I discovered my first grey hairs last week. They're pretty and silvery-white. It seems like a good time, upon this discover and after making my "Trixie as Granny"
post, to share a few of my thoughts on aging and how I was raised to think about aging.
I was brought up in that old-fashioned way to "respect my elders". A few of my elders abused that position of being older and demanding respect even when they didn't deserve it, but whatever -- the point is that I grew up associating greater age with greater power. Aging was something to look forward to because it means more POWER; no one said it to me in exactly that way, but I think that's what I learned for better or dysfunctional worse.
My mom ALWAYS spoke of aging in a positive way. Growing older meant growing smarter and more knowledgeable (again, not necessarily true, but is a value I was taught to place on aging EVEN AS A WOMAN, which I think is key and, sadly, extraordinary these days in our country). And it was never qualified, like, "your tits might start sagging BUT you'll be wiser!"; the attainment of wisdom, especially the wisdom gained through aging, trumped everything else and sounded sparkly, potent, and valuable. If my dad had harped on this but my mom had not, I honestly don't think it would have been as meaningful to me as a girl. It was my mom more than anyone who raised me to want to become an adult woman and to believe, without question or conscious analysis, that the older I and other women become, THE BETTER WE ARE.
My parents and grandparents were older when I came along. In this day and age that's not unusual but back in the seventies it sure was odd for people without college educations (or even complete high school educations as in my dad's and grandpa's cases) to have kids later in life. Also, my dad was thirteen years older than my mom so I didn't grow up knowing and looking up to people in their twenties; being grown-up and a mom meant being at least thirty. As a kid it was bizarre hearing how much younger my friends' parents were than mine (especially since they didn't LOOK younger; my mom always looked younger, stronger, and prettier to me than any of my friends' moms). It's hard to pinpoint exactly what I made of this as a child and adolescent, but I think I got a general feeling that my family was special and sort of outranked my peers' families in the age-with-vitality category (in other categories I thought my family was inferior to other people, but that's a whole other subject; in the age category I felt privy to a shimmery sort of wisdom-of-the-ages aura).
I also have always felt a lot more comfortable with people who are quite a bit older than I am and have valued their opinions of me more than the opinions of people my own age. I'm pretty sure that my attraction (general attraction, not always or solely sexual) to older people makes a difference in the way I approach my sites and my customers, and to the types of customers who are attracted to me. I feel this is a boon, both financially and emotionally, and part of what makes webwhoring rewarding to me; I like and feel comfortable talking to men over fifty and often feel I have more in common with them than I do with men and (especially) women my own age.
Going to the transgender convention last week and being surrounded by a whole lot of people in their sixties, seventies, and eighties reinforced a lot of my positive associations with aging. When you see men in their golden years dressed in sequined ballgowns all glammed up with their shoulders proudly thrown back, it's easy to believe that being older means having the balls to give a big middle finger to what other people think and expect of you -- age means freedom and an obstinate refusal to conform. You have EARNED your SELF and can demand the privilege to BE yourself without compromise.
Looking just at these people who made it to this convention (ignoring all of the others of their generation who didn't make it and have no doubt lived tortured, unhappy existences) I believe that people who persist in wanting something they were brought up to think impossible probably live longer lives and retain more of their youth than people who have easy, happy, content lives. It was like watching Tuck fucking Everlasting
seeing some of these people IN THEIR EIGHTIES (did I already mention that?) acting younger than I act and LOOKING younger than I feel at thirty-four. It's the kind of thing that inspires you to see the Summerland
not as a possible afterlife, but as a place where you can dance when you're old as long as you retain that cheesy-sounding notion that youth is a state of mind best combined with wisdom collected over decades of living.
I'm looking forward to growing out my silvery-white hair one of these days. I think I still have a few years to go before I earn that crown, though.
Labels: aging, beauty standards, values