I recently read an article shared on Social media, on ‘The Invisibility of Middle Aged Women’ and I tried hard to relate completely to it. I’m 48, so I’m apparently now firmly planted into that demographic. While there have been brief moments when I have related to parts of this article, I find that most of the time, I feel fine about my age. Am I weird? At one point, the article states, “ If a woman has kids, she will always be a mother, but a woman who has chosen not to procreate and who now no longer is young and sexy is perceived by many as a pointless being.” Well, I don’t have kids, and I don’t feel like a pointless being. I feel much the same as I always have, except slightly less lost, and a lot less objectified.
Remember puberty? Puberty sucked, and we got through that. Some of us got awkward and tall, not knowing what to do with our overly long arms and legs, elbows and knees protruding everywhere.. some of us got chubby, as the hormones banged around all over the place, confused. Added to that was acne, periods and hair growing in weird places. It isn’t a fabulous time for most of us.
Middle age sometimes feels like the second coming of puberty. We have to get used to the fact that we can no longer spring out of bed with a dewy complexion after drinking the night before. We can no longer notice a 5 pound weight gain one day and then slip back into tiny jeans just by being ‘good’ for a couple of days after. Nowadays, I can gain weight (in weird places, too) just from smelling pizza, and one night of drinking a couple too many results in a whole week of crankiness and eye bags. Even my hair has gone psycho, with more and more gray ones sprouting up, altering the texture enough to make it feel like a stranger. I can sometimes still pull off ‘dewy’ with the right camera filter, but I’ve learned not to expect it.
Women take this stage of life harder than men, it seems, and why wouldn’t they? Everything we see in movies and on television tells us that 50 year old men are still sexy, but women are no longer attractive after 40. We see 25 year old leading ladies with 50 year old love interests in these stories all the time, and celebrities being shamed when someone catches a photo of them on the beach with no makeup and a little cellulite (in other words, looking like actual humans). The articles I read about this are everywhere. Time magazine claims that while male film actors peak in their careers at 46, female ones peak at 30. Seriously? Who knows anything at 30, much less reaches their full potential by then?
Ordinary women continually see these gorgeous, famous women being put out to pasture when we still feel like we have a lot of good years left in us. We still care about romance and fun, and many of us even feel that we haven’t hit our professional peak quite yet. It can take a toll on anyone who doesn’t choose to dismiss it as non-reality. It’s kind of like puberty, which is when we first began to admire these celebrity women in the first place and worry we will never measure up. Now we are being told that we have to work our asses off to maintain a certain appearance, just to compete with women half our age or we aren’t useful in the world anymore. I’m not playing that game.
Other than a short burst of interest in pop music in my mid-teens, I’ve always been a person who is blissfully unaware of most of what happens in celebrity culture. I do watch movies and TV, but I don’t really experience it as anything grounded in reality. I know there are these people called ‘Kardashians’, but I’m not totally sure who they are or what they do. I have a vague knowledge of Beyonce and Lady Gaga, but I wouldn’t be able to identify any of their songs, and to be honest, I haven’t known anything about new music since about the mid-90’s. I don’t know why I don’t know about these things. I guess I’m just not that interested. Perhaps it is unrelated, but I also don’t feel bad about growing old. In fact, there are parts of it I embrace. I got to be young once, and I don’t remember even appreciating what I looked like back then. I was insecure and trying to figure out the world and my place in it, constantly dealing with sexual harassment and condescending people who didn’t take me seriously. I’m actually relieved to have grown out of that stage. I rarely get cat-called anymore or have to deal with men trying to pick me up every time I’m alone for 5 minutes in public. When I am in charge of something, people generally accept it and listen to me. That never happened in my 20’s without a ton of work. I actually like it.
Many women I know obsess constantly about aging, and I wish they would stop wasting their precious time with that. They torture themselves by giving up everything that gives them pleasure and paying money they could be spending on fun for cheek implants and liposuction and collagen, which isn’t fooling anyone, and often even inspires pity when it goes wrong. I feel for them, and I totally understand, but I’m not going to join that club.
I survived puberty, and then I got to be a sexy, young woman for a while when I finally got through it. I’ll get through middle age and be a happy old person that doesn’t give a crap about any of that stuff or what anyone thinks of me. Its a transition, not an ending. I’m going to drink some wine, eat some cheese and celebrate it.