Getting older is like being fined for something you didn’t mean to do.
There you are pootling along (within the speed limit these days) but there was no warning billboard saying “Steep Decline Ahead.” Or if there were you didn’t notice it until you were on the slip road.
Thereafter the signs come thick and fast.
But most of them fill me with deep relief and not inconsiderable joy.
The ideal American woman is the stepdaughter of a masculine society and as such lives with habitual sexualization and devaluation. In an ageist/lookist society, women over thirty are considered past it. We are at the mercy of a mass culture that only celebrates older women ‘who still remain youthful’.
The shine in the eyes of a fifty-five year old Hollywood fiancée is really the white stare of desperation.
Me? I am on the shelf with the marmalade.
What a relief.
I can sit quietly gathering dust having been ejected from feminine subjection/evaluation by the consequences of ageing.
(When you get to my age people don’t ask ‘Is she attractive?’ They say ‘Does she drive at night?’)
Whereas once I would never consider putting out the rubbish without my face on, I now walk around the village sans maquillage and often, I fear, without brushing my hair.
I know that only by triumphing over self-consciousness can the feminine victim become the female heroes.
I don’t divide my wardrobe into thin clothes and fat clothes. I know that following fashion is signing a petition. Having style is issuing a manifesto.
I am liberated from justifying my life by the sexual or domestic service rendered. Nothing deadens the soul more effectively than dreary, thankless housework.
I don’t want to lose five pounds before I go to Paris.
If the truth be told, I don’t even want to go to Paris. I’ve watched ‘Midnight in Paris’.
I don’t do those BuzzFeed quizzes to find out who/what you were in a previous life. I know.
I am not looking for a man/woman/anyone to rescue me or ameliorate my life. I will save my own life. At least that way there won’t be a debt to be repaid.
I know that ‘never mind’ is really a useful piece of advice.
I no longer yearn “to be happy.” If all you want in life is to be happy you are bound to be miserable. Happiness depends on circumstances. Serenity is that deep abiding sense that all will be well even if circumstances are against us. But while happiness is not something we are entitled to or even programmed for, I now know that there is no virtue in being miserable.
As one grows older one is like a spiritual athlete who is capable of lifting great weights.
Women are capable of great psychic energy when they are no longer beset by the egotisms and hostilities of sexual passion. When one is no longer in competitive struggles one is truly free.
Vita Sackville-West’s character Mr. Bucktrout famously says
“It is terrible to be twenty…It is as bad as being faced with riding over the Grand National course. One knows one will almost certainly fall into the Brook of Competition and break one’s leg over the Hedge of Disappointment, and stumble over the Wire of Intrigue and quite certainly come to grief over the Obstacle of Love.”
When one is old… one can throw oneself down as a rider and think ‘well I shall never have to ride that course again.’
Some say that when one reaches a certain age, the waist is broadened the mind is narrowed. Perhaps mine has narrowed – but it has sharpened.
Picasso once said “Everyone is the age they have decided on and I have decided to remain thirty years old.”
What age would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
William Pitt the Younger was 24 when he became Prime Minister.
George Bernard Shaw was 94 when one of his plays was produced for the first time. Mozart was seven when his first composition was performed in public. Benjamin Franklin was 81 when he framed in the Constitution of the United States. Age has nothing to do with dreams and aspirations.
When one is done with the business of being women, they are the most powerful creatures on earth. Or so said Isak Dinesen.
I have come to understand what Camus meant when he wrote ‘In the midst of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.’
Jani Confidential (2015) is published by Jacana.