My birthday is next month. Not far away at all. Inexplicably, my sister, brother and I all share one month for our birthdays. First is my brother, we get his out of the way, then it’s my sister’s, after that – the ‘grand finale’ if you like, is my birthday. Although I’m not sure that my siblings quite see it that way!
When I’m with my brother and sister, I feel that we immediately regress to how we were when we were children. Mischievous, arguing with each other, making up, tag teaming against each other, all (mostly), in good humour. And then I look around – we have responsibilities, houses, careers, my sister and I have children – and the frivolity and carefreeness is replaced once again with the necessity of being adults.
I don’t feel old. Not on the inside. In my head, I’m stuck forever at the age of 28. I’ve had this conversation with others before – some people I know feel like they are 16 or 18. I suppose in your head, you’re stuck at the age when you felt the freest, or strongest, or happiest. That was when I was 28. The world was my oyster. My friends and I ruled the world. I travelled at will. Bought what I wanted. Answerable to none. No responsibilities. The most confident that I’d ever been. In my head, I will be 28 forever.
That’s all very well. How wonderful. Good for me. Forever 28.
But I’m far from 28 now. I don’t look the way I did when I was 28. Heavier, slower, wider, bigger. Having children changes your perspective on the world – I am humbler than I was when was 28. Life made me realise that not every problem can be solved so easily, everyone is different, there is more than one way to do things, one size does not fit all. My way may not always be the right way. Learning that is a tough call. I’m heck of a lot wiser and more accepting of others than I was, when I was 28.
So what is the point of this post? Well, I suppose there’s an anger in me that is seething and gently simmering away. The wiser part of me tells me to not be bothered by what I am frustrated with, the other revolutionary part of me wants to set fire to the world. So what if I’m older, so what if I’m not in the first flushes of youth? Does that make what I have to say, or what I have to offer any less valid or relevant than someone in their late 20’s or early 30’s. Because from where I stand, the world seems to belong to that age bracket. Anyone who has stepped over that threshold, may as well be dead.
You may think that I’m over-exaggerating? Being overly sensitive? Well, you’re entitled to think that. However, you only have to look at the entertainment business to see how rife ageism is – particularly when we focus on women. How many actresses, singers, news presenters, sports commentators over the age of 40 still get regular work – compare that to men over 40. When they are spoken about, it is their physical appearance that is constantly under scrutiny. Don’t they look young? Look at how slim they are? OR, God, she’s let herself go! What happened to her? Women are not allowed to age – no grey hair, no fine lines or wrinkles, no weight gain. We must be the same and look the same as we did in our twenties.
I know that I have to fight harder to get my voice heard – being female, a person of colour and now older! The endless battles, when I know what I’m talking about, that I have the life experience to know that my point is proven and valid, that I have to shout a bit louder to be taken seriously – it becomes tiresome. If I was wiser, I would probably put my head down, not worry and focus on other things in my life. Sadly for me, I’m not as enlightened as I should be yet. So, as Dylan Thomas says, I ‘rage, rage against the dying of the light’.
I will never grow old. Not in my head. Not as long as I have all my faculties working and am physically able to do everything I need to function. I still have unfulfilled ambitions in life – desires that one day I hope I can fulfil.
People often think that ageism is associated with pensioners and much older folk. I disagree. I think that ageism begins to creep well before that. You’re viewed as past your sell-by date way before that. Particularly if you’re a woman.
Be that as it may, I refuse to be patronised or over-looked. I refuse to be under-estimated or not taken seriously. There are so many things I want to do in life, so much I still want to learn, so many places I still want to visit, so much I still have to offer. I will not grow old gracefully. I will not bow down and be passed over meekly.
If anything, with age I have realised that in order to achieve anything in life, you have to be a force to be reckoned with. As I grow older, I become equally more patient and more ferocious; more able to compromise and equally more belligerent; more able to see which battles are worth fighting for, and which things just don’t matter in life anymore.
I want to end with some inspiring words. Something that might aid other women, who also, like me, feel overlooked and undervalued simply because of their age. The only thing that I can think of is: Don’t the bastards bring you down.
I think that pretty much sums it up.