This is a blog post I’ve been meaning to write for a long time.
People don’t know what to do with women our age. Early thirties. Not quite full-blown middle age, but certainly no longer “studenty”. You can “look good” for 40, but it seems strange to compliment someone for being well preserved when their 20s were still very much in living memory. But there’s still something apologetic built in. At this age, we feel constantly like we should be making some kind of excuse, but don’t really know what for. It’s interesting how age is attached to people’s personalities as if it really is a part of them, as if it’s their fault (or triumph) – and interesting that it’s considered worthy of judgement at all.
Like I say, people don’t know what to do with it. (I’m not picking on James specifically here, it’s just a recent example that seemed to sum it up.) It can seem that there’s no way to win, on either side. James there posed the question himself, but after a moment, seems he wasn’t even sure what he’d asked. Of course, initially I just assumed he wanted to imply I look old for my age! But perhaps he meant the opposite. Yes, of course. Definitely the opposite.
Maybe it’s not so bad though. Maybe, actually, it’s OK not to be young – or old. Maybe it’s fine to be about the same age as Kate Middleton and Natalie Portman and Kate Winslet and Mila Kunis and Kim Kardashian and Beyonce and Shakira and Gisele and Eva Wiseman who edits The Observer magazine, and Sylvia Plath and Myleene Klass, and Alex Jones and Christine Bleakley, and Isy Suttie and Victoria Pembleton, and Bridget Jones, and Pam from the US Office.
Perhaps they’re the lucky, ones. I suppose I am lucky too. I’ve had a lot of adventures all my life and, throughout my teens and twenties, I picked my own adventures – good and bad – so I don’t really feel I’ve missed out on, or squandered anything. I’m also able to make a living doing things I find interesting and enjoyable, which feels entirely appropriate to the investment of years of giving stuff away for free. However, I do tend to live in a sort of perpetual present, which makes for jolts when I bump up against outsiders’ perceptions, as people try to find a way of categorising me, based on something they’re imagining about the past or future (because, as far as I can tell, there is still no mental picture of achievement for this age. At least nothing that doesn’t involve babies).
What does your age have to do with you? Nothing, clearly, in any sense. Your age is owned by outsider’s perceptions, which is I suppose why people I know have taken to lying about theirs (men, too). You can’t control the way it’s constructed – but you can at least, catch people as they flail around looking for something to latch onto, and gently divert them to the intersting stuff; the stuff that really does have something to do with you.