Dr. Christiane Northrup was on PBS recently — vivacious, intelligent, and fascinating as ever. She’s a wonderful role model, full of advice about growing older, especially for women.
However, one thing she said perplexed me.
“Never tell people your age,” she advised her audience. “Don’t celebrate your birthdays, even the milestones. Society will foist cultural conditioning on you, starting as early as 30.”
I had to think about this, although I agree there’s cultural conditioning. Just go to any Hollywood movie where you see sixty-something aged actors romantically paired with women young enough to be their great-granddaughters, I’m just not sure the answer is denying who we are.
And how can we hide our age? Unless you’re Halle Berry most of us look our years, give or take a few. You can declare you’re not stating your number, but for most of us, it’s evident. By not giving my age, I doubt anyone’s going to think I’m 25. And I’m okay with that. (*sniff*)
And if age shouldn’t matter as Dr. Northrup rightly claims, is the answer pretending it doesn’t exist? If it’s just a number, why not say it? Why not accept who we are and how far we’ve come? Agelessness and goddesses (as she calls women) are nice fantasies. But in the end, we’re real women and do age and I don’t think that’s so bad. Milestone birthdays should be a source of pride. The climb may be daunting, but what an incredible view.
And doesn’t hiding age buy into the cultural conditioning we’re trying to avoid, that increasing years in women are bad, even shameful? Age is ever shifting, who we are at a certain moment.
I know women who are more youthful now than twenty years ago. I also know young women with tough lives, older than their years. And yes, there are more wrinkles and creaky joints past forty, but maybe that’s the price of being mortal and having the benefit of time.
I have no problem saying I’m 58. I’m proud of my age. I earned these years. I laughed and cried and wore out many a pair of high heels to get here. I find life as exciting (probably more so) than I did in my angst-ridden twenties. The strangest thing is although I look different outside…I feel no different inside.
My grandmother Nana never talked about getting on in years till she lived in a Ft. Lauderdale nursing home at 95. “Who are all these old people?” she kept asking of her fellow residents.
Up till then, Nana was always comfortable with her years. “Look at these legs,” she’d say to me, posing showgirl style. “Not bad for a 75 year old.” Nana was proud of herself at every mile, radiating self-acceptance, and well into her eighties always had great zest for life.
In the end, I guess it’s personal. Some women don’t give their age like we don’t give our weight or shoe size. And I get that. To tell or not to tell is a choice. But there’s something freeing in saying this is who I am, take it or leave it… like men do.
I hope someday Dr. Northrup rethinks the age thing, especially about celebrating birthdays. She’s a cool, pretty, intelligent woman. Knowing her number won’t change that.
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