Blooming, Scenting, Withering - Her Beauty of Aging

Perhaps I’m too afraid of growing old. Perhaps aging is more beautiful than youth. Philosophies are easier said than done, though - I am still in my early 20s. But merely through my observation did I realize that there is beauty in simply gracing through one’s life.

Blooming, Scenting, Withering - Her Beauty of Aging
“You're beautiful,” Barbie exclaimed when she saw the old woman.
“I know it!” A smile bloomed on her wrinkled face.

She grows up in a world obsessed with youth and perfection. She is hyper-aware of her flawed existence, and nostalgic of her passing years. She spends so little time looking deep into each other’s eyes to see true beauty. Each and every scar she earned, inside and outside, are living proof of the battles she won in this glorious arena called life.


Youthful. Beautiful. Perfect. Those were the thoughts that appeared in my mind the first time I did my own makeup, put on a velvet dress that I didn't have before, and wore perfume behind my earlobes. One of the rare days when I woke up as Barbie girl in my Barbie world, when my reflection showed the figure I aspire to be.

Believe me, I was never the Barbie type back in my teenage years - what’s there to dress up for when you sneak out of school gates in uniforms for lunch or coffee? When I was a freshman, I remember being overwhelmed with guilt the first time I ordered a dress from Shopee without asking my mom. By then, I had no close friends, and I was so afraid of looking lame.

You could only imagine how desperate I became. To quench my restless curiosity, I dove into conversations that circulated around fitness, skincare and beauty trends. The more I discovered, the more I realized so much knowledge and effort is needed in boosting looks and covering flaws. The popular “what’s your color?” quiz gradually became hour-long presentations with my girl squad on layering make-up. Before I was consciously aware, my morning routine has involved a Barbie-type dress-up session of me opening my closet and choosing among styles and collections.

Yet I can’t help but wonder: what is it that we are trying to cover? From the bags below our eyes from sleepless study nights, to the paleness of our lips during that-time-of-the-month, to the extra fat in our belly from a full lunch. Why do I try to conceal the fact that my body is gaining energy, becoming exhausted, or simply going through normal cycles? Why do we consider living gross, and try to mold it into a stainless shape?


At this point, you might accuse me of being hyper-critical, or being a try-hard feminist. It is almost impossible for me to notice something without questioning whether I am melodramatic. Yet, as I am growing and blooming, I watch my close ones wither and fall, which makes me question if being young is a blessing or a curse. 

I happen to enter the path of the healer, dedicating myself to what others view as the “noble cause” - the course of medicine. The deeper I learn about humans, the more I understand how helpless and flawed the female body is. Period, pregnancy, labor, menopause - all of these natural courses in a woman’s life change us forever. Trying hard to impress a significant other, to lose weight, to remain smooth-skinned and unwrinkled - all of these seem so insignificant in the destructive powers of fate. The elasticity of our skin is lost to diminishing collagen, increasing fat, degenerating bone, and raging mood. This ending is unavoidable.

Yet, when I leave my classroom and go to media platforms, most of the article titles seem to be mowing a common lawn: “she looks just like 20 years before”, “she rocks it with that hot body”, “her slim waist/long legs/gorgeous hair is driving people crazy”, “she comes back so fit after giving birth.” Is it me, or is this world so obsessed with youthful beauty? Am I no longer beautiful when I’m not an eye candy?


“Perhaps it’s just my age,” I told myself. “When people are at this age, they start having existential crisis.” So I start looking for an answer by observing how older women in my life made it through. My grandmother, being in her 80s with a triple chronic conditions, growing orchids year by year, walking a mile every morning. My mother, reading through our textbooks to assist us even after her lengthy days at work. My professor, back and forth from her worldwide travels, radiating energy every time I walk into her office. My senior dormmate, balancing her financial difficulty, her big family and her second degree, yet never skipping a Sunday prayer. There is something essentially beautiful about them that illuminates over their appearance, something that built up rather than wore out through challenges they faced.

Perhaps I’m too afraid of growing old. Perhaps aging is more beautiful than youth. Philosophies are easier said than done, though - I am still in my early 20s. But merely through my observation did I realize that there is beauty in simply gracing through one’s life. Suddenly I remember the old story about blooming flowers - somebody has said that all flowers are beautiful, but completely unaware of this fact. They care not to compare themself to the adjacent buds, nor if they are in a bouquet or beside a forgotten road. They bloom when it is time to bloom, and wither when it is time to wither…

Songs I listened to while writing this piece:

Writer: Đoàn Nguyễn Khánh Thư (Melissa)