To start, you should know I’m 38.
I saw a very young-looking girl leaning out of a pickup truck today, smoking. She looked about 11 or 12, maybe 13. And I thought “she looks like she shouldn’t be smoking” and then I had an internal debate about what the smoking age is, and decided it’s not (?) 16, and then landed on “well, maybe she’s 18 and is just lucky to look young.” AND THAT WAS NOT A THOUGHT I WANTED TO HAVE.
We need to stop infantilizing women to the point that we constantly think that younger is better and the younger the better. It’s insane and demeaning and insulting, and I’m still getting it wrong, despite knowing better! That’s how pervasive it is!
I had a talk with my friend Ricky recently about how much harder it is to fight against a pervasive idea than a new concept. There’s a david/goliath thing with a big new concept, where you have a definite thing to fight against. But when something is pervasive, it’s exhausting to constantly bring up these little things over and over and over. People are fairly familiar with this when it comes to microaggressions. Age for women is that.
At lunch today I went into a little meal prep place to check it out, and ended up chatting with the owner. She interrupted herself to ask if I went to the local school. I said I did in elementary school, but went to the local private school for high school. In an effort to pin down whether we knew each other at the time, she told me her age, which is my age. It was an interesting way to go about it — usually you’d say “I graduated in ’99,” but for whatever reason, it felt normal to have a conversation that went “I’m 38.” “I’m 38 too!” That’s new in a way that I haven’t experienced since I was about 7. (We know each other.)
I get a lot of double-takes on my ID, and I think that is mostly to do with my hair. For reference:
However, while wine tasting this past weekend, I got ID’d twice to taste. I think it was just winery policy to ask everyone for ID at those two places. That’s all good. However, at one the woman looked at my ID, double-taked, then said “I did not expect that.” And I don’t know what that means! And I don’t know why it’s still niggling in my brain. Who cares.
I guess I still care, since I’ve been indoctrinated into feeling badly about being An Age. I also firmly reject that! I love being 38! It’s the best! Hands down, it’s been my best year to date. You know what’s going to be so awesome? 39! Holy shit, I cannot wait! So much fun stuff is gonna happen when I’m 39! I can already tell! And 40 is going to be the tits!
Real talk: I love getting grey hair. You may not be able to tell I love it, since my hair is colored (gasp, don’t tell anyone), but I genuinely feel so distinguished with grey hair. I may not actually be august in any sense of the word, but I enjoy the association. And wrinkles! I adore crows feet. You know how you can tell that something is well-loved? It’s got stains and is worn and has patina? That’s my face, to me. It’s lived in. I’m comfortable with it. I like the signs of aging, even though we are really supposed to hate those!
I have “old” parents (they had me at nearly 40), so I have always thought old isn’t whatever age my parents are. They’re currently 76, so by my lights, 76 isn’t old yet. Photos tell me this isn’t quite accurate, but memory tells me that they’ve always had grey hair and wrinkles. I can tell you the feel of my mom’s soft creased cheek. I know my dad’s beard’s shade of white. These genuinely beautiful things about them are there because they’re well lived. And they’re also happy with themselves, and I feel really lucky to have grown up around that.
But I still reflexively thought a little kid was lucky to look like an even littler kid. I’m so disappointed in myself, not to mention sort of grossed out. Tomorrow is a new day to be determined to fight against the insidious message that women are more valuable as girls, and an old woman is irrelevant. All female types are valuable, whether a baby, a kid, a girl, a teen, or a woman. Whether they were born that way or came to it later in life. Our lives are valuable at any age.