There are many aphorisms about aging, “Age is only a number” or “You’re only as old as you feel” or “40 is the new 30” etc. Call me old and cranky, but I hate them all! Of course, there’s truth to all of these sayings. But in the end, they just perpetuate the notion that youth is inherently superior and that admitting you’re old is admitting defeat.
So, yesterday was my birthday and I turned 42. The funny and not-so-funny thing about being a woman of a certain age is enduring the tired joke, “Happy Birthday! So you’re turning 21 again, right?”
The implication is that, of course, you’re either going to lie or refuse to reveal your true age. That’s a number that’s as closely guarded as your ATM PIN or the balance in your bank account.
Okay old folks (and by old, I mean anybody over 35 in our youth-obsessed culture). Let’s all quit lying to each other and to ourselves and just admit that we’re getting old, and you know what, it’s going to be okay! In fact, I’d like to reclaim the word “old” in the way that gays reclaimed the word “queer” and convert it from a derogatory insult and into a rusting badge of honor.
Growing older is a privilege not everybody gets to have. There’s no greater tragedy than dying young. But almost as tragic, is mourning after a youth that’s all too fleeting and not living in the present or happily looking forward to the future.
Maybe I’m simply a late bloomer, but I honestly feel that youth is overrated. At least mine was. I’ve never felt better about myself physically and emotionally. I’ve finally lost the stubborn baby fat in my face (hello cheekbones!) and actually look like a grown woman instead of a child. Thanks to a grueling regimen of taekwondo, yoga and Barry’s Bootcamp, I’m in the shape of my life, even after three pregnancies, and I have not broken a hip.
I’ve been with the man of my dreams for twenty years and I have two brilliant and funny children who make me laugh hysterically every day. I get to work from home as a freelance writer and blogger and set my own schedule. I’ve won life’s lottery, it’s true. But all of these accomplishments are the fruits of YEARS of daily grunt work – grueling, mind-numbingly exhausting, back-breaking, spinning around in circles, frantic, daunting and endless labor. Being a grownup can be stressful, frightening and disillusioning.
People act as if age is an expiration date or a best-by date on food. The fresher the better and they act accordingly. But some of the world’s most precious and beautiful gemstones are created by time and intense pressure. Diamonds are formed after years of crushing adversity in a dark place underground. Pearls are formed as a natural defense to irritants in an oyster. I don’t think people are any different. Even when precious gems are formed, they still need to be polished and cut to achieve their true beauty and well, these things take time.
Maybe someday we can have old pride parades to celebrate our oldness and chant, “We’re old, we’re bold, get used to it!” But until then, this “old” lady is just getting better and bad-asser with age.