In the last few years, I’ve been under construction. It wasn’t my choice to rip out walls, plumbing, tear the roof off, or take it down to subfloors. That was done for me, but tonight I’m not interested in exploring the events that gutted me emotionally. Instead, I feel the need to share the thoughts that have been coming to a boil within me. They have no particular order, and I won’t bother to organize them too much. It feels more natural this way.
Why Should I Be Afraid?
If I’m lucky, one day, I will be wrinkled, covered in age spots and sagging in a variety of interesting ways. My physical strength will go, and I’ll have the privilege of learning how to move in the world with a new set of limitations. I want that, because it means I managed to survive. I want to wear my life tattooed on my body–the joys and pains, the unattractive derision and visceral revulsion, the ability to care for others.
There is no such thing as a good looking corpse, no matter when you die or how carefully you live. It doesn’t matter if you live fast and loose or with the greatest caution, take stupid risks or stupidly refuse to live a life of natural risk. We will all die. And death is not pretty. I see the obsession with erasing the signs of aging as something more than foolish. Women, especially, are expected to retain their youthful appearance as long as possible, because their unspoken value is tied to that youth.
The number of advertisements in every medium for products that are designed to exploit this fear of reduced value is staggering to me. Wrinkle creams, filling gels, chemical peels, Botox treatments, hair dyes, slimming or uplifting undergarments designed to mimic the figure of youth, diets and exercise machines, drinks and pills and vitamins–who are we doing this for? And that doesn’t include the inherent messaging in consumer culture for everything from cheeseburgers to vacuum cleaners that targets our supposed insecurity about our own sexual allure, reinforcing a suite of ideals and ideologies that have nothing to do with reality.
As a woman who has never been seen as beautiful or physically pretty by the cultural standards of my society, I could care less about wrinkles. To me, they are signs that I am alive. They are my proof of involvement–I went to the Human Race Convention. Here’s my badge and my program. Perhaps because my value has never been bound to how sexually alluring I am, I am more free than some to extend my middle finger at society. I am, as it were, on the sidelines. The messaging isn’t for me. I can safely watch it be sent and received.
Your Opinion Is Extraneous
But for a long, long time I cared. I somehow got it into my head that I wasn’t wanted, wasn’t worthy of being wanted, because I didn’t fit the mold. There are years ahead of me yet, years in which I must reinforce the knowledge that what others think or believe about me doesn’t actually matter. At all. Sure, we’re all social creatures and we have to exist within a group dynamic. That being said, I don’t need to internalize culturally centered critique of my deviation from the norm.
I was never meant to be a wall flower. I’m outspoken, deeply intellectual, forceful. Many find my manner unpleasant, perhaps because women with opinions are “bossy.” Well, I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life, Bub. I just want to live mine without being told I’m doing it wrong. I will no longer behave as if the opinions of others define me. I’m weary of living in a region in which women are not allowed to contradict men who say wrong or thoughtless things without being subject to critiques based solely on their physicality. I have a brain, a hell of a lot of education–which neither began nor ceased in a classroom environment–and I am not afraid to show it. I’m done apologizing for not being a silent sex object. I’m done biting my tongue to spare the friable, fragile egos of those around me.
For the first time in many years, I’ve reached a point where I’m uncomfortable with where I am in spatial and contextual terms. Given my penchant for sudden, dramatic life changes and spontaneous “Watch This” moments, I’m almost certain my near future will feature some bombastic events. If I’m lucky, I’ll weather them with grace and courage. However, knowing me, it will involve falling down, making a fool of myself, and generally being a pain in the asses of many people unfortunate enough to know me well. If I’m lucky, I’ll keep the friends who matter, who know it’s not about them.