Thursday, April 4, 2013

Joys of Aging

One of my most amazing volunteers at work is a woman in her early 50s. Let's call her MM. MM's the mother of four kids, three in college right now and one still at home, and she does things like play in a hockey league and takes night classes and basically runs circles around me. She also looks great, just fresh and natural and put together. She definitely looks like a mom, but in the best sense of the word. The reason I'm giving her this build-up is that she has this theory that being middle aged makes you invisible, to your advantage. For example, she feels like, as she's in a sort of time in her life where she's marginalized and not looked upon as a sexual being, and that it's freeing. She's happily married, but she feels like she can be playful and flirt with the cute, young FedEx guy and it's all in good fun. He doesn't take her seriously as someone he'd be interested in, and she doesn't want him to. It's all harmless and one of the joys of life and she's running with it.

I don't like to think of myself as being middle aged, but technically I could die at the double the age I am now and have lived a very good life. I hope I get at least that. But what I'm getting at is that I am starting to get what MM is talking about, and why it's desirable. I mean, it is, and it isn't. From a feminist perspective, or even just a human being perspective, it's unfair and messed up that youth is king when it comes to physical beauty and there's a whole industry built around it and that being made to feel lacking and inferior and have to conform to a standard is de rigeur. From a vanity perspective, it's weird to think of myself as different than I used to think of myself when inside I don't feel different. Not that I want to flirt with anyone or be flirted with necessarily, I just want the option. But then on the other hand, the idea that I can move about relatively unnoticed is a new kind of power. Does that make any sense? Not that I am not putting effort into being attractive, just that who I might be attractive to has shifted. And that's ok, I mean, that was never in my control anyway. And again, I'm happily married so it's not like I'm out looking. I just think that it's nice for anyone when they are noticed by someone who isn't bound by love to notice them. I'm not even going to get into the whole issue of unwanted attention, which is a sucky part of being a woman of any age and definitely the wrong end of the power struggle.

Since I was a teenager I was under the assumption that I was unmemorable, that I sort of blended in, because a lot of times people wouldn't remember my name or that they had met me before - it actually still happens more than someone lacking in self-esteem could probably handle. It got to be that I was surprised when people DID remember me. But then I realized as I grew up that 1) aloofness is often an act 2) some people have genuinely bad memories and 3) who cares? I don't need outside validation to feel good about myself, nobody should. And that's the bottom line. Still, it comes up. I'd like you to think that none of this ever even crosses my mind, but it does.

I don't know where I'm going with this, really, I just think that MM's theory is interesting, and worthy of discussion. Maybe I'll come back to it at another time. Maybe I'll just turn back the hands of time and remember when I used to be able to wear a bodysuit and belted jeans that gathered at the waist like a paper bag, a la Janet in "Poetic Justice" and maybe someone thought it looked good and maybe not, and that was part of the fun.

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