Being a teenager is great. Your mind and body have been carefully calibrated at that age to make you think you're invincible, with muscles and bones that seem to snap right back into place after the roughest of trampoline falls or snowboarding accidents. And with a brain pliable enough to forget the trauma of it all within a few short hours, to boot. Old age seems lifetimes away. It's easy to convince yourself that you'll be like this forever, thinking your body is to aging what Superman's body is to bullets.
Well, you're in for a cold, hard dose of reality. The real world, with all its crusty, hairy, wrinkly grossness, is coming at you hard and fast ... and much sooner than you think. Maybe even right now, as you're in the midst of your youthful prime. So what can you expect to start fading away before people stop seeing you as a useless twentysomething? How about your beautiful, precious ...
#7. Fresh, Dewy Skin
If you believe only krokodil enthusiasts and Nazi Grail-hunters have to worry about early-onset skin decay, you're sadly mistaken. In your mid-20s, a time when you're just realizing that eating a pizza a day and sitting on your ass for eight hours straight in an office actually has a negative effect on your health, your skin begins the process of ripping itself apart.
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Your various body parts will race to be the first to touch the floor.
You can blame your deteriorating complexion on the slowed production of collagen and elastin, the two things that keep your skin from making you look like a basset hound. These main building blocks aren't the kind of proteins to stick around for long-term relationships. If you prefer to get all sciency about it, here: "Elastin, the substance that enables skin to snap back into place, has less spring and can even break" as you age.
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"No, you don't look bad. You look ... like you need rest."
At some point, your body figures that if you haven't landed a modeling job or a sugar daddy, you probably never will. As such, it decides to pack up all that youthful vitality and make a break for it. There's a genetics-imposed deadline for parlaying your looks into cold, hard cash, and chances are good that if you're reading this article, you've already blown past it. Especially when you also have to contend with no longer having ...
#6. Hair In All The Right Places
If right now you're a totally rad male college student with a savage mane of flowing hair, well, enjoy that thicket of pure sex atop your head while you can, because 25 percent of you will start losing it before you turn 30.
Slowly eroding the one symbol of manliness you never had to work to maintain isn't the only dickish thing your body does that involves your follicles. While you're losing the hair you most cherish, hair on other parts of your body actually grows more as you age. So while your head is looking more and more like a smooth stone in a garden, your nose will look like spiders are trying to crawl out of your brain.
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"You know, Ed: You can get all that lasered off nowadays."
The science behind this isn't particularly well understood, but it seems to have something to do with the ever-changing cocktail of hormones that permeates our bodies. Testosterone, in particular, appears to be responsible for hair growth and/or loss, depending on what part of the body you're looking at. And please step away from the steroids; they're not a solution. While they do help with certain types of hair loss if prescribed and applied correctly by a physician, they're not going to return your scalp to its former lush glory.
"Look at that hair! He must be juicing!"
And it's not just men approaching 30. Decreases in estrogen often lead to rogue chin and lip hair in women who still live in starter apartments adorned with stuffed-animal collections and empty wine boxes waiting for disposal "once the weather improves."
#5. A Reliable Immune System
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Allergy-rife weaklings are often looked down upon by those of us with iron-clad immune systems. We scoff at the peanut-free dorm dining halls and gluten warning labels, praising our hippy mothers for bathing us in mud puddles as babies and letting us lick park benches to strengthen our immune systems. But we find ourselves much less smug at the sudden appearance of adult-onset food allergies.
All the delicious things you used to enjoy -- ice cream, bread, edamame, peanut butter -- can suddenly start setting off typical allergic reactions ranging from hives to vomiting to anaphylactic shock when you're in your 20s.
Next up, suicide!
And it's not just food you have to worry about. Your immune system can literally decide to start attacking itself for no good reason, too. Rheumatoid arthritis, vitiligo, and the scarily named Graves disease can show up just as you're getting ready to trade in your first car for a slightly less crappy mode of transportation.
Why on Earth would it turn on itself like this? Doctors have a great response to that question: "Who the hell knows?"
"I don't know. Maybe you're just garbage. Ever thought of that?"
They cite everything from sunlight to drug allergies to viruses. If none of those float your boat, just go ahead and blame it all on your parents' shitty genes. Seriously, no one knows. Your guess is as good as anyone else's.
#4. A Functioning Esophagus
Acid reflux is not your dad's disease, despite what the commercial rife with sleeveless, middle-aged, Middle-America icons will have you believe. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, affects more than 40 percent of Americans, and not just the ones who complain about how their bum knees are affecting the ease of mounting their mid-life-crisis crotch rockets. It can start at any age, even childhood.
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Hope you enjoy your dinner of Tums and Prilosec, kid.
OK, so you have acid reflux. You'll have to pop a few of those pastel dollar-store sugar-chalk circles that always ended up at the bottom of your Halloween candy stash to calm the minor irritation. What's the big deal?
Oh, my sweet child, may your blissful ignorance last for all eternity. Acid reflux is not some over-hyped malady easily combated by chowing down on calcium carbonate tablets. GERD is capable of making your esophagus bleed. According to WebMD, "If the bleeding is heavy enough, blood can pass into the digestive tract and show up as dark, tarry stools."
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Continued acid exposure in some people causes permanent, irreversible damage, leading to an occasionally pre-cancerous condition known as Barrett's esophagus. It can also lead to gagging and choking in your sleep, causing you to wake up feeling like you can't breathe. That's right -- your body can give you the traumatizing experience of thinking you're going to die due to major organ failure just as you're beginning to realize everyone you went to high school with is getting married and having kids.