I hate my birthday, never liked it. I mean, I am grateful to be celebrating each birthday as it comes but other than that, I hate my birthdays. When I was younger it was more so because I disliked the spotlight. I feel very uncomfortable being the centre of attention so most of the times if we had to celebrate my birthday, I always opted for a quiet dinner with a small group of friends. But even that was sometimes too much pressure for me because I never wanted to be the reason why people didn’t have a good time. The idea that I might be troubling people to do things for my sake (make their way to a restaurant, feel the need to buy a gift, etc) added to that pressure. I also didn’t want people to look at me because I felt if they looked long enough, they’d find something wrong with me; they’d see through the façade of my silly jokes and blunt humour. Maybe they’d eventually see a flawed human, an imperfect person, and to me, that was nerve-wracking.
Now, as I am steadily approaching my scary age (40), I have a bunch of new fears. Most of them have to do with losing the most wonderful things I’ve acquired thus far: my husband, my daughter, and the life we’ve built with our dear family and friends. The other thing I fear is something I’ve rejected all my life (almost childishly sometimes) and that is the idea of change. I’m someone who relishes in the routine and the ordinary. I really don’t like change. Change knocks me off balance, it requires me to recalibrate all the things I’ve already made peace with, and it takes me out of my comfort zone. And of course, with age comes the certainty of inevitable change.
All the above sounds very negative, and indeed it is. But I don’t think I’m unique in my pessimistic thinking here. Perhaps this problematic idea of aging is cyclically embedded in a lot of us- designed to signify something bad. Think of aging as a business and its target audience are women over the age of 30. There is a whole industry marketed towards middle-aged women “chasing their youth” as if it is fleeting and if given the opportunity, could somehow be recaptured. Yes, with the right product you might be able to somehow turn back the cruel hands of time: you could smooth out those laugh lines, blend in those undereye circles, and outgrow those silver threads in your hair. They might even have you believe that the fountain of youth is at risk of being perilously lost forever unless you buy in: the products, the philosophy, the farce. So, why all the hoopla? Well, it could only equate to one narrative: the older you are, the less you matter. Unfortunately, I think we live in a society that only values a certain age group. As a woman, if you are too young your voice is considered inexperienced and weak but if you are too old, your voice is no longer relevant. Perhaps this is consumerism at its cleverest: leveraging our emotional upheavals to sell night creams that have spectacular claims of “everlasting youthfulness.”
What’s my takeaway from all this? I’m trying to do better for myself and my daughter. I want to be proud of my age and be able to embrace change. I want my inner voice to be far louder than the outside chatter around me. I am recognizing that everything around us influences how we feel and what we do with that information is what really makes a difference. Do we absorb it as truth, question our self-worth, and feel bad about our blemishes? Or do we actively reject the notion that aging is an unnatural process that should somehow be reversed, and instead reevaluate society and its toxic messaging?
“When women are trained into thinking there is something fundamentally wrong with getting older, and are coerced into spending money, energy and power investing in ‘slowing the signs of ageing’, an enormous vault of divine love is lost.”-Yogesh Kumar (Author)
Well, this year I want to be different. I choose to accept my birthday because I want to be seen, I want to be heard, I want to be relevant, and I want to matter. It’s important for my daughter to see that I (a woman) matter in this world because that ultimately means that she does too.
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