So… this is what it feels like.
I’m writing this in the early hours* of Wednesday 18th November 2020. An hour ago, I was one age; now, I’m another.
Age is a difficult concept.
If we were to believe the marketing messages, men grow more distinguished, with their greying hair; women are meant to try to look younger; once we look a certain age, we’re told we’re past “it”, we’re targeted with anti-aging creams, hair dyes, plastic surgery. Unfortunately, some people feel that they need to start anti-aging treatments – Botox, liposuction, surgery – before they’re barely out of their teens.
Women are told we must look youthful to stay relevant. With our ever increasing numbers, we’re told we shouldn’t look “our age”.
I understand that. Despite the strong feminist in me, I want people to be surprised at my age, in a good way.
But then I know, far too well, that age is a privilege denied to too many. The friends I’ve loved and lost, children, teens, adults, would all have loved to live to my age, looking in a mirror with older eyes looking back. I know how close I have come to not being here on more than one occasion. I am grateful to be here, at this age, in my body, my face.
I worry about if people will treat me differently; will my younger friends, on realising I’m closer to their parents age than theirs, stop sharing with me, stop including me, because they wouldn’t include their parents or their parents friends? Then I remind myself that life, that relationships, move on. We’re all changing all of the time. And, realistically, why wouldn’t they still include me.
I look at my face in the mirror. Are there more lines, creeping across? Is my skin tone changing? I can’t see any changes today, though I’m sure I would, had I not looked at my reflection in a year or two.
It’s amazing how much our faces show, and how much they hide. We talk about hiding behind a smile but there’s so much more to it than that. A person looking at me can no longer see the scars I have on my face, or the reasons why they are there; they can’t see how many tears I’ve cried; how many smiles; they can’t see the trauma and grief I have gone through; they can’t see the physical pain I live with, most of the time.
My skin still looks reasonably bouncy; is that due to my skincare? My diet? A lifetime of no smoking and minimal drinking? My skin condition? My genetics?
Then, I think about my grandparents, my parents, at this age and they all seemed older; is it because I was younger? Or that some of them were smokers and drinkers? Was it environmental? Lack of knowledge on skincare and nutrients? Or that they never saw it as a priority?
My hair. Thanks to my Mediterranean heritage, I started going grey at 12. I dyed my hair every month for decades. I hated it; it was messy, time consuming, and I found it dull. Two years ago, I decided I had had enough, and the grey has been growing, proudly; if older lionesses had manes, it would look like my hair. Grey hair was a trend for a while, but it was mostly young women; is it fashionable or age if it happens naturally?
My body. We talk about how our bodies creak more as we get older, that we can’t get on or off a seat without sound effects; I don’t feel my body creaking but I do, on occasion, have sound effects, but how much of that is due to my age, and how much to my disabilities? I think my body does remarkably well, considering everything it lives with, everything it’s gone through.
I still feel young, younger than I did twenty years ago. My life has more vibrancy, enthusiasm and happiness now than it did then. But, no matter how young I feel, my birth certificate, though the name is different, can never lie about the year I was born.
Again, I feel grateful to be here, doing what I do, aiming to make the world a better place, all things I didn’t, couldn’t, do when I was younger. I am grateful for reaching this age, surviving through so many obstacles, thriving as I chose to live.
But, this number, I struggle with it.
Two sayings come to mind:
We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
I’m still playing.
Age is just the number of years the world has benefited from having you in it.
I believe the world has benefited because I’m still here.
So… this is what it feels like. This is what it feels like to be 50.
It’s actually quite fantastic.
*I frequently write at this time; I think my brain likes the quiet.