinamajorretailchain);hehadpromisedtosupportme/uswhileIdidthis。

Itseemedonlyfairtomesincehehadquithisjobfouryearsagowhilehetriedto‘find’himself。

Duringthosetwoyears,Iborethebruntofourhouseholdexpenses,insurance,etc。

(Thelittlesavingsincomehehadwenttochildsupport。

)Evenaftertwoyearsofsoulsearching,itdoesn’tlooklikehehasanyideaofwhathisdrivingpassionis。

I,however,knowwhatIwanttodo,finally,andwantedtogoforit。

Wemovedtoacheapercitynearmyuniversitylastyear。

Hehadtoldmehehadinterviewslinedup;whenwegothere,Ifoundouttwoofthoseinterviewswereforparttimejobs(andthingshewasvastlyoverqualifiedfor)because,‘IfiguredI’dneedsometimetogetusedtocorporateslaveryagain,babe。

’Inthemeantime,ourbillsweren’tgettingpaid。

SoIbeggedandpleadedwithmyoldbosstoletmebackasapart-timeremoteworkertosupplementwhathewasmaking。

IhadtogiveawaymybirdbecauseshehadafungalconditionandIcouldn’taffordthevetanymore。

Andthismeansthatontopofbeingagraduatestudent,I’mworkingpracticallyfull-timebecauseIconstantlytakeonfreelancegigs。

He’sextremelyhandsomeandwell-built。

Womenswarmhimwhereverwego(heusedtobeofferedmodelinggigswhenwewereyounger)。

I’mkindofaverage-looking-okay,andIhaveputonsomeweightinthepastyears。

AlsoIwasablondewhenwemet,butI’vegonebacktomynaturaldeepbrownhairnow。

Whichmeanshefrequentlymakes?

—?

eveninpublic?

—?

jokesaboutmepullinga‘switcheroo。



Hehasnofaithinmycreativeaspirations。

Itrytoremindmyselfthatheuprootedandmovedtoanewplaceforme。

Whichistotallyabigdeal。

However,hekeepsharpingonthefactthathedidthis(whichdiminishesthesacrifice,amIwronginthinkingthis?

);butalsohewillmakedisparagingremarksaboutmyprojectsandcomparemyachievementswithothers(“so-and-sowonthisaward,howcomeyoudidn’t?

aren’tyougoodenough?

”)。

IknowI’vemadehimsoundlikeanightmare。

Butwehavemanysweetmomentstoo。

MylastbirthdayheorganizedasurprisetriptoPeruasI’vealwayswantedtovisitthere(myfavoritegrandmothercamefromLima)。

AndIhavetoadmitwehavethebestsexever。

Really。

Andafterallthistimewe’rebothsuperattractedtoeachother。

There’snodenying?

that。

Myfriendsandfamilyalmostuniversallyhatehim。

OneofmysisterscancelledherChristmastriptoseeourparentsatthelastminutebecauseshefoundouthewasgoingtoo(heusuallydoesn’tattendanyfamilyevents)。

Twoofmyclosestgradschoolfriendsareconstantlypressuringmetoleave。

SomuchsothatI’vedistancedmyselffromboth。

IlovethemdearlyandIunderstandtheywantwhat’sgoodforme,butitalsofeelspatronizingthatthey’reprofessingtoknowbetterthanIdowhat’stherightthingforme。

Ifeelthesamewayaboutmy?

sisters。

ThisisthelongestrelationshipI’veeverhad。

Ifeellikehe’sagoodperson,butmaybenotgoodformeatthispointinmylife。

Butatthesametime,maybethatmoment,whereourlivesclicktogetherisjustaroundthecorner。

I’veinvestedsomuchhere,givenupsomuchofwhatIwantedtobewithhim,thatIcan’thelpbutwaitforthatmutualmomentto?

arrive。

AmIbeingimpatient?

AmIbeingwrongheaded?

WhatcanI?

do?

MaybeKnowsWhattoDoButNotHowtoDo?

It

DearMKWTDBNHTDI,

Alltheseyearstogether,waitingtogetmarriedandhaveababy,andnowhewantstohaveakidandyou’rewonderingifyoushouldbreak?

up?

Yourfriendsandsistersareconstantlypressuringyoutoleaveyourhusband?

Youknowthat’sbecauseyouspendmostofyourtimetogethertellingthemhe’satotalnightmare,right?

Andwhentheyagreewithyou,andsupportyouinyoureffortstomoveon,youdistanceyourselffrom?

them?

Youareanequalpartnerinthecrazylifeyou’vecreated。

You’vekeptyourhusbandaroundsothatyouwillalwayshaveascapegoat。

(Youworkyourassoff!

Youhadtogiveyourbirdaway!

Youjustcan’tstophavinggreatsex!

)Itreallysoundstomelikeyou’reactivelychoosingtobelockedintoalong-termjailwiththisguy,andwhenotherpeopletrytohelpyououtofthatjail,yougivethemtheheave-ho。

Areyouaskingifyoushouldbreakupwithhim?

Here’smyanswer:Ifhedoesn’tsupportyourdreams,belittlesyou,andmakesyoupayforeverything,thenyes,youshouldbreakupwith?

him。

BecauseIdon’tthinkthispictureimprovesmagically。

Itjustgetsworseandworse。

Butwhenyoufinallydobreakupwithhim,trytomakesurethatyouhaven’talienatedeverylastfriendyou’veeverhad,becauseyou’rereallygoingtoneedthemtohelpyoupullthroughthismajoraddictionyouhavetoaverygood-looking,verycondescending,verylazyman’scontempt。

Polly

Doyouhavealonghistoryofbrokenfriendships?

Doyouwanttoknowwhy?

WritetoPollyandshe’llventureahaphazardguessor?

two!

HeatherHavrilesky(akaPollyEsther)isTheAwl’sexistentialadvicecolumnist。

She’salsoaregularcontributortoTheNewYorkTimesMagazine,andistheauthorofthememoirDisasterPreparedness(Riverhead2011)。

Sheblogshereaboutscratchypants,personalitydisorders,andagedcheeses。

PhotobyDanCook。

Catphotoby“Heather。


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