What’s the Use in Being Young If You Ain’t Gonna Get Old?
I turn 40 today. Forget the cult of youth, I’m glad to be this old, to have the experience and the confidence of this age. I find it insulting when people tell me I look young and then, when I object, tell me I should feel complimented–something which happens to me on the regular. Thank you for assuming I want the things associated with youth rather than with age and for telling me how to feel that. The youth are feminine and the adults are men. Men are the adults, and women are the adolescents. Until you reach a certain age when perceived fragility leads you to be treated as a woman. I’m less and less concerned with being good at being feminine, at being polite and accommodating and comforting and properly attractive. Now is the hour of our gender nonconformity? We shall see.
I have figured some things out that make my life stable. I take this to be a great privilege and not a matter of course. I have tenure. I am married. I am about to buy a house. I have published respectable scholarship. I have former and current students who keep coming back. I have visited Greece. I have deep and satisfying friendships. I have learned something about how and when to speak my mind, to choose my fights, to critically analyze and understand the world without being bowled over by it. I continue to learn what my body can do: go faster and stronger. I’m not sad about getting old. I’m coming into my own. Really, I feel like I am more and more myself. This is 40.
Last year, I was thinking about what other people had accomplished by my age and thinking that I had a lot to do. With this milestone birthday, I’m thinking about all the people who didn’t do the things we know them for until my age or later. At 40:
- Julia Child was still working in advertising;
- Samuel L. Jackson had yet to be in a movie;
- Jane Lynch had yet to be recognized as the talent she is;
- Kathy Bates was just gearing up to star in Misery;
- Lucille Ball had yet to make an episode of “I Love Lucy;”
- Stan Lee had just published his first comic book;
- Charles Darwin published his first book;
- Vera Wang was not yet a designer;
- Henry Ford had not yet designed a car;
- Rodney Dangerfield didn’t not get respect for five more years;
- Bram Stoker wouldn’t publish Dracula for ten more years;
- Hans-Georg Gadamer had yet to publish Truth and Method;
- George Eliot had yet to publish a novel.
I don’t make this list to say, give me time! But to say I’m finding that age itself might bring more possibility than loss of potential.