Friday, November 1, 2013

I am 25

Today (November 1st) is my 25th birthday. I'm 25 and I'm definitely having feelings about that. Living in a world obsessed with youth, a culture that basically worships youth, I find myself feeling apprehensive about the fact that I'm closer to 30 than I am to 18. This is a really weird phenomenon considering the fact that I would NEVER want to be 18 again. Or 19. Or 20... really, since I've been an adult, the closer I've gotten to 30, the happier I've been. So why the fear?

Well, the first thing that comes to mind is Miss Representation. In the documentary they examine the lack of 40+ y/o women represented in the media and in Hollywood. The media shows us this world in which older women do not exist. And when confronted with that idea, it's no wonder I'm afraid to grow up... my whole life I've seen that when women grow up they're supposed to disappear.

It's one of those strange double realities we exist with in our culture: I know many women who are in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and even 70s, who are actively participating in their communities, who have jobs, goals, dreams, plans, struggles, drama, dates, work-outs, etc. just like most younger adults I know. They also have wisdom, experience, maturity, insights, trial & errors, etc. that most younger adults I know do not have. So while I can simply look around and see that growing older does not mean losing relevance, I still have this deep-seeded fear of actually getting there.

I think, unfortunately, that part of this double reality stems from my own privilege. I've never been older than 25 so I can't begin to speak to the struggles of aging women in an objectifying, youth-obsessed culture. Except, perhaps, to say that I'm beginning to feel the pressure...

This whole concept really bothers me because I feel like I'm only just beginning to be the person I aim to become. I am only just beginning to understand the world and my place in it. I'm only just beginning to know exactly what I want to get out of all this life stuff. I can't bare the thought of only having another 15ish years before I have to go back to living in shame and silence (less if I don't maintain my current weight, but that's an issue which needs it's own post). 

It seems to me that a big part of the problem (as with many social justice issues) is the objectification of women. As we get older our bodies change and since we've been taught, since we were children, that a woman's value is directly effected by her sex appeal it shouldn't be surprising that older women feel ashamed of their bodies, and therefor, ashamed of themselves. Especially since the "ideal" woman's body is an impossible standard and we don't have many images of healthy, happy, mature women.
So today I've decided that I will try not to be afraid to grow older. I want to be excited for it!  Society tells me I should be afraid and ashamed. That I should work as hard as I possibly can to keep my face and body looking like they do right now, and I should be silent and ashamed when they don't stay this way.
I reject that. I'll continue taking care of my face and body, but not because I need to fit into an oppressive gender/age paradigm. It will be because I still have 60ish years of shit to do. I have a lot to say and, as I continue to gather experiences, I'm sure I'll find even more to talk about. I'm going to have saggy skin and boobs, but so will everyone! I'm far too excited to shape the future of the woman I will become to worry about how her physical shape or age "should" make her too ashamed to be seen in public.

Okay, this post is kind of ranty and scattered, and it's honestly the first time I've written about ageism, so thanks for letting me spew stuff randomly to shape my ideas on the topic. Please let me know if my privilege is showing!

BTW, my birthday has been really great so far, in case you were wondering :)

1 comment:

  1. Dearest Jenna,
    You should celebrate that you have lived for 25 years. You should rejoice that you've grown older, survived, and have gained knowledge in the meantime. Yes, our culture focuses on the youth. I don't think it's *entirely* based on looks but also because most businesses try to capture the attention of those who are young. The younger, the better. If you can convince an 18-year-old to buy a certain brand of toilet paper, they'll most likely buy it the rest of their lives. Ya get what I'm saying? (Not that I don't agree that being young and pretty is what the media wants one to believe=worth.)

    So imagine your life not as ending or disappearing but as aging like a fine wine. You are beautiful in ways younger people won't be able to fathom until they reach that age. Celebrate life. I'd like to leave you with a quote from THE HUNGER GAMES.

    "In District 12, looking old is something of an achievement since so many people die early. You see an elderly person, you want to congratulate them on their longevity, ask the secret of survival. A plump person is envied because they aren't scraping by like the majority of us. But [the Capitol] is different. Wrinkles aren't desirable. A round belly isn't a sign of success."

    Do you want to live in the vain world of the Capitol, or do you want to live a more humbled life?

    You are beautiful just the way you are.