Thursday, October 01, 2009

women and a-g-e

Two things have happened recently that have made me think of women and age. First, a recent study showed that statistically American women get sadder as they get older, with a significant leap downwards in the late 40s. Shannon Kelley touched on this in her post on Undecided yesterday.

You don't hear a lot of women talking about why this might be. Women in their early 40s say things like "turning 40 made me feel stronger", but how do the supposedly sadder 47-year-olds really feel?

I am 48, and I am going to tell you what I think.

Turning 40 was a breeze. Turning 45? how shall I put it? Less of a breeze. It sucked, frankly.

At 45 you know that your next milestone is going to be 50, and that takes some getting used to for anyone. I am sure it's the same thing for men. Around the same time, middle to late 40s, your body starts giving in. And I am not talking about sagging, I am talking health problems. Earlier this year I met close friends I hadn't seen in years, and as part of the massive catching up we had to do we spent at least an hour talking about serious health issues.

And then there is the sagging. After 45, if you don't make changes to your diet and exercise habits, you will get fat. Your body burns less, and gets stiff if you don't stretch. Your face changes. Your arms change. (And creams don't work.)

Add to this that however you feel, in the eyes of the world around you, you are old. The check-out guy doesn't flirt. Heads don't turn, faces don't lit up. It's a tiny bit disheartening.

In my late 40s, and especially last year, when I was fat after chemo and my hair was gray because I hadn't gone back to coloring yet, for the first time I realized how much I have been depending on the attention from strangers. Not necessarily a healthy habit. It was a good reminder to have it go away.

It's real work to decide for yourself who you want to be. Getting your head and your body to align again. And act on how you feel, not what others think of you.

Which reminds me of that other period in our lives when mind and body are out of sync. The dreaded teenage years.

Roman Polanski raped a 13 year-old girl in 1972. He was arrested in Switzerland earlier this week. Friends and colleagues have come out in his defense.

Without getting too involved in that discussion, let me just say this: Reasonable people are making excuses for an adult having sex with a 13 year-old. Anyone's mind boggled?

We live in a male-dominated world. That means that the eye we have upon us is male. At 47 women may feel the same way they did at 42, yet "we" see them as old. Why? Because "we" have a male eye.

Anyone who has been a 13 year-old girl, or known a 13 year-old girl, know that at 13 a girl is still a child, even if her body looks grown-up.

The fact that people come out in defense of Roman Polanski is proof enough that in our society it's OK to treat a girl like the woman she looks to be, not the child that she is.

The eye is male. What a woman looks like to a man becomes the truth. What a woman feels like becomes the un-truth.

These are the notions we're up against. Guys and girls, it's up to you to decide what you want to do about it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Haven't watched this film yet, but interesting:

Written by one of the most liberal staffers at SFBG.