ESSAY: WHAT’S AGE GOT TO DO WITH IT
About the need to give your age a hug from the inside
It is common to associate certain characteristics with a certain age. Personally, I always pre-defined a specific age and what it will encompass many years in advance. When I was a kid, I thought becoming ten years old entailed having cool braces, wearing oversized jumpers with hoodies and being great at target-spitting. When I was a teen, one day becoming 20 meant being a wine expert, knowing at least one recipe for a mouthwatering cocktail, being more assertive and reading Dostoevsky on a weekly basis.
The preconceptions became more negative for the decade to come, not because I became more bitter, but because the existing references, in the world and media, made future prospects less worthy to look forward to. Suddenly, in my twenties, one day turning 30 meant having little humour, no lightness of being, and cooking goulash for at least two kids. But here I am, confused and a tad stuck, because one year away from turning 30, I not only notice the invalidity of my pre-conceptions, but also how much I suffer from my self-imposed definitions of what being a certain age means, what it “allows” and what it disapproves of.
What if what I always imagined to have to be at 30 is so many desperate cries away from what I actually am and hope to continue to be?
I always considered phrases such as “Age doesn’t matter” or “It’s not how old you are, but how old you feel” as self-help mantras written by lousy ageing idiots trying to convince themselves of being youthful. However, although still young, the meaning behind these thoughts starts to ring so true, because for the first time in my life I am aware of how much judgement is being attributed to ages that don’t start with a 2. I feel this realisation as a beginning of a series of challenges that will most certainly encounter further resistance in the future: the challenge of claiming my life as my own without comparing myself to others in terms of age, which is irrelevant, belittling and thus unnecessary. Having a goal in life can be great, but making something that is out of our control a reference point defeats us whenever we outlive that very reference. If being 30 or 40 (depending on who you listen to) is defined as the ideal age, how should we feel when we’re 50, 60, 70?
I am 29 and I love stickers. I love pens, hobby scissors in different shapes and sizes, thread and paper.
My friends and I like to draw out faces with tomato sauce and dance in underwear whilst trying to eat spaghetti. We draw nipples on our t-shirts, paint our nails in different colours, send each other links of animated films from Ex-Czechoslovakia and look forward to our next knitting project, which will most likely be a chaotic woollen something that we will pretend is a bohemian scarf. We have drunken wine-Skype sessions where we talk about our recent second-hand purchases that “need some mending to look great”, knowing very well that we will never mend them, but sharing our thrifty finds is what gets our enthusiasm going.
If other people my age prefer to talk about taxes, collect expensive watches and dry-clean their shirts, then they really should and I genuinely wish them well.
But I will not allow some frowns to make me question my sometimes chaotic, but mostly whimsical life. In a society where focusing on becoming fiercely successful and elbow-pushing became a praised value to strive to, I will give my own personal best to challenge the idea that intellect and ambition cannot go hand in hand with fun, playfulness and laughter.
Therefore, what we really need to do is to smash that silly-vanilly idea of having to be slaves to an imaginary prototype, raise our fists in the air and get role models that guide us and make us look forward to getting 96 in the most graceful yet quirky way. Because no matter how we try to mislead ourselves by dramatising ageing:
getting older doesn’t necessarily mean getting less lively, but it definitely means us living longer, which is fantastic.
No matter how much beauty magazines, media and clothing stores try to categorise us into something so drastically “next”, “new” and “different”, entering a new decade does not mean suddenly beginning a new chapter, but rather continuing to read the next sentence, with grace, curiosity and love. There are so many women from every age, that we can look up to for some private inspiration-channeling who will not only give us “permission” to stay who we are, but also give us a kick in the arse and remind us to celebrate our boundary-free goodness. To me, these women are filmmakers Miranda July and Lena Dunham, multi-media lovelies Tavi Gevinson and Amanda de Cadenet, writers Sheila Heti and Caitlin Moran, singers Sia and Björk and comedians of the Joan-Rivers-and-Amy-Poehler-kind. There are also some amazing characters from films (Frances from “Frances Ha” is my imaginary best friend since last year) or comic books (“Ghost World” or “Embroideries”) to choose from for that super inner boost.
Whoever they are, find your own personal goddesses and communicate with them via your secret shrine. Some amazing women who will blow away your temporarily appearing guilt, when all you want is to have fun and play when the world around you begs you to iron your blouse.