I’m not blind to the changes. Mentally, I feel the same. I have been told that I don’t look my age, but I don’t look like I did when I was 25. After all, I was 27 years old when these stubborn silver threads launched their invasion of my raven-black coils. I’m unsure if I can blame this excess 15 pounds on middle age or the COVID-19 quarantine. Either way, my weight hovers around 140 pounds now versus the 125 I stayed at throughout my 30s. I’ve noticed the creeping recession of my tear troughs when I look in the mirror, now seeing my younger face in my daughter’s instead of my reflection.
As an American woman, I’ve been bombarded with messages meant to terrify me about the prospect of aging. I won’t be as valuable, I’m told. Men won’t find me as attractive anymore. My sexual and reproductive value will decline sharply, so I was always supposed to fear this stage. But I am a few months shy of 43 now and do not fear time’s advance.
I did not balk when I turned 35 or hit the milestone of 40. I welcomed both. Each birthday improves my chances of outliving my mother, a goal I feel I must achieve. She was only 46 years old when she died. Mama was entirely too young to leave.
There’s a pattern of premature deaths on my maternal side. Great-grandma Rachel died at 26. Aunt Mary, my grandmother’s firstborn, was only 52 when she passed away. And Aunt Lois, Mama’s younger sister, was 51 years old. They should have had more time and more years to enjoy their lives on this planet. I remember their premature deaths, and they make me understand that aging is a privilege everyone does not experience. As a result, I do not take it lightly. Life can end at any moment and when we least expect it. So, instead of fretting about aging, I welcome it.
I look forward to 43 and 47, and even 80 years old. I welcome the idea of more gray hair and menopause. My mother never went through it.
I patiently wait for the day when I cradle all my grandchildren because my mom didn’t receive that joy. I won’t fight reality, trying to compete with my daughter and younger women. I am not desperate to reverse the flow of sand through the hourglass. I choose to relish the process. Because if I’m aging, I am still HERE. I’m still in the game, experiencing life- and that is what’s worth holding on to and celebrating.