A few months ago, Millennial women were under attack. Gen Z was coming for us, via TikTok. Young women with flawless skin and wrinkle-free foreheads wielded harsh criticism, like, “You can always tell a Millennial by her side part and skinny jeans.” They made videos to show us how much better people look with middle parts and wide-leg jeans. It was a whole moment, when Millennial women felt the condemnation of being declared uncool. We of course reacted by being defensive. When I described this to my friend, she just said, “Call me when your hair starts to lose volume. You’ll love that side part.”

All of this back and forth about clothing and hair reminds us that “Millennial” used to mean “fun and irresponsible young person.” It now means we’re approaching 40. I no longer get carded when buying alcohol. My gray streaks are noticeable even on Zoom and FaceTime. I am deeply anxious of what people will think when they see me in person after a year of filtered video calls. I’ve invested in anti-wrinkle creams — yes, plural. I do not have the same body I had even at 30. I complain about backaches. This whole reckoning of the Millennial hit me hard.

I responded to it as I always do, by shopping for jeans. I am embarrassed to admit this, but I actually thought, “What if my jeans are what is aging me? What if a new pair of wide-leg or flare or whatever is out there would make me look and feel younger?” I followed my well-trodden path of internet searches for the best jeans for my body type. Because there’s one thing I know: If my heart is where my treasure is, then my heart is in a drawer full of denim.

We all have something (or many somethings) that we trust to save us. For me, one of those saviors is a great pair of jeans. I scroll social media, which of course knows that I believe in the delivering power of denim, and every ad has a new pair for me. The perfect pair will hide every flaw, smooth every imperfection, and right every mistake of diet and lack of exercise. If I could only find the exact right pair, I would be cute and pulled together and ready to face the world. But for some reason, when the jeans arrive, my life is not magically fixed. My legs do not look like the model’s. My entire wardrobe does not look better. I do not have a different body. I do not look younger than I did without the jeans.

Of course this is to be expected. The lie of most advertising is cyclical. First they tell us we are not good enough, and then they sell us something that will make everything alright. You’re not fit enough, but if you try this workout, you’ll be fixed. You’re not stylish enough, you might even be frumpy, but if you shop here, we can solve that! Thou shalt not have gray hair or wrinkles, so we have the serum for you! It is nothing new. Advertising has always relied on casting an impossible vision of what we should and can be.

All of this sets up an ideal world, a perfect life where we never hurt or wrong or age. But, simply by virtue of being human, we fail at attaining it. Where the world says we can achieve and control our way out of brokenness, this new law of anti-aging and constant youthfulness tells us that if we just buy all the right products and do the right workouts and cut the right food groups, we will finally be forever young. But a look at the future tells us we will inevitably fail, because no matter what kind of jeans we wear, we will all die.

My drawer full of disappointing jeans reminds me that while I trust in denim, it cannot save me. All the products in the world will not keep me from growing older. This is where the Gospel consoles us — we are flawed, there is nothing we can do to preserve our own lives, but we are loved beyond all possible imagination. The law of fighting against death, even seen through our silly societal rules about aging and thinness and hairstyles and denim, has been fulfilled in Christ and his death on our behalf. So middle part, side part, skinny jeans or wide-leg, self-conscious or confident, you are no longer under the mandate to remain young and beautiful. This is the freedom of the Gospel. Wear the skinny jeans. Or don’t. Enjoy your forgiveness.