Teri Vance: No shame, or secrets, in getting older
When this goes to press, I will be 45 years old.
In some ways, it feels like an act of rebellion to say your age out loud. Last year, I told a casual acquaintance I was turning 44.
He told me I could pass for 10 years younger. At the very least, he said, I should say I was turning 39. He promised not to tell anyone what I’d told him.
It felt as if I’d confessed something taboo.
And cultural belief supports that theory.
Oscar Wilde said, “One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. A woman who would tell one that would tell one anything.”
It supports the old adage that a lady never reveals her age.
With that, however, comes a certain set of restrictions.
By hiding our age, we have to make sure we don’t look our age. And if we don’t look it, we better not act it.
So all the life experience and wisdom we collect along the way must be buried for the sake of pretense.
In a way, I understand it. I remember turning 10 and feeling like there was a lot of pressure on me now that I was entering double digits.
Sixteen didn’t feel young and carefree. To me, it meant a new level of responsibility, and I worried I wasn’t keeping up.
I spent my 30th birthday crying most of the day. I couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason, but the overwhelming feeling was failure. I hadn’t accomplished all the things I thought I should have by 30.
But somewhere over the next decade, those expectations started to diminish. Life started to become more about the moment and less about the milestone.
Losing my dad taught me that life is fleeting and fragile, and not to be taken for granted.
While landmark birthdays had always been problematic for the self-imposed assumptions of boxes that needed to be checked by a certain age, by the time I turned 40, I had all but let them go.
To be honest, I don’t even remember what I did for my 40th birthday.
That’s not to say that everyone should just embrace their age and move on. There are real reasons we, especially women, want to fudge the numbers a bit.
Women often report feeling “invisible” as they age. They are no longer seen as viable romantic partners and opportunities in the workplace start to disappear.
But, you can’t fight the system with the same tools that built the system.
In order to change those preconceived notions about women as they age, we need to start seeing positive images of women aging.
When we start to really believe that women have value beyond youthful beauty, we will be able to better embrace all aspects of who we are.
So, on the cusp of turning 45, I am proud of what I have accomplished and experienced in those years, knowing there is still so much I want to do. I still have plenty of secrets, but my age isn’t one of them.