The Trouble with Aging

This week, I finally made myself an eye appointment.

The things you do when pushed to last-pair-of-contacts levels of desperation.

While I was waiting for the doc, another woman was trying on different glasses.

“What about these?” a store attendant picked out a pair of trendy, cat-eye frames. They were cute, but the woman shook her head.

“Oh. no. I’m too old for those.”

She was wearing jeans and a zip-up, sandy colored hair pulled back. She was 40, maybe, give or take a little.

“I used to have a pair kind of like that, but smaller. I was cool back then. I’m not now.”

The attendant nodded, said okay, and moved on to another pair. But all I could think was, “Ugh, another one.”

What is it with all these women—strong, brilliant, and beautiful women—who think they’re too old?

Too old? At what age does that become a thing? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I grew up with the assumption that adults were the ones who got to do anything they wanted. Because they could. They were adults. Kids had rules, like take a bath and pick up toys and go to bed. Adults were the rule makers; what they said was law, and they didn’t have to finish their broccoli if they didn’t want to. (I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had ice cream and wine for dinner and wanted to scream I’m an aduuullllt!)

But lately, I’ve realized that so many women, women I respect and love, have felt inhibited because of their age.

This makes me sad.

Not to exclude men from this discussion, but I feel like this phenomenon is generally specific to women. Personally, I can’t think of a time I’ve heard a man say he was too old to be cool, to old to be free. (Here, I’ll bring in all the gray-haired dudes with sports cars and 20-something girlfriends as proof.) Men, beer guts and all, seems to revel in old age. Women seem diminished by it.

What kind of bullshit world do we live in?

You see, the trouble with aging is that there is none. Not really. The “trouble” was invented by society. A mental disease. It’s perceptions that are out of whack, not the number of candles on your birthday cake. Our world places such value on youth and virility and botoxed celebrities that we forget what is real. Wisdom is real. Love and strength and capability are real. If age can’t be “just a number,” then it should be something to be proud of. Women should wear their wrinkles like badges of honor.

Can you think of anything more beautiful than a grandmother’s hands? Think about it. Those hands might be wrinkled, they might be arthritic, but they’ve carried pails of water and baskets of laundry, they’ve pulled hot pans out of ovens, they’ve picked wildflowers, they’ve patted babies to sleep and bandaged wounds. They’ve held other hands, those of the people they love, and they’ve learned how to make a way and survive in this crazy world.

If you think you’re “too old” to wear shorts or dye your hair purple or go back to school or to stay out all night dancing or anything else you wish you could do: Don’t wish. Go do it. Be fucking fearless and tell the haters to go to hell.

And if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for me. Please. Because I refuse to believe that all I have to look forward to as I age is it finally being acceptable to eat dinner at 4 p.m.

Maybe this is easy for me to say. Me, 23 and many years to go until I can hope to hit wisdom status. Maybe I’ll look back on this and smile. Maybe, when I’m older and buying drugstore wrinkle cream, I’ll shake my head at my young self and laugh. Derisively. Maybe—probably—I’ll realize I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.

But, in this moment, all I know is that woman would have looked great in those cat-eye glasses.

To all the women out there, at any age, who think they’re not young enough, not old enough, not cool enough. To all the women who think they’re too late, too fat, too unimportant. To everyone who’s ever judged her worth based on someone else’s perceived perfection: Stop.

You are loved.

You are strong.

You were put on this earth for a reason—and it wasn’t to berate yourself ceaselessly. So keep your chin up, your shoulders back, and your heart open.

You are enough.

But you don’t need me to tell you that.

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