Old Talk is the New Fat Talk

More young women are complaining about aging, but it's basically the same old body bashing by a new name. Question is: Should we nuke it? Or embrace it?
by Erin Bried


Claire BenoistClaire Benoist I went shopping recently over my lunch hour and hit all the usual cool but cheap stores nearby: H&M, Joe Fresh, Urban Outfitters. After trying on a few pairs of fire-engine red jeans, I returned to my desk, empty-handed and slightly depressed. I took to Twitter to vent: "Between the clear Swatches, floral jeans & neon sweatshirts, every store is a window into my junior high closet." In other words, it wasn't because I felt poor or even fat that I didn't buy anything. It was because I felt old.

To be clear, I'm not at all old. I'm solidly in my 30s. Which you and I both know is code for late 30s, which means nearly 39. I type that number with trepidation, as if adding another candle to my cake is something to feel bad about, rather than an event worth celebrating.

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Anyway, this sudden realization of being not over the hill, but on the hill and ascending, took me by surprise, which is why I felt compelled to joke about it. And which, experts say, is very on-trend: Old talk is officially challenging fat talk as the new self-bashing among women, according to a new study in the Journal of Eating Disorders. It found that 66 percent of women talk smack about their age or their looks in relationship to age. We say things like, "Ugh, look at these wrinkles" or "You don't look a day over 21! What's your secret?" The real surprise? How young we start: Nearly half of 18- to 29-year-olds participate in old talk, and it only gets worse as we get older.

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To test the prevalence of old talk, I roamed the SELF office looking for evidence. Easy: It's everywhere. "If a salesclerk calls me Ma'am, my friends won't hear the end of it," says Marissa Stephenson, 30, SELF's fitness editor. "First, I imagine that the twentysomething is just being a snot. Then, I think, Maybe she isn't! She sees the crinkly lines around my eyes and the lines on my forehead! I'll never be a 'miss' again."

At 28, beauty editor April Franzino no longer feels "young-young." "My friends and I talk about getting old constantly: 'My hands look so wrinkly!' 'We're definitely the oldest people in this bar!' 'We're old and I'm still single!'"

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