I’m 46.* That might be even scarier to say than “I got fired.”
We all know age is often a closely guarded secret by women. “How old are you?” is considered to be a very rude question indeed. Why? Because America hates old people.
Just kidding. I don’t know why it’s so terrible to admit you’re past 30 or 40 or whatever. Even some of the strongest women in history (Frida Kahlo, for example) lied about their age. Is it just too awful to go public about losing your ability to reproduce? To realize we’ll never experience young love again? To face that our career is not where we’d like it to be and time is running out? Whoa, hopefully that’s just me because that shit is depressing.
BUT. I was at a blogger event last night, where Miss Savvy in San Fran (AKA Melissa) told me she’d just celebrated her 40th birthday, to which I responded: “Oh, the 40s have been the best decade of my life!” And it’s totally true. Partly because a lot of awesome things happened (adopting a baby, moving to the beach, strengthening my marriage). But also because I’m comfortable in my own skin for the first time ever.
Yes I wish I’d felt this OK with who I am at 25, but it’s been a long road. Here’s one thing that happened:
I was at a big industry dinner in San Francisco about a year ago, and as usual I was approximately as old as most of the other bloggers’ moms. This is when my attempts not to think or talk about age result in obsessing over it and making awkward comments. I was flanked by a good friend (whom I could not have parented), and another woman who seemed to be about half my age. I’d been chatting with my friend all night when I caught wind of the younger diner’s conversation with her friends on the other side of the table. They were talking about age.
It was time for my awkward comment. I turned in the direction of the conversation and said something like YEAH OH MY GOD I ALWAYS FEEL SO OLD AT THESE THINGS. My youthful dining partner took a good look at my face and said, “How old are you?” Her perfectly-lined eyes did not blink. Her painted-pink lips did not smile.
Stunned, I blurted: “45.” After that are supposed to come the compliments! The “Wow you look amazings!” The “I would have never knowns!” Not this time. I hope I was projecting but I think she physically recoiled. She turned back to her young friends and didn’t speak to me the rest of the dinner. I swear.
Sometimes later when I think about obsessed over the exchange, I decided it was a compliment. Surely if she suspected my actual age she wouldn’t have asked? So it meant I looked pretty good?
Other times I just thought holy shit my age is so offensive. I mean she could not even deal with it. I’m probably older than her mom and all her thoughts about the cool blogger event she was attending changed at that moment. Like, my MOM could be here?
The truth is I don’t know what my young friend was thinking, and I can’t do anything about it. I’ve been on the earth of 46 years, it’s a fact that exists. Being ashamed of it is a waste of energy. I mean I didn’t do anything.
My friend Jennine at The Coveted recently wrote about post about feminism and how the Taylor Swifts of today don’t believe feminism is relevant anymore. Several commenters agreed, and demanded examples of specific privileges that men enjoy that women don’t. I offered several in my own comment, and here’s one more: how about the privilege of not breaking into a sweat when clicking “public” next to the year of your birth? Dude, I was born in the ‘60s.
Of course some men are also hesitant to share their age on Facebook or elsewhere, and ageism against men seems to be on the rise. But a quick scan of my own Facebook friends reveals that many more women than men keep their age private. And come on, no one can argue that gray at the temples is pretty much universally considered sexy on men, and to please be covered with dye on women.
I’m probably not going to stop dying my hair just yet. In fact, I’m thinking of going lavender? But, as part of my efforts to live up to the awesome person status my 2-year-old sees in me now, I am going to start being honest about my age. I hope when she’s in her 40s (and 50s and 60s and beyond) she’s totally cool with it.
*I have since removed my age from my Facebook page because I got nervous about privacy and identity issues. But you still know how old I am.