Saturday, December 12, 2015

To Young Women Who Fear "Getting Old"

We must change.

It's true, when you've become older you won't turn as many heads.  You also won't get catcalled, followed on dark streets or grabbed by strangers - or at least not as often.  You'll notice that men have begun to actually listen to you, have stopped making jokes at your expense, and have even begun take you seriously, but you'll also notice that the men who used to catcall you now don't see you at all; that (to the worst of them) you have become invisible.  All this will be disorienting at first. 

But embrace it, because the world needs you to change.

For one thing, your biology demands it.  As in all of nature, transitions happen for important reasons.  Many anthropologists now believe that the human race would not have survived without grandmothers; if all women in a tribe are of childbearing age the tribe is too vulnerable and would probably starve. Because of grandmothers, cultures remember medicines and stories and fudge recipes and many other important things.

So, never reduce your experience and value by saying you've had less time here on earth to gather it.  Do not demerit yourself in any way.  Your knowledge is too valuable.  True, in a meritocracy where cookie-cutter education is equated with intelligence, this will often be invisible knowledge and have invisible value.  But when you are older you stop being fooled by collective biases, and superficial contempt will not throw you off track.

You will notice as you get older that there are men's rules, and there are natural laws.  Men's rules say you don't correct a customer on how to hold her baby even if the child is clearly in discomfort. But natural law compels you to speak up.  If a child or animal or other innocent is in danger you'll find yourself even more prone to smashing social contracts into cookie crumbs.  Your increased freedom to break social contracts comes partly from having thrown off the shackles of the beauty contest.  Your value is no longer chained to your looks.  When you're older you are more aware of the value in your heart and soul, your compassion, your insight.  Having claimed the stature of your age you will become much more aware of others, of the world, of what matters. You will see what needs to be done and your part in it.

Oh, and bonus: everything gets funnier.  People become walking reruns and you'll often know everything about them including what they are about to say before they even speak - but when you're older you are good at keeping this to yourself.  You can enjoy a joke privately and you can be kind even when it's hard.

You've survived being a child, becoming a woman, being a young woman of childbearing age and many, many other things.  You've traversed many hazards and healed from many injuries. Then it's time to evolve, to transform, to become "older".  And stick around for a while longer, if you can.

Though the "man's world" world may never admit it, the world needs old women.

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