30 Day Writing Challenge
Day Nine: Your Feelings On Ageism
“I still look good though”. Since reaching our thirties, these five words have tumbled from the lips of me and my friends every year. I often tell myself that I have little concern about aging. And seventy-five percent of the time it’s true. But my fixation on being able to utter those five words betrays an underlying fear.
The nape of my neck is peppered with tight, silvery coils, and for years, I let them be. After all, my lush dreadlocks hang down my back like vines. Hiding my grey hairs was easy, as I rarely wore my hair up. But in 2015 the unthinkable happened: the unruly grey hair began to march north, stubbornly setting up camp around my temples. And though I loathe putting any chemicals in my hair, frequently dyeing my hair jet black began to appear necessary in my mind. My genes have been kind to me (thus far at least), with others frequently assuming that I am in my late twenties. But that wasn’t enough for me. I needed the grey gone, for it was undeniable proof of a fact I wasn’t completely comfortable with: aging.
I like to think I’ve unpacked all the mess I picked up from society growing up. However, I’d be lying to say that mainstream ideas around aging(particularly in relation to gender)had no impact on me. Sure, I grew up with the ‘girl power’ of the nineties and witnessed the push to nurture intelligence, drive and personality in us. Yet and still, it was apparent that ultimately it was beauty that weighed heavily in perceptions of a woman’s worth. Beauty is inextricably linked to youth in my culture, and it was my awareness of this that made me uncomfortable with aging.
On many occasions, I’ve heard people insinuate that our best years are behind us when we are no longer young. Acquaintances have told me that as a woman it will be all downhill for me after the age of thirty-five or forty, and that I’ll no longer be special or desired once I move into middle-age. I look around and see enough evidence in the way older people are treated to know that there is some truth to that. But then I think of my dear Mama and my beloved Tiffni, neither of whom lived to see their golden years. It is then that the words of my Grandma, who did it into old age, come back to me. Grandma always spoke of aging in a positive manner. She told me it was a blessing to live long, and that one’s elders are to be cherished and taken care of. In spite of all the messages I’ve received to the contrary, I believe there is much truth and wisdom in Grandma’s words. So instead of succumbing to my fear of experiencing Ageism(or Jeunism to be more precise), I will view old age as a gift I hope I’m fortunate enough to attain.