Yesterday, Women’s Health shared photos of their May cover star, Hilary Duff. Posing nude, she looks radiant, fit and healthy, garnering a number of compliments in the process. Soon after the photos were released, a Lizzie McGuire-themed Twitter account re-posted them, writing, “Hilary Duff has aged like a fine wine.”
But Hilary Duff is 34. What the fuck do you mean she’s aged like a fine wine?
Obviously, I understand that it’s also intended to be a compliment, and in a literal sense, yes, Duff is older than she was when we first met her on Disney. But the phrase “aged like a fine wine” bears certain connotations, particularly that she’s, well, old. Duff isn’t the only young celebrity to get the “fine wine” treatment, either. A quick search on Twitter shows it being used in reference to 28-year-old Justin Bieber, 37-year-old Scarlett Johansson and several K-Pop stars who can’t be much older than 30. On TikTok and Twitter, too, people use it in reference to themselves to mark their 27th birthday.
In theory, what all of this should mean is that people are becoming even more attractive as time goes on, but what they really seem to be saying when they invoke the phrase is that they expect people to retire their decrepit bodies to the nursing home once they hit their third decade. There’s a sense of surprise that someone can be hot and not in their teens and early 20s.
This is not simply idiotic for its bizarre ageism — it also, in terms of wine, just doesn’t make sense. According to VinePair, 98 percent of wines aren’t meant to be aged, and instead have a shelf life of only three to five years. Plenty of the wines in this category could be considered “fine,” too. Essentially all white wines and rosés are meant to be consumed right away, no matter how fancy their origin. And even among the wines that do well with 20 or 30 years in storage, it isn’t as though they perpetually get better and better as time goes on. Instead, they reach a peak that varies from wine to wine, and gently taper off in quality from there.
But regardless of the wine-aging process, it’s a rather cruel way to talk about a human being. So yes, maybe neither Hilary Duff nor Justin Bieber have yet become their most attractive selves and continue to raise the bar as time goes on. The framing, however, continues to point to our obsession with youth, a backhanded compliment that says you think most 34-year-olds look past their prime. Of course Duff looks hot at 34 — she’s always been beautiful, has the money to look however she’d like, and again, is only 34.
We don’t need to qualify any of this by comparing her to fermented grapes, particularly when the analogy doesn’t quite add up. You can just say she looks hot, instead.