We have come to fear ageing as though it is a disease one might unexpectedly catch.
“Kate doesn’t want anyone to know, but she’s 48.”
“Doesn’t Annabel look good for 50.”
“It’s Miriam’s birthday next week. She’s 45.”
I’m a woman in my 40s and I don’t want to be a complete Debbie Downer but if you replaced the ages above with the words got ebola, hepatitis, malaria or Lyme disease there wouldn’t be much difference in delivery and feel.
The inference being something terrible, inescapable and life changing has occurred to that woman. Something that wasn’t meant to happen. She has caught ageing and life will never be the same.
It’s hard to fight history and the MTV channel. So much of a woman’s value has always been bound to her youth and all that connotes: beauty, fertility, insouciance, the way her legs look in a pair of tiny denim shorts.
But as Aristotle said (and he wasn’t referring to teens), “Nature abhors a vacuum”.
Growing older is not only about loss, it’s about those surprising, hard earned gains. Think of the experience, skills, confidence, patience, pragmatism, the ability to keep your mouth shut when you really, really want to tell a 24-year-old that adulting is not a verb. There is beauty too. A deeper more interesting kind.
But this is where ageing gets hard because logically all the women I know, including me, are aware of this. We know the decades have made us smarter, more resilient in some areas, more vulnerable in others, vocationally and emotionally skilled. But too often, in the very area these skills are most valuable and the life arena conviction is a skill in itself – the workplace – we doubt it.
Recently a friend of mine was recounting her meeting with the new CEO of the company she works for. There had been a restructure and she was worried if her job would be restructured right out the door. She has a mortgage and school fees to pay and while there had never been any talk of her job being made redundant, her age nagged at her. She became Doomsday Doris.
I will never get another job if I lose this one.
Who is going to hire me?
I’m actually no good with technology or anything really.
I’m too expensive. Why keep me when they can get a 20 something for a lot less money?