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How to Actually Be Honest About the 10-Year Aging Challenge

It's a meme about confronting our mortality. So why is everyone so bubbly about it?

Fun fact: We, all of us, are aging every second, essentially programmed to die. Over the years, as a species, we’ve come up with some good ways to avoid thinking about this — things like octopus wrestling, getting married and watching something called Netflix.

But now there’s a new way to ward off those pesky thoughts of mortality. It’s called the #10yearchallenge. In it, you take a photo of yourself from 2009 and one from 2019 where you look identical and put them beside each other and pretend you’ve aged a lot. Then, sit back and watch that sweet, sweet #engagement flow. Comments like “No way, you look amazing!” will roll in like waves of time lapping against your individual cell quality.

It’s actually pretty fun! From perusing the wealth of offerings of those who’ve shown great courage in taking this challenge, I’ve devised a few universal tips on how to age gracefully. While my main advice, thanks to celebs, is that the glow of flawless skin is usually also the glow of vast personal wealth, there are some other clues in the challenges that can teach us how to confront our own mortality with moxie and verve.

Pretend You Didn’t Notice the Passage of Time

What’s that? There’s a space-time continuum? Why, I didn’t even notice because I was having so much fun!

Pretend You’ve Gotten Very Old but Are ~LOVING IT~

Aging is the best, guys! I can’t wait to buy more of it!

Apologize for Getting Hotter 

I can’t help it if the universe keeps making me get more sexy!

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Pretend It’s Not Just a Superficial Difference

My goodness, look how time can change your hair color.

Show Gratitude That You Got Older (More Stylish and Better Looking)

We look so different than we used to. Whereas before we were extremely hot, now we are extremely hot.

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#10yearchallenge closer now ❤️❤️

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Be Courageous

At the risk of actually showing you how much I’ve aged in 10 years, I will show you that I have not aged in 20 years.

Of course, those are celebrities, and mostly women celebrities, whose very fame is often entirely derived from their looks. The meme trickled down to Normals a little differently. I wouldn’t reproduce the personal challenges of my actual acquaintances here, but I started to notice some interesting patterns in the posts from people I’d known in real life all this time.

The women I know, particularly those with children, made sure to semi-apologize that they know they are now 30 pounds heavier. In one instance, a woman said she knew she’d “never again have the body of her youth,” but that in both instances, it was sad-okay because they had children, so they sad-didn’t-mind.

The men I know were more inclined to do straight jokes; they made almost no attempt to explain away their looks. If anything, they posted a legit before with an after that reflected extreme aging, like the Crypt Keeper. This is as you’d expect: Women, always judged more harshly by their appearances, tend to outline clear asterisks for why they don’t look as good as they used to, leaning heavily on the way breeding ravages everything. Men, who aren’t, could just crack wise.

These are anecdotal generalizations of course, but the main takeaway is that social media has not only forced us all to constantly appraise our appearances like nothing before it, but it has also forced us to justify somehow not transcending space and time, as if we ought to be able to now that we have so much organic food and so many good photo filters.

After a day or two of being barraged with the aw-shucks posts, the clear thirst traps and the extreme jokes to participate without participating, I began bracing myself for another bumblingly self-deprecating post explaining simply having gotten older, as if it requires any explanation whatsoever. I started wondering: We do know we’re supposed to get older, right?

Bearing witness to post after post of people cringing at their current selves, it became evident that the crime was not aging badly, it was aging at all. The only way to win the challenge was to age either zero or in reverse, to elicit confusion as to which picture was then and which was now. Gross.

Of course, there was one exception: People who’d gone from literal children to adults in the span of the last 10 years needed no real excuse. But anyone around 30 or older posting from their early 20s or before had better make us jealous by explaining that even they had no idea how they pulled this crazy anti-aging thing off! I guess I’m just the opposite of biological, guys!

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2000 to 2019 ??‍♂️

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Shrug, indeed.

But what if this meme were really honest? What would we be sharing instead?

I started wishing that alongside the photos, I could download, Matrix-style, some kind of dossier on every person’s lifestyle and habits, DNA and genetic predispositions, environmental conditions and vices, income and access to medicine, spas, facials and self-care. I wanted a panel of doctors and scientists to collate the information into easy-to-read charts and graphs to explain how two siblings from the same family could age so differently and why having children jams the aging gear into overdrive for some people. And then I wanted stylists and aestheticians to break down every serum and aesthetic choice, a dermatologist to explain sun damage and show us a picture of something called “truck-driver skin” and an addiction specialist to explain the ravages of drinking, smoking and drug use.

But that’s entirely missing the point, isn’t it? Maybe the best way to deal with aging, for most of us, is to do our best, take our lumps and turn the cringes into laughs. Which is why I was grateful when the detached ironic wave of memes started rolling through:

We are going to age, after all, so perhaps the above memes demonstrate that perfectly: At best, try to slightly upgrade what is clearly a garbage deal into something funny. A special thank you to Snoop Dogg for showing us how it’s done.

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