“I am tired of the cult of youth. The cultural rejection of old age, the stigmatization of wrinkles, gray hair, of bodies furrowed by the years…” — Tom Ford
We can’t wait to “grow up” when we’re young. However, once many of us reach adulthood, we regret our childhood wishes for autonomy, wisdom, and maturity, stopping in the tracks of our progress to turn around and chase after the Cult of Youth. I, for one, have no wish to trade my current life running a successful Austin interior design firm decades in the making for my teenage days spent aimlessly walking the mall and fretting about college applications, SAT scores, and course catalogs. (One of my kids is currently applying to college, and revisiting the process with them makes me glad to be grown up!)
While I don’t want to reclaim my youth, it’s easy to see why others do. Society touts youth as the best days of our lives, our physical peak, and the standard of beauty. Watching something so valued fade can be scary, so we cling to youth with expensive skincare products, spontaneous motorcycle purchases, and even “youthful” interiors. But what is so great about youth anyway? From the pimples to the lack of experience and resources, it is one of the most confusing and challenging parts of our lives to navigate. I say it’s time we age gracefully into grown-up life and interiors.
What is the Cult of Youth?
Indoctrination into the Cult of Youth is the rejection of aging into adulthood. It’s erasing laugh lines from your happiest moments and a furrowed brow from concentration in your field with Botox and fillers. It’s Peter Pan syndrome telling you to play hooky from work. It’s remodeling your house to fit the image of a magazine so you feel relevant and on-trend when the neighbors visit.
While we all know the Cult of Youth leads the beauty industry, a closer look reveals just how invasive this cult really is. Most companies out there are selling us the feeling of youth or completely disregarding adults altogether. While Facebook’s audience is now primarily older adults, Mark Zuckerberg has said, “serving young adults is the North Star, rather than optimizing for older people.” The Cult of Youth tells us that we aren’t valuable if we aren’t young.
The Perception of Youth is Relative and Two-sided
Our perception of youth is relative and morphed by the people we surround ourselves with and the community benchmarks for milestones such as marriage and kids. The same 28-year-old couple could be criticized for getting married “too young” or waiting “too long” based on the group’s view of youth. When I was a mom living in New York City, I was considered a young mother. However, that quickly flipped when we moved back to Austin, and I was the oldest mom in the playgroup. One plane ride suddenly altered my view of youth and made me feel old.
There are two sides to the Cult of Youth, and crossing over changes your value system. When we’re in the “prime of our youth,” all we want to be is older. Our younger selves are desperate to have it all together, seeking any way we can unlock the next level of adulthood. We read tips on how to make our hodgepodge apartments look more grown-up, and we smirk when we don’t get carded at the bar because we look like real adults. Once we enter adulthood, we learn that the promise of “having it all figured out” isn’t quite as true as we thought. Instead of settling into our successes, we focus on our compromises and look back to when things were simple, fun, and free. That’s how the Cult of Youth lures us in because the “good old days” weren’t as great as we tend to remember. “But don’t worry about that,” it tells us. We can get back that youthful feeling if we just change a few things in our stuffy, grown-up apartment.
The Cult of Youth’s Influence on Youthful Interiors & Trends
You worked so hard to have that grown-up apartment, but the Cult of Youth is here to tell you that the trends are fun, playful, and youthful. Interior design trends like Dopamine Decor and Barbiecore follow the same design principles we used in our childhood bedrooms, combining anything that strikes our fancy, from fairy lights to stolen street signs. While these trends are posed as the freedom to express ourselves, do any of us really want to return to our childhood bedroom? Additionally, more and more interior design trends from the 70s and 80s are coming back in vogue. Is it a coincidence that we’re gravitating towards the same brass fixtures, dark woods, and chintz florals from our childhood homes? Interior design should embrace our comforts and personality, but not at the expense of pushing our lives forward.
Rejecting the Cult of Youth
While most fashion designers worship youth, Tom Ford has flat-out rejected it. He says, “I am tired of the cult of youth. The cultural rejection of old age, the stigmatization of wrinkles, gray hair, of bodies furrowed by the years. I am fascinated by Diana Vreeland, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Louise Bourgeois, women who have let time embrace them without ever cheating. Society today condemns this. Me, I celebrate it.”
It’s time for us all to stop romanticizing youth. After all, it’s so uninteresting. Why do we pine for a time when we lacked agency, experience, and wealth when we’re sitting at the helm of adulthood and the wisdom, influence, and ability that comes with it? When we embrace aging, we can appreciate the value of life and our daily experiences. We’ve had our youth and all the trials, tribulations, and uncoordinated design decisions that come with it. It’s time to enjoy adulthood and embrace our stuffy, grown-up homes.
We worked hard for them.
Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.