Standard vs Variety
The romanticism of youth is something that escapes me. That shit was hard, and anyone raising a teen can testify to those with amnesia. And in a Cult of Youth, for many, age is not just a number. Age is a defining digit that inexplicably messes with so many aspects of our lives. Tripping us up in everything from job interviews, to the invisibility of interesting women in movies and literature. In popular culture, it seems impossible for a woman, in any decade, to transcend commercialized female tropes.
Age is also one of many numbers we are defined by. The numbers list also includes: weight, height, zip code, waist measurement, bust size, anniversary number, years in remission, and on, and on, and on.
With a grab bag full of numbers that we’re always toting around, why does our age pigeonhole us to startling detriment? From “I’m too young to run for office,” to “I’m too old to wear that.”
In streaming through all the aspects of age in the varied facets of us as beings, I think about friends who were the same age, but suddenly seemed more my parent's generation when we were just out of college. Or the fact that my best friend growing up, until I met my husband, was my grandma.
I believe my indifference to an assigned age is a gift from my grandma … AKA Gram. For example, Gram was raised during The Depression, and was only able to attend school through the seventh grade because there was no transportation to get her to the schoolhouse (all her older siblings had to work the farm). A major area of pride for Gram, rightfully so, was that she got her GED when she was in her fifties. Education was wildly important to her, and that degree held as much importance to her in her fifties with the rest of her life ahead, as it did in her teens. And why wouldn’t it?
And Gram was a force. A modest, proud, and extremely loving woman. She always had her hairs impeccably did, lipstick on when she left the house, and her pocketbook loaded with every essential one could imagine; from relevant newspaper clippings, to an extra rain bonnet, to enough Trident gum to share with a class of Kindergarteners. She was also incredibly active, with a “use it or lose it” mentality that kept her independent and living a more social life through her eighties, than I had in my twenties. Gram also taught me, at age five, that poker wasn't worth playing unless it was for money. But that's a whole other post.
Now let’s talk some hard numbers.
When it comes to fashion, I think I hit my peak at 13, and have held onto magpie tendencies of my teenhood since.
When it comes to athleticism, I give myself a 25. I studied ballet quite seriously, and the person I studied under wouldn't allow any sports because they visibly “developed the wrong muscles.” And she was right. When I auditioned for the ABT, they assess your body. Literally. You stand in the middle of the room, turning like a rotisserie chicken before you even start dancing. So running, cycling, and all forms of active play had been things I didn't discover until my twenties. I can now run and ride, further and faster, in my forties compared to my twenties. Yoga has become my mainstay jam, and age is irrelevant in your practice. Hours spent on the mat is the only evident number.
However, I wouldn’t want to give myself a number younger than my years when it comes to business. I worked in corporate design studios for 15 years, and then fled to start my own business when I was staring down the fate of becoming a Design Director. The stagnation in learning and turning into a manager in my mid thirties terrified me more than leaping into the unknown abyss of starting my own consultancy. So when it comes to business acumen, or my time as a designer, every second counts in my journey and developed skill set. I could never imagine, let alone possess, what I do now at 26 compared to 46.
Emotionally, I have a thicker skin and don’t cry so easily as I once had, but dare me to make it through an episode of Schitt’s Creek without tearing up (and it’s a comedy for goodness sake) … not going to happen. So emotional age, I’ll keep myself at 22. I have fought hard to hold on to my idealism and optimism. Age may toughen the skin and mature reasoning, but I am still a throbbing blob of empathy, ideals, and hope. And although an absolute mama bear when it comes to my daughter, I believe my openness and empathy are equally as valuable in what I offer her.
Candidly, I did in fact have a mini-midlife crisis. Those who’ve known me forever have teased that I’m a stereotypical dude in certain aspects of character, which is also an entirely different post on gender norms. I’m not a romantic person, not sentimental, I love fashion, but abhor a day out shopping, and have the whole car love and driving thing. So my midlife crisis was that I ditched the luxury brand I had been driving, for a car I would have loved in college. At 46, I drive the car a 19 year old boy would covet ... a turbocharged six speed hatchback.
Further in the lifestyle vein, as a family, we absolutely love going to concerts and shows. In just a few days we're taking our 13 year old to Chicago to see a 17+ show (that age thing, again). Seeing Superfruit live is going to be amazing, and something we've been looking forward to since the first half of their album dropped last summer. So being a bit of an adrenaline junkie, and all I just mentioned, it kind of reinforces that I have both feet at 22 for the fun & thrill age as well.
My health was an issue there for awhile. From all the undiagnosed symptoms of being iodine deficient, to having pneumonia, bronchitis, and a cornucopia of other treats thanks to a depressed immune system. Although the doctors had me at 46 in some ways, many of their tests had me at a far younger age regarding their archaic numbers game. With my upswing of health, I put myself at 36 since my toe hasn’t dipped into the waters of what the next stage presents yet, and I’m having a bit of a boon these days.
In this tangle of anecdotes, it has me thinking about all our different ages as a variety pack. There are inevitably some sucky flavors, but you’re buying the whole pack for the experience.
So what about you?
What’s your number?
Why as a society, have we allowed formulas that are so prescriptive and restrictive to jam up our lives from the age we first become women?
Are you a standard age, or a variety pack of digits?