Mostly, I don’t think much about getting older. I don’t have a lot of fear about it – in fact, I spent most of my life wanting to be older than I was – even in those rarefied times when you are supposed to be in love with your youth. I’ve never had stereotypical beauty or a youthful body to be afraid of losing, and aging has it’s perks too!
Today, a facebook friend of mine – actually more of an acquaintance who I know through work (she’s a health teacher in a school where I often present) – posted about her 28th birthday. No big deal. She made some joke about ‘aging’ that I rolled my eyes at because, whatever, 28 is NOT old. I’m close to 28 . . .
Except, not really. I’m as close to 28 as someone who is 20, and I would absolutely say there’s a difference between those ages. I’m closing in on 36 – 8 years older than my friend. Not a huge difference maybe, but certainly not the ‘close in age.’ (I also sometimes think that 2008 wasn’t that long ago, so . . .)
Yesterday, a colleague and I were talking about age, and about how different you can feel at a certain age, depending on your life circumstances. We were sharing that we both felt like our families still treated us like the teenagers we haven’t been in decades, instead of the adult women we are now. When L and I see our families, we inevitably feel much younger than our siblings – even when, in the case of L’s brother, only 18 months separates us in age.
And I do think some of this is being queer. Building lives that – for a long time – didn’t include a narrative of marriage or normativity, choosing to build families and communities that look different than the traditional groups of friends I see my brother and cousins spending time with, having to form identities that aren’t reflected in broader culture. I think there is often something about queerness that keeps you young – although it isn’t inherent, of course. And even now that I’ve stepped into a lot of that more traditional narrative, the community I spend time with and am invested in continues to prioritize different values and aesthetics. I mean, I’m a 35 year old ‘professional’ with a septum piercing (that I had before it was ‘cool’ FYI. #aginghipster) and pink hair and half sleeves of visible tattoos. I honestly have no idea how old people think I am when they see me, obviously I’m not even sure how old I see myself.
Sometimes I want to aspire – sometimes I DO aspire – to some of the ‘grown up’ life I don’t usually want and have not been working for . . .sometimes I think I might like a bigger house, or a different kind of job, that I might want to just be a mild mannered almost middle aged white lady in a suburb. Yes. Really. But getting it would mean giving up too much that I love.
And sometimes I wish I was able to live more off the grid than I do – that I could be like some friends of mine who still just work part time jobs at bike shops or book stores, who work on radical political campaigns in their spare time and live in collective houses, sharing resources and making art. I have always craved comfort and stability a little too much to have ever done more than dip my toe in that kind of existence, but I’ve romanticized it nevertheless.
Maybe my unease is that I wasn’t able to commit to either of these ends of this self imposed spectrum? No one really lives in the poles – it’s something we imagine from the outside, right? To add structure to our lives, understand the place where we live and carve out an identity – this, not that.
I worry sometimes about where we’ll be in 20 years if we aren’t at the ineffable ‘there’ by now – our mid 30’s! – but I don’t actually know where I’d want to be anyway. I have a retirement account and am vested in a state pension plan, I own real estate, I have a master’s degree and $40K in student loan debt to prove it. Those things seem like pretty solid sunk adult investments. So, yes, I’ve grown up. But I also fully intend to get more tattoos, not less, and don’t want to give up the chosen family or aesthetics or values. I do sort of want my kids to think I am some version of cool when they get older. Not cool like them, but that kind of older cool that you sometimes see. A comfort with who you are, a willingness to keep being yourself in the face of enormous pressure to do anything but, a certainty that the world can still change.