This morning I was reading a Medium.com story about not having kids (something I relate directly to, indeed) and was reviewing comments on her post. One writer made the comment above. I almost fell out of my chair on my nearly 66–year-old ass.
Let’s be clear. I am NOT making fun of this writer. On one hand I did find it amusing, as she’s less than half my age. As I write this, I’m seated in my gear room pulling together gear for four big trips coming up in the next year: Africa in November to climb a bad ass mountain and ride a horse for six days, a sailing trip around the spice Islands of Indonesia for a month next January. For June-July 2019 I’m about to send a down payment to a horse outfitter in northern British Columbia to ride for four weeks in unbelievable, gorgeous, and very difficult terrain. I plan to head to Namibia next November to ride the dunes and write about big cat conservation efforts.
These trips will NOT be a walk in the park and that’s my whole point. Age doesn’t have shit to do with my ability to do these things, other than I am vastly more competent than I was in my thirties (thank god). My willingness to work my rear off, save my pennies and keep my expenses under control all have far more to do with it. Oh. And being childless helps a lot. Sixty-five is meaningless. I am in far better shape now than I ever was my entire life.
The topic that had pulled us together on this page was the issue of having kids. Those of us who make that choice invariably- and I still get this nonsense- get judged and bludgeoned about our value as women by how many units we punched out, and whether or not we did our job for society by putting our uteri to work for the State.
Kindly, to the State, go screw yourself.
I agree with her, and I also agree with the original writer. These are our bodies. This woman- and her partner- would like to have the same options that I currently exercise, which are to travel, explore, spend, and engage in life without many decades’ worth of child rearing. For many that goes well into the thirties and forties these days if for no other reason than the cost of living.
However there is vastly more evil at work here. This young woman feels as though thirty is “advancing age.” Even if she was joking, this is a widely-held belief.
What saddens me so deeply is that my mother, a very pretty woman in her own right and who aged well for the most part, felt the same unholy terror about aging. She was 39 for nearly thirty years. While she got away with it until she simply couldn’t any more, what a statement about the fear of getting old that she would do such a thing.
It is much worse now. We’ve got vibrant young women saying-even in jest-that thirty is old.
That means that at some level we buy into this nonsense. That is a perfect recipe for sales for corporations which count on our insecurities.
I have seen this in stories all over Medium, men, women, gay, lesbian, tranny, doesn’t matter. A woman wrote me once that she “hated being 67.” Well, kindly, consider the options.
What on earth is wrong with us that we feel we’ve committed a crime if we dare live a day past our 29th birthday? What is the offense in the accrual of age and wisdom, or at least one hopes they go hand-in-hand? Why do we celebrate the deaths of artists who offed themselves by 27 as though that was a release of some kind rather than a criminal waste of talent?
For my part, I think that a little of this is because society does a great job of portraying those of us (women in particular) over a Certain Age as useless, worthless, lifeless, and most certainly NOT SEXY.
If I believed this bullshit I’d be scared, too. I saw a makeup ad in Vogue featuring a woman clearly in her sixties or more (Thank you Vogue, at least for normalizing that). Film and fashion do a good job at stabbing stereotypes. For example using models of color. Increasingly, also for example, using Black models with very powerful African features. Not Anglicized.
Now I am seeing older women in print. Well, it’s about damned time.
I will be long buried before the conversation around aging women changes, if in fact it ever does. Look, it’s just as bad for men, but that’s not really my focus here. I see stories about gorgeous older men who are modeling even into their eighties (https://www.boredpanda.com/handsome-old-men/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic)
I don’t see many of the same articles for women of the same vintage, unless it’s something about older stars we’d (still) like to fuck. There is this https://www.buzzfeed.com/antwaunsargent/older-models-who-are-absolutely-beautiful?utm_term=.imVGK0XOQ#.wxrwaW2Y4, but let’s be clear. The only woman showing off her body is only 47. The men’s article celebrates their physicality, their bodies. Not the female models. Most of those models who are of an age are carefully covered up, or in a number of cases, have had numerous procedures.
