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On Age and Defining Myself

Screen shot 2013-04-01 at 6.06.31 PMBefore I go on with the final few dates of the lower 48 states (I know! So close!) I have to admit I’m distracted today by the subject of age. Many of my friends and I are 30 or thereabout. While I do have friends of various ages – from mid-20’s to late 60’s – the earmarked “30” is a recent enough phenomenon for most of us that we’ve been talking about, especially those who are inching closer to 35.

We are told to age gracefully, which I think is a funny way to put it considering no aspect of growing up, from pre-school into navigating complex social relationships to figuring out the whole sex this is at all graceful. Despite the clunkiness of maturing, once we reach a certain point we’re supposed to behave with a sense of decorum if not inside than certainly outward facing. I have to immaturely admit this reeks of unfairness. Kids get to be kids without repercussion; but me, I have to look at the veins that pop out my once smooth-skinned hands (and never go fall back in line with my skin) and give the world a Soma-like smile, lest I wail and gnash my teeth a bit? Not that pop-up veins is a teeth gnashing worthy event – it merely appears to be a vanity issue – but still.

This all came up because my friends and I were discussing the fact that we actually knew multiple people who had been in a decade long relationships, chose to break up and were rebuilding their lives. For some reason, fathoming that whole endeavor was a challenge. How could we be old enough to know anyone who had been together that long? Of course, all that newfound singleness wasn’t completely lost on me. I’ve been in and out of single since forever (which also means I’ve been in and out of relationships since forever). Something I never understood about the tales of freaked-outedness 30+ year old women feel* until I became 30 myself was why anyone was freaked out at all.

The differences between 27 and 30 felt minimal, if existant at all, back at 27. But there’s more, besides the hands thing. There’s the hair thing – not only is my color betraying me, but I’ve had the sneaking suspicion there could be less of my hair than there used to be. It’s not a vastly different amount, but it’s not what it once was – I have to wrap ponytail holders around an extra time. There’s the fact that I really don’t just want seven hours of sleep (at least) but that I crave it. That without it I’m pureed for the day.

All this of course leads to the dating issue, and why 30+ year-old women are running around having panic attacks and having to talk themselves out from their mental breakdowns: as a gender, we’ve often relied on our looks for a long time. When signs of aging, even small ones, creep upon us, it feels bit like a death sentence (yeah yeah, life is a death sentence, I know). But almost a fate worse than death, it makes one assume we might be losing our chances to attract a mate. A mate who surely wants someone young and vibrant and who reeks of potential to bear children. All which has me thinking…

It took years for me to not let my job define me. I still struggle with that thought, honestly. And much as I toy with the idea of eating meat, I know that I’m attracted to the way the vegetarian label defines me, too. But take those things away as I’m supposed to, and it occurs to me my next defining features are indeed my physical features. And when you take those away…then what? I know it’s a very “poor me” thing to say, but without what I look like, what am I at all?

No wonder I’m resisting the urge to grow up with grace.

* (as noted in tales like Bridget Jones’ Diary and Sex in the City and surely plenty of other media sources meant to poke fun at older singletons)

2 Responses so far.

  1. Michael B. says:

    Oh goodness. It hasn’t come to this, has it? Sure, looks matter in the dating realm. To a point. But who you are is not at all defined by your looks. It’s the soul inside that counts. It’s how you view the world, and interact with people, and what you value. It’s what you love and what makes you passionate. It’s how you carry yourself on good days and bad. It’s all your quirks and insecurities and ambitions and dreams. That’s what matters, and that’s what people ultimately connect with. And it’s something you never lose however old you get.

    • admin says:

      M, I certainly hope it hasn’t come to this. However, I find it impossible to date and not at least think about the ramifications of what it means to get older. In a culture that values youth I have a hard time not getting a bit carried away by noting what I’m quickly losing. :)

      I’m keeping the faith that everything you point out – the soul inside and beyond – is what actually matters. I’d be interested in talking to couples who truly have that kind of love…I feel like it’s not something we say out loud often outside of weddings.

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