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  • Writer's pictureKristen Garaffo

Older, Wiser, Hotter

“Aw, come on. You gotta know this song. It’s Whitney Houston. From the 80’s! You’re a Gen Xer, right? You gotta know it!”

It was 10am in San Diego, and I found myself in the back of an Uber, shooting daggers at the driver who had just asked if I wanted to sing karaoke. At 10am. On a Thursday. After politely saying no, I don’t want to sing I Wanna Dance With Somebody on this 10 minute Uber drive to the airport, he then proceeded to assume that I was in my early 40s.

As a millennial, I was mortified.

The youngest people who are considered Gen X were born in 1980, which would make them 43 years old today, and seven years older than I actually am. And even though this Uber driver was a stranger, and completely obnoxious, I could feel my cheeks flush with a mix of shame and embarrassment. Do I really look like I’m in my 40s? Seven years older than I actually am? What the hell! Yes, I’m in my mid-30s, but I am not 40 years old yet and what made this man think that I am? Is it how I’m dressed? Is it my skin? Am I getting wrinkles? Shit!

I should also preface this by saying that up until this point, I had quite literally never experienced anyone assume I am older than I actually am. As an actor in my 20s, I consistently booked roles for characters that were younger than I actually was. I learned that I should milk this time in my career —the time where being petite, cute and 22 years old meant that I could play children and teenagers on stage. I spent all of my 20s, and even my early 30s growing accustomed to acquaintances being shocked when I told them how old I was, since I apparently still looked like I was in high school. But this interaction with the obnoxious Uber driver? No one prepared me for the day I’d be pegged as older than I actually am.

Weeks later, I met a friend for lunch, and as we chatted about our jobs, our goals, and what our spring/summer wardrobe was shaping up to be this year, a small group of high school girls walked by. My friend let out a small, relieved sigh and said, “Aren’t you so glad we’re in our 30s?”

I smiled. Her perspective was refreshing and welcome. I thought for a second, and agreed. Yes. My 30s, so far, have been pretty incredible. Every year of this decade has gifted me with a little more confidence, a little less caring what people think, and another year where I feel more grounded in who I am than I ever have before. I know that I work best in the morning. That I prefer staying in than going out. I know what I’m good at, and what I’m not good at. I finally have a consistent skincare routine. I don’t actually care about how many followers I have on Instagram. I know I would have so many more creative ideas if I just put my phone down (damnit!). After years of figuring it out, I finally have a sense of my own personal style. And I know that I’m going to continue deepening my relationship with myself and the world around me as I continue to get older. And what a gift that is.

So I come back to that karaoke moment in the Uber at 10am, and I find myself thinking, man that guy was an idiot, but also… should I really have felt so offended? Because first of all, 40 is not old. Second of all, we all know that beauty standards in our country are totally absurd, and that in general, we’re pretty obsessed with the idea of youth and appearing younger than we really are. But why? I know it’s about looks, but I can think of plenty of moments from my 20s where I had no idea what I was doing and where I felt completely crippled by self doubt, which in turn, affected my energy and what I was putting out into the world. I was able to turn it all around when I dove head first into yoga, meditation and personal development in my late 20s… but again, that came as I got older. I, in turn, got wiser. And ultimately, let’s be real… I got hotter.

Sure, hotness can be about looks, but if you think about it in that way, hotness is relative. I like to think that being hot isn’t so much about looks, but more about a vibe. It’s confidence, and that looks different on everyone. And if I’m being totally honest, I think I’m just getting hotter. (yeah, I said it!) I’ve figured shit out about myself, and sure, that includes how to put together fierce outfits, but it also includes a quiet confidence that comes with age. So maybe the next time someone mistakenly tells me I must be a few years older than I actually am, I can take it in stride. Because aging is a gift.

I recently saw the most beautiful woman grab a coffee at Ralph’s Coffee, in what I presumed to be head-to-toe Ralph Lauren. She wore an iconic navy blazer with gold buttons and the classic Ralph Lauren insignia on it. The crispiest white collared shirt I’ve literally ever seen. Dark wash denim that fit her perfectly. Black velvet flats. It was like she glided into the coffee shop, and I literally had to stop mid-conversation and tell my friend to look at this exquisite woman in this perfect outfit. I don’t know how old she was, but her hair was white, and she had that quiet confidence that only comes with age. “I want to be her when I get older,” I whispered to my friend, who replied, “You will be!” and I then got butterflies thinking about my imaginary older self sipping on a coffee in Ralph Lauren. If getting older means giving off the vibes this woman at the coffee shop was giving? Sign me up.

Today I turn 36. And listen, 36 is not really old. I know that. I still have moments though where I’m like oh god, I’m an old lady now even though I know I’m not. I still have a lot to learn about a lot of things, and one of those things is aging. And aging gracefully. But instead of thinking that my best days are behind me, I’ve decided to think that my best days are actually ahead. And that my older self is iconic. And I can’t wait to be her.



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