“Age has no reality except in the physical world. The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom.” – Gabriel García Márquez –
I once knew a boy from the village who did not know when he was born. Since he had never attended school, he resumed primary school when he moved to Port Harcourt. That he was bigger than his classmates did not inspire their respect or fear. They teased and provoked him until he abandoned school. I was in secondary school then.
The years rolled by and his voice deepened. The years rolled by and I completed my university education. I planned my life using age as milestone markers. I wonder now, how he planned his; where did his ruler start and how did he measure off millimetres and centimetres on the graph of his aspirations?
Age is just a number, maybe, but with it, we appraise where you are and where you should be. Your age cannot reveal your heart, bury your enthusiasm, or stop your dream unless you let it.
Conversations about age have dominated my circle recently. Five writers whose ages span from early twenties to mid-fifties have joined the conversation. One theme runs through the narratives: age matters, but you must define why for yourself.
When it comes to age, perhaps women have a lot more to say . . .
The Other “F” Word
Three years ago, I turned forty. I flipped out even though I knew that the negative ideas about women hitting middle age are misogynistic and wrong. At parties, any time the topic of age came up, I’d leave the room to get a drink so I wouldn’t have to cop to my age. After my ex-boyfriend told me that guys on Match dot com were writing me off because I had “40” in my age box, I thought about lying and saying I was “32” instead. I felt as if my age was my expiration date and I’d become a carton of spoiled milk.
Six months into forty, I realized I had a choice to make. I could keep chastising myself for getting older, or I could stop buying into the messed up ideas around aging that I’d internalized. Considering I’d spent most of my thirties waking up to who I really am and what I really want, I certainly didn’t want to fall asleep again under another sexist spell cast by the patriarchy.
At forty-one, I kicked my sugar habit and became the healthiest I’ve ever been. I started writing my first book. I stopped saying yes when I wanted to say no. I began listening to my instincts more and less to what other people think. I also stopped worrying about men who weren’t interested in me and started to pay attention to the men I found interesting. At forty-two, I met the person I want to grow old with. And even though I don’t look twenty-three anymore, or even thirty-three, I love the way I look today at forty-three.
So far, my forties are proving to be—to use another F-word—(pretty damn) fabulous!
No Longer Just a Number
For as long as I can remember, age has always been just a number for me. I shared my age comfortably when I introduced myself, and I never hesitated to give out the real number when asked by those who seemed oblivious of or who disregarded the cardinal rule.
In the past two weeks, however, age has become the measure of my womanhood and the number of chimes ringing from my biological clock. After completing my undergraduate studies in Morocco, I hopped on a plane home. In typical Gambian fashion, I received hearty congratulatory messages and varying expressions of pride from family, friends, and acquaintances, swiftly followed by prayers for a good job, bigger accomplishments, and most importantly, a great husband.
It is the natural order of things here. An undergraduate degree is enough for the woman who had chosen to go beyond high school instead of settling down to start a family. They say, “Time is not on your side.” They say, “You might not be able to bring home a husband when you are ready, because all the men would have been taken.” To their prayers, I mumble, “Amen,” and return to weighing my job options.
I find myself drawn to institutions where I feel my youth will not devalue my qualifications and capabilities. I dress to look ‘older’ for meetings and interviews, so my teenage features will not influence my potential employers’ decisions.
Consequently, I have become more conscious of my age. Twenty-four is no longer just a number. It is a detail that one might only encounter on my résumé.
Jama @ linguerebi.wordpress.com
So is your age a deep secret? Mine isn’t. I celebrated my birthday this year in a blog post, The Lightness of Becoming 55. Since then, I’ve come to realize the post was about embracing my mortality; at eighty-five, my father is dying of cancer. Still, it’s a strange feeling . . . fifty-five. I have a few grey strands that I just gave up plucking! Seriously, fifty-five means I have earned life experience that no one can take away from me.
But, second thoughts creep in: what if people at work discover my age on my blog? What if they start sabotaging me? The reality is that no one cares as much as I do and I would be worrying too much. Besides, over time, that blog post will fade into obscurity as newer posts emerge. As long as I keep exploring my world and I’m open to learning about others, each year of life becomes a gift.
