Aging. It's what's for breakfast, lunch and dinner for man, woman and beast.
No one who's alive isn't doing it. It's one of the great unifiers that makes us all, at our core, the same.
Perhaps because it's what we all have in common that we tend to talk about it so much—and once you've passed, say, 21 (because at one point the government decided that legal drinking is ev-ry-thiiiiing), rarely does the conversation touch upon how great it is to grow another year older. Even though, as George Clooney has pointed out, the alternative to growing older is...to not.
The notion of aging well differs depending on who you ask, but most of the time we're talking about how we look on the surface: Our skin, our hair, our bodies, etc. It's a great mark of pride to "look so much younger" or at least not like whatever your age is.
Whatever that means.
Getty Images; Melissa Hebeler/E! Illustration
Salma Hayek turns 50 today, so we're taking the opportunity, right here and now, to try and put a stop to any preconceived notions about what people are supposed to look like—at any age.
Yes, obviously the radiant Hayek had a head start from the get-go, having spent the last 30 years being one of the most aesthetically pleasing humans on the planet. So that, combined with the resources of her own successful career and, more recently, perhaps those of her billionaire husband, pretty much ensured that she could age as "well" as she damn well pleased.
But we maintain that the reason we've considered Hayek to be ageless for as long as she's been famous is more of a testament to how she's lived her life, to her vibrancy, than to how she looks. She was just one of the voices in Sausage Party, for goodness' sake!
And now that we're seeing our longtime-favorite celebrities—the ones who were some sort of vague "grown-up" age when we were kids and teens—approach, achieve and then pass 40, 45, and now 50, here's hoping we can all be comforted by the fact that the party doesn't stop at 35. (Or 27, if you poll certain concerned 26-year-olds.)
Now, while Hollywood does have it up on the rest of us when it comes to the means and, in many cases, the DNA to make any age look better than the one that came before, if you're looking for role models to help you worry less about aging... there's no better group of accidental therapists than the latest crop of actresses who've snuck into their 50s.
God bless Halle Berry, who turned 50 on Aug. 14, looking otherworldly in her bikini the other day—but let's really praise the fact that she's always just been Halle Berry, now a mother of two and more life-experienced than she was at 25, but still the same playful, spirited person in interviews and on camera. Only two years removed from her latest turn as Storm in the X-Men franchise, in her next movie she plays a determined mom who chases down her young son's kidnappers herself—she's an action hero, in case anyone thought only Liam Neeson could do parental revenge of a certain age.
The same goes for perennial favorite Sandra Bullock, 52 years old and the same goddess she always was, winning the 2016 People's Choice Award for Favorite Movie Actress. Julia Roberts was 22 when Pretty Woman came out and will be 49 this year—and we've yet to come across a single person who loved her then who does not still love her now. Melissa McCarthy is 46 and one of the most ubiquitous comedic actresses on the big screen. Meryl Streep is 67 and her energy is palpable.
Not average people, yes, but at the same time, all very much human.
Isn't it kind of fabulous to be growing older (aka living) in a time when aging is what all the people in the world are doing, even the famous ones?
Of course, the way people process the math is different for everybody. Some like to enjoy the fact that they're a decade younger than, say, Reese Witherspoon or Gwyneth Paltrow and—what do you know?!—always will be. Some marvel at how beautiful those women "still" are. Others relish being around the same age as those who, for them, represent #goals of all kinds (guilty, particularly when it comes to Beyoncé and Gisele Bundchen).
And then there are those who find out another person's age, younger or older, who they've known of for a long time, and out comes the old chestnut: "Ugh, so-and-so is 25? I feel so old."
Sigh. Why is that? You didn't just lose five years from your own life because you were reminded of science.
Speaking of which, attitudes aside, we're all combating the cold unfairness of science here. We're bestowed with certain physical abilities at ages when our brains have no hope of keeping up. You can have the heart and lungs of a tennis player in her prime but the knees of a retired linebacker. A 13-year-old may be physically able to get pregnant, but a 47-year-old who would make the greatest mom ever might have to struggle to conceive.
But childbearing can go wrong when you're 22, just as it can still go perfectly smoothly when you're 45. Nature and DNA affect our insides differently, just as they do our outsides. That part is a genetic crap shoot.
And it's not as though all of the women mentioned above are in love with the physical aspects of aging.
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for GUCCI
Even Hayek acknowledged to InStyle U.K. recently that, heading into her 50s, her "body confidence isn't that good."
"I think it depends on the day," she added. "For everybody, there's some days you say, 'This is it,' and you love it. Then there are days when you go, 'This cannot be it! Is this really it?' So I think it's up and down all the time!"
But that can happen at 23, too, if I remember correctly.
"I just have kept reminding myself that beauty really is as beauty does, and it is not so much about my physical self," Berry told Yahoo Beauty last year. "Aging is natural, and that's going to happen to all of us.... I just want to always look like myself, even if that's an older version of myself."
"I feel that aging is a privilege. I think that it's something that I feel very honored that I get to do," Cameron Diaz, now 44, whose Body Book and Longevity Book are all about embracing what's yours, feeling healthy and aging well in the truest sense of the word, told Oprah Winfrey in 2014.
If you're wondering why these women sound so wise when it comes what can be a very touchy, angst-riddled subject, it's probably because they had to start thinking about it long before your average non-celebrity has to. You know, for work.
Extra years still aren't exactly considered a hot commodity in Hollywood. As Cher, who turned 70 this year, once said, "It's a shame to be discarded because of something that happens to everybody. Old is like an enemy you have to make peace with before you get there."
Yet Cher is further proof that you can be timeless. And there's been a gradual sea change in show business, as the A-list of our youth has matured a bit and found no reason to relinquish its throne.
So while it's pointless to sweat whether or not we look like the prettiest people in the world, we can use them to be reminded that, aside from the science stuff, there are fewer rules than ever about what age means, what you can or can't do, what you can wear, when you can start your family or how many times you can hit re-start on your career.
Oh, and P.S.: There's no such thing as looking your age.