Monday, November 01, 2004

4 + 1 = a vision in blue

I wrote down my age last night, looked at it, and burst into tears. It’s one of those major-birthday ages plus one, and it’s not 31 or 51, and it starts with a 4. I refuse to write it again, ever. I’m still mopping the tears off the floor. What a bastard that number is. (I hate you! I hate you! etc.)

Now, you’d think, wouldn’t you, that by now I’d be old enough to know better. (“Old enough to know better?!” Oh! Boo hoo hoo!) In every other area of my life I’ve learned that clothes do not maketh the man (sic). Or they don’t maketh the interesting man. (There are plenty of people who just pour themselves into stereotypes, but they aren’t interesting.) And I’m also aware that the real danger in “isms” eg. sexism, racism, ageism, is that they not only infect the wider culture, but also burrow their way into the individual:

[Quoting H. Jack Geiger, civil rights worker]
Of all the injuries inflicted by racism on people of color, the most corrosive is the wound within, the internalized racism that leads some victims, at unspeakable cost to their own sense of self, to embrace the values of their oppressor.
- Gloria Steinem, Revolution From Within: a Book of Self-Esteem (London, UK: Corgi Books, 1992), p.138.

So, I should’ve been prepared for this. Should have, but wasn’t. Last night I was thinking: boo hoo hoo! (this got a really good run). And: it can’t be true! And: where did all the years go? You know: etc.

What to do? Hmm. Don’t really know. Ageism isn’t like sexism or racism: your actual age isn’t a socially-constructed thing. The numbers are right there in front of you (if you’re silly enough to write them down). But what about the expectations pinned to the numbers? When I look at my age, an immediate list of “shoulds” springs to mind: I should be doing this, should be doing that. And this is accompanied by the list of “aren’ts”, the “now-it’s-too-lates” and the “what-the-hell-am-I-going-to-dos”. And I’m pretty sure I never sat down and wrote those lists out myself. For one thing, they're too long. (Can't concentrate longer than… What was I saying?) For another thing: they aren’t helping.

Well, that’s the answer then, isn’t it? I’ll make up my own list. Something more useful. In a nice shade of blue or green. Something I can live with. Which is pretty important seeing I do actually, you know, have to live with it.

Isn’t life interesting (in the times when it’s not completely shitty)?