I don’t argue against a bit of nip and tuck here and there. I’m no purist. At 52 I had developed my mother’s jowls and did something about them. That didn’t make me look thirty. It made look less tired and less jowly.
That procedure also made no difference whatsoever in the quality of my life. It gave me a bit more pleasure to eyeball myself in the morning mirror. That’s about all. Didn’t get me love or acceptance or make me popular or rich. Not in the slightest. It was a mild, pleasing improvement. Then I forgot about it entirely.
Quality of life has little or nothing to do with your age. It has vastly more to do with how well you care for yourself, your circle of friends, whether or not you find a way to be of service. Having a broad range of interests. Living out loud on your terms as best you can manage.
I would also posit that quality of life also has a great deal to do with (and forgive me for pointing this out) not obsessing about not being super young anymore. We can’t do shit about that.
As someone who lives in Colorado and who sees grey hairs with superb bodies all the time, I guarantee you that few of those women would hide their bodies from a camera. We bust it all the time on the stairs, at the gym, at the pool, in yoga class, we climb, rappel, kayak, ride, cycle, MTB.
We are rock hard.
We rock. And boy do we live interesting lives.
Again, I am in no way stating or implying that the young woman who commented about her advancing age doesn’t live a vivid and interesting life.
What is deeply troubling is that we as a society have drunk the collective Koolaid that aging is evil. That market, laughably referred to as “anti-aging,” is projected to grow to $66.2 billion worldwide by 2023.
You can’t anti-age. That’s pure bullshit. Every single second you spent reading this article or shopping online for a $880 skin cream that promises to erase those lines (it doesn’t), you have lost. You could have been out there living out loud.
Worrying about aging ages us about as fast as fast food, sedentary habits and being hateful.
What’s insane about that is that this is precisely what corporations count on to sell us nonsense to fix what cannot possibly be fixed. We will age and die. The other things (e.g. bad food, bad habits, being hateful) can.
Improving what we can control keeps us far younger than any $880 container of La Prairie face cream. For my part, that $880 is the down payment on that epic ride in British Columbia.
Speaking of which, that event gives me a perfect example. I know someone who is in her mid-fifties. A superb horsewoman who lives in Montana, not far from where I visit Spokane every Christmas. She has invested thousands — and will keep on investing thousands- in Botox treatments to keep her face unlined. Her face doesn’t match her hands, her neck or her greying roots.
What ages her are her anger, her bitterness, and her constant complaining about just about everything. Her age isn’t the issue. Her face isn’t the issue. It’s her character.
I don’t have the time to worry about anti-aging. I am too busy living. That’s what keeps me vibrant, energized, strong, engaged, and frankly, young.
Yes, I am 65. But my heart, soul and attitude are far younger than most younger folks I meet who live in daily terror of a wrinkle.
For me, young is the ability to dance in the rain, laugh into the wind, make fun of shit that doesn’t matter (and most shit doesn’t matter) and find joy in the everyday. Many of those characteristics come only to the very very young, and those of us old enough to figure out what truly matters after a lifetime of worrying about what we can’t control.
My long-time mentor Meg Hansson and I had lunch every month for decades. When she was 92, she used to constantly get Vietnamese noodles stuck on her chin. For my mother, that would have been deeply shameful. Meg stuck her decorated chin out at me and made a Halloween face. We’d collapse on the table, laughing.
She was young. And she was by far my greatest teacher in the art of being youthful.
La Prairie can’t shove that in a tiny bottle and sell it. But any one of us can learn it on our own. Even better, once we have that perspective, we never run out.
My age is indeed advancing. I could give less of a flying fart about it. I’ve got trips to plan, miles to run, weights to lift, horses to ride, mountains to climb. I can only speak for myself, but it’s nice to be free from the incessant prison that tells me that my only value to society is based on whether I am young, beautiful, fertile, and sexy.