If a much older woman is unwilling to disclose her age, it seems to me that she is afraid of her mortality. Hey, life happens and the years appear suddenly like a breadcrumb trail behind you! More Hollywood actresses are disclosing their ages. This is a good trend or is it just the paparazzi trying to sell news?
Fifty-five equals two high-five hands clapping in jubilation and spontaneity. I’m finding my place in life with my own hands and sharing it with others. To do this, I listen to the best positive timbre of my voice. As I age, that voice becomes more poignant but rich.
Jean @ cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com
None of Your Beeswax!
How old are you? When did the question become as invasive as a stranger asking, “What size is your bra?” I first heard that you don’t ask a lady her age, in Nigeria and then, I imbibed it. Yet in The Netherlands, the receptionist at the Gemeente asks, “Wat is uw geboortedatum?” with the clinical detachment of a gynaecologist examining my cervix, and I respond, no pomp, no pageantry.
One day, I looked at my neighbour’s BMW X5, and wondered what he earned. I did not ask him when he stopped for a chit-chat as he walked his dogs because it was none of my business. I calculated the value of his house, googled what a man in his position would earn, took into consideration that his wife is the daughter of a former diplomat, and that they owned a boat. I knew enough.
How old am I? I sing Davido’s Aye, with my twelve-year-old niece and tell friends in their twenties, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt thrice, and moved on!” I discuss my blog posts pre-publication with my buddy who is forty-five and debate the existence of God with a sixty-five-year-old atheist. I am as young or as old as I want to be.
But, when I try on those leather-look skinnies in Zara, and turn to the side, then look at my behind, I shake my head as the attendant asks, “Will you be taking this?” I am not as young as the clothes would like me to be.
So, how old am I? None of your beeswax!
Timi @ Livelytwist
Old at 18; Young at 90
I stare into the eyes of my beloved who is in his mid-thirties and wonder if he is in love with me or with the idea of my youth. I have the look of innocence or so I’ve been told. At the restaurant, a waiter asks for my ID to ensure she isn’t serving a minor drinks. I watch the confusion on her face; it surprises me every time. Gisting about celebrity gossip with my friends in their twenties tires me. Listening to the wisdom of my elders intrigues me. I am an old soul in a young body.
Do we discover life and determine our futures when we are young? Maybe. Is age a barometer for our maturity level? No way! Is age a number that convinces our friends and us that we belong to their crowd? Well, yes. Does beauty have an inverse relationship with age? Yes. No. Maybe.
I consider age a means to tell the time as we journey in life, a clock that divides our stories into seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. Age is only a temporary number invented by human beings. You are as youthful as your mind allows or as old as the elder who gives you advice. I will gladly tell you my age if you just ask it of me.
“Some people are old at 18 and some are young at 90. Time is a concept that humans created.” – Yoko Ono
Michelle @ www.facebook.com/ladieleblanc
Not Old Enough
Because I’d recently completed an Art Appreciation class, the church elders believed I had a sophisticated eye for colours and patterns and invited me to the building committee meeting.
“We want to redesign the church building,” the senior pastor started.
“Thank God for our youngest worker here,” quipped the deacon who sat next to the pastor. “We need your expertise,” she smiled at me.
“Since God is holy and white means pure, we shall paint the walls white,” the senior pastor said.
“I agree with you sir. God is also a man of war. We can paint the pillars red to illustrate His fearfulness,” another deacon suggested.
“Wow! The Holy Spirit is at work here. How about we paint the ceilings blue?” the man sitting across from me left his question suspended in the air.
I closed my eyes and thought of rainbows and striped candies.
“What if we outsource this project and have this discussion with a designer present?” I offered.
“Abimbola, what do you mean?” the senior pastor frowned at me.
“Your ideas are lacking in terms of design, responsiveness, color psychology, and so on. Since the logo determines how a brand is remembered, it has to be in harmony with—”
“Look here, how old do you think you are? Since you are privileged to sit in this meeting, you should act your age!” the deacon who had smiled at me hissed.
So I held my peace. The project was doomed, but I kept the knowledge to my young self.
Maggielola @ worshipandswag.com
©Timi Yeseibo 2014
Image credits: www.fordesigner.com/maps/15533-0.htm
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