Everyone’s been there. Someone is trying to give you a compliment by asking you how old you are, and then saying something to the effect of, “Wow, you look really good for your age!” or “Amazing, you don’t look 40-years-old!”

It probably affects women more than men, but I think this is a compliment that needs to die. Women need to take it upon themselves to kill it dead. Because that compliment isn’t so much a compliment as it is a red flag. The person giving the compliment has some kind of notion in their head of what a certain age should or shouldn’t look like. And their way of telling you that you look good is to tell you that you surprised them.

When this compliment is given, what women need to do is say, “This is what 40-years-old looks like. I’m not sure what you were told, but you’re wrong.” Or something to that effect. It’s tempting to just say thank you and move on, but that allows the misconception to stand and perpetuate.

Our society already puts so much pressure on women to stay perpetually young. We experience so much stress around the process of aging. So much that we hate ourselves and take pride when we look better than another woman (putting sisters down… how is that helping anyone?). So much that we starve, drug, inject and ingest toxins, and mutilate ourselves trying to remain beautiful.

Read that last part again: trying to remain beautiful.

Youth does not equal beauty. Every age has its own blessings and curses, things to celebrate and things we just have to learn to accept. Self-love is a life-long journey, as we are challenged to accept our changing bodies and capabilities. The amount of pressure put on us to remain unchanging is cruel in its impossibility. And compliments tying age to beauty makes that self-love even harder.

Regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman, if you see someone that is beautiful, tell them that. As simply as that. There’s no reason to bring age into the conversation at all. Because beauty is there at 18, at 38, at 68.

Age is just a number. Subtract it from the compliment, and we might get the solution we’re looking for.


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