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Life with a smile: Some thoughts about looking younger 

By KATE SNYDER

Community columnist

With one notable exception, the public response to my new hairstyle has been overwhelmingly positive. The exception was my 11-year-old daughter. She doesn’t like change, at all. Not even in the form of her mother’s funky new haircut. 

She cried when I showed her my inspiration picture. When I arrived home from the salon, she refused to look at me for a good 10 minutes before gathering the courage to take a quick peek. At first, she hated it, a fact she shared with me several times before I informed her she’d reached her quota, and any additional commentary would be judged rude and hurtful.

Now she loves it — because kids are resilient and fickle.

Anyway, everyone else has raved about the new look and I’ve been happily basking in the positive feedback. There is, however, one genre of comment that gives me pause. Several people have told me that the new style makes me look younger.

I’m not sure what to do with that.

I absolutely understand and appreciate that these words — uttered by women — were meant to be affirming and positive. Apparently, it’s an obvious compliment to be told that you look younger. My first instinctive response was pleasure, but the more I thought about it, the more questions I had.

Why am I supposed to look younger? Younger than what? Is there a particular age that I should be aiming for in my visual appearance? 

Once she had acclimated to the hair, my daughter told me I looked like a teenager who doesn’t listen to her parents. I was a bit horrified. Is that how I look, like I’m trying to be a teenager? 

Or maybe that’s the ultimate goal of middle-aged women. Perhaps there is no higher compliment.

But here’s the thing — I’m not a teenager, or a 20-something. I’m a 38-year-old mother of three. I have stretch marks. I’m carrying around an extra 10  — okay, 30 pounds that I picked up somewhere in the last decade or so, years which correlate suspiciously with the arrival of my children. 

I have grey hair, which I love. Seriously, I like my grey hairs. I think they’re flashy. My stylist offered to cover them up when we colored my hair earlier this month, but why would I want to do that when my hair catches the light and sparkles? The short cut accentuates the grey — which I refer to affectionately as my unicorn shimmer. 

When do we switch from wanting to look older, to wanting to look younger? When you’re a child, looking older is a compliment. It suggests maturity and wisdom. Then there are the teenage and college years, when we’re eager to play grownup — or at least sneak a beer. 

Is that the turning point, the moment when we can legally buy alcohol? After you get rid of the fake ID, is there ever a need or desire for a woman to look older than she is? Is 21 considered the pinnacle age for women, after which it’s all downhill? 

Perish the thought.

I don’t need to look younger than I am. I’ve earned my grey hair, the lines near my eyes and the squish around my middle. Those babies didn’t birth themselves any more than the cookies ate themselves. There was work involved with both!

I’m happy to hear that my hair flatters my face. Or shows off my eyes or matches my glasses. If you really want to make me happy, tell me my hair suits my personality. After all, who doesn’t want to think of themselves as feisty and bold?

Or you could just say — “Dang, girl. You look good.” Those words feel good at any age!