I’ve already lost count.
Let’s talk about ageism today though.
Age has been on my mind a lot because I am getting old. Actually, I am old. And people are not keen on allowing me to claim my rightful age.
52 is not my favorite age. Currently or ever, I suspect. Not because it’s old, but because I am fully aware of the limitations that time and society have placed upon it and me.
33 was my favorite age physically. I was peak me from a purely superficial standpoint and from a strength, agility and endurance one as well.
And though 52 is long past peak body, it’s just coming into peak me in terms of awareness, knowledge, ability to leverage my experiences and education. It’s emotionally my steadiest era to date.
I’d be thrilled to have my 33-year-old knees back, but little else about that year or that decade entice me to wistful nostalgia. It’s only in recent years that I’ve truly come into my own.
That’s why ageist attitudes and the idea that youth should be an ideal worthy of a pedestal irks me.
While I wouldn’t argue that some of us don’t age like fine wine, never lose the training wheels or come to a greater understanding of what life is really about – our place and purpose, I think there is more to be said for old age than youth. IF you can let go of the idea that you are not your body.
What freaks people out about aging boils down to a weird attachments to and hang-ups about our physical selves that leads us to believe that is all that we are. Just a meat sack to be maintained according to societies ever-changing requirements.
If we didn’t have such a damaged relationship with our bodies, we’d probably feel better, or at least be neutral, about the fact that it changes over time. We are not children forever. We are not teens forever (though it feels like it at the time). We are not young adults or middle-aged adults for very long.
But we are old – most of us – for nearly, as or longer than we are all of the aforementioned.
At some point as we approach 50, it’s like a switch is flipped, and we are no longer young or youngish. No one mistakes us for a demographic we’ve clearly passed through. We are told we “look good for our age”, which may or may not be true, but it’s not something young or middle-aged people are told. It’s reserved for the old.
At 52, I am old.
And I have earned it, dammit!
I will not be patronized by people who can’t or won’t come to terms with their own aged selves.
I will not long for anything in the past (except my knees – really miss the happy days of bouncy knees).
I will not be told I am “only as old as I feel” or “just a baby”.
I am not interested in propping up other people’s denial when they wail “but if you are old, what does that make me?”
Older. That’s what it makes you. Older. Deal with it.
Or better yet. Revel in it! Celebrate it! Be fucking amazed at what a warrior you are. How wise. How experienced. How zen.
Oh, I am aware that in a world where supple, tight and smooth is idealized that soft as leather and lined skin draped over bumps and bruises is not celebrated. That’s evident every time an actor “of a certain age” appears on a screen sporting an iron pressed look. One that is frozen in a parody of the young person they no longer are.
It’s hard to reconcile for many.
It just makes me sigh and worry for humanity’s future.
I resent that I am forced to deal with ageism. That there is maintenance beyond just what is sensible and healthy. And that somehow my aging without regard to arbitrary rules concerning appropriate dress, hairstyle and habits is somehow impacting negatively on anyone. Whether I know them or just happen to pass through the same space here or there, my existence is not harming anyone’s life. It’s just their unrealistic body ideals that are offended and frankly, that’s not my problem.
Ageism is as made up as any other ism. Invented only for nefarious or selfish reasons. To oppress, suppress, discriminate and divide. And like all other isms, we can choose to participate or not.
I choose not to.