Truth is, I find middle age to be every bit as awkward as puberty. Even as the grim reaper approaches and my eggs are dying off by the masses, I don’t really feel mentally any different than I did two decades ago. I suspect this has a lot to do with not having children and therefore not marking time by all the milestones that go along with the business of raising children.
Lest you think I am totally cool with this aging business, I’m not.
However, I do think attitude is everything—and that is saying something coming from me, the Grand Master of Bad Attitude. Yeah, I’m older now, but I’m also wiser and that means not putting up with society’s bullshit like labels that seek to demean me for things I can’t control—like gravity or how many times the earth rotates while I’m on it.
We’re now living in a society where everyone gets old but no one is allowed to age—least of all women.
This is especially tough if you have worked in areas that put a premium on youth and good looks—which as it turns out, is everywhere these days. If you have any doubt of this, cue up a few episodes of The Twilight Zone, which reveals what life was like BB—Before Botox. Now, even character actors must meet a newer standard of youth and beauty.
The older I get, the more I see the reality of ageism and how your age instantly shapes people’s opinions of you in mostly negative ways before they ever get to know you. In our culture, being old or fat will pretty much guarantee your marginalization as a woman. The truth is, a lot of people make getting older suck donkey butt. Worse, I have found that often it is other women who do most of the demeaning, especially when it comes to our appearances.
Does this mean I’m opposed to cosmetic upkeep? No.
In fact, I would argue that for some women, it could be a self-esteem lifesaver. I once asked my eighty-year-old grandmother if she had any regrets. She said she wished she had gotten a facelift in her 50s or 60s—that she missed having a youthful face the most during that time and she thinks it would have made her feel better about herself. She didn’t have the benefit of Botox or injections that women have now and while I was sort of horrified by that statement at the time I can now see her point. Losing your looks is a loss and there is nothing fun about that. And yes men—we do know that we still do not look twenty with cosmetic upkeep. We’re simply trying to maintain what we have and go off into the sunset whilst jumping on trampolines pee-pants-free.
There is most definitely pressure to remain the physically perfect specimen you were in high school—which is frankly impossible, even with cosmetic enhancements and working out like a fiend. Most of us will one day be faced with the choice to gain a couple of pounds and look younger in the face, or remain tiny and let go of some youthfulness that injections can’t put back. And I’m well aware that some of you have had kids and look perfect. Good for you! There are many factors that go into a person’s appearance as they age—health problems, stress, pregnancy, hormone levels, time spent in the sun, finances and just plain old genetics to name a few.
Maddeningly, few beauty standards apply to men—where bellies and brows are still the norm in most advertising targeted at the ‘average’ man.
Women who date younger men are subjected to ridicule while men date across generations without comment—I will refrain from using the C-word here. Most single women I know have no interest in a long term relationship with anyone they could have given birth to—so there is that.
And we all saw how that shit worked out for Demi.
But I really don’t think it’s fair to judge women for enjoying the same things men have enjoyed for eternity, do you?
Looks aside, the most important part of aging is your attitude.
Everything that I enjoyed in college, I still enjoy. Sure, I don’t go to clubs very often because I have a house with amenities I could only dream about in my twenties and I’m not trying to escape my parents or a shitty roommate. But I can play my guitar loud at 1AM if I feel like it—and sometimes I do! I don’t let my age keep me from discovering new music, taking classes or enjoying things obviously targeted for younger people. I’m not trying to be twenty; I’m just continuing to be the person I’ve always been—somebody who likes creative things and people and doesn’t really look for anyone’s approval when it comes to the things I like.
It really doesn’t bother me when younger people don’t get my cultural references or if they think I’m old. Cuz duh—I am old compared to them! I’m sure I didn’t get the cultural references of those who were a generation older than me when I was eighteen. It bothers me more that older people can live in the world without noticing the cultural progress around them. I truly hope I am never completely technologically inept or unable to enjoy new music or clueless as to what the average fifteen year old might find interesting.
Younger people have taught me a lot about the world and I’m grateful to share the planet with them.
Hint to old people: The coolest young people are out doing things we only dreamed about as kids. They’re starting businesses and charities—they multi-task like the craziest motherfuckers I have ever seen and I think you should give them another shot because they’re gonna own this place in a few years.
My best advice for anyone feeling left behind due to their age is to lighten up and enjoy all the great things about getting older—like not having student loans, curfews, SAT classes and giving fucks about prom.