Oh heeeyyyyyy

I have a huge surprise for you. I turned 40. Three years ago.

I turned 43 a week ago and a social media behemoth reminded me of the memory of the, “I am the Lovely Owl” post.  I was actually impressed with the calibre of my output. I would read this blog if someone wrote this. Why doesn’t someone write about these things?

Oh wait.

So there it is, and here I am. I did eat goddamned bugs (thanks Carol). I zip-lined (this felt like cheating because it was like, two metres off the ground, and it had the most spectacular view on Maui).
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The identities of my superheroes have been masked because they hate it when I post their picture without permission.

I have not yet done the scramble, but almost everything else off the list is done. As I proceeded with each challenge, I didn’t realize that I was undergoing a subtle metamorphosis. I didn’t suddenly trade in my sensible SUV for a dune buggy and get a wide-back tattoo. What I have noticed are almost imperceptible personality changes. I still say no, but it’s because there’s a valid reason, not fear. My fear has become a foe that I can challenge easily by meeting it at eye level and staring it down. I am trying to develop similar challenges now to negotiate the pieces of myself that I have given to people and now I can’t move away.

But that’s another post for another day.

I will be posting on the regular as I plan to do more spectacular things by 50 all the while meeting my average suburban mom requirements. And I have so much to tell you.

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The 40 year puberty

I’ve been away for a few days, and I’m going to tell you one of the things I did. I put olive oil and rosehips in a crock pot and I fried rosehips. And I’m going to smear it on my face. I am willing to rub rosehip-infused olive oil on my face to heal it. In fact, I might rub feces on my face if I knew that my acne would be controlled by it.

I really don’t understand this movement in my body to develop cystic acne. It’s relatively new to me, having developed in the last 10 years or so. I don’t have a lifetime of experience dealing with it but what a literal pain it is! In fact, every vacation picture I have in the last ten years isn’t complete by an angry spot on my face. I’m saying cheese, and the acne snarls like Billy Idol at the camera. If it got any bigger, it would need its own passport.

I don’t think this is right. I’m almost 40. 40. Puberty may as well have been during the 80s (oh wait, it was) and as forgotten as the neon sweat suits and crimped hair.  And Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

But I digress.

Not only have I got my kids going through this, but me too! This isn’t the family bonding experience I had envisioned when I had my kids. The vacations yes, the elephant-on-my-face-that-provides-shade, not so much.

Fortunately, I’m old enough to give a very small percentage of a f*ck about the acne. No use in wasting a perfectly good, whole f*ck on something like acne. I have accepted that I have to have this on my face sometimes. But that also means I am going to boil stuff, and infuse whatever to rub on my face.

And heaven forbid we forget Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

It’s the size that counts–of skirt, that is

I want to talk about what women “of a certain age” are allowed to wear.

Magazines are rife with pictorials on how women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s can wear today’s fashions. Apparently, something terrible happens when you dress outside of your decade. However, some magazines say your 30s are when you can wear sheer and sexy, while others are all “ew” and leave the sheer sexiness to the girls in their 20s. After all, who wants to see a 30 year old naked? Or worse, a 40 year old?

Because who wants to look at gross 40 year old women, right? We want to look at this:

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Hot, right?

Curvy, toned, lovely? Does it surprise you to know that this extremely delicious woman is none other than Helen Mirren? The 68 year old Helen Mirren?

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There are a number of starlets much younger than Helen Mirren who destroyed themselves with hard living and unnecessary plastic surgery. I don’t want to see those starlets showing their skin. I want Helen Mirren in a miniskirt, as well as any woman who likes how she looks in a miniskirt, to wear them. I do not want those women to be shamed by editors and writers accusing them of “dressing too young” (WTF does that even mean?); in fact, miniskirters, hike them higher and strut. Confidence is sexy, not necessarily the age of the woman.

Why are skirt lengths, colours, and other fashion options determined by age? Who determines this, and why? Who can tell me that women become less sexy as they get older, thereby necessitating a movement towards “sophistication and maturity.” In other words, cover your sh*t up. How demoralizing.

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Women tend to grow into themselves around 40 once the flimsy hubris of youth fades. We adapt to our scars and circumstances. We understand that our body parts transcend the sexual usefulness into identity and health. We have grown stronger, or have broken entirely, but we should reserve the right to show our scars and hard-earned life thus far.

I might not be looking to procreate anymore, but at 40, I should have the option to wear whatever it is I feel confident in. Someone get me Wonder Woman’s Bustier.

How not to deliver a compliment

I work with a lot of younger people. We happen to have a great dynamic and the team is lively and bright. I happen to be one of the oldest members of my team, chronologically. I’ve got the maturity level of a 13 year old boy, but I digress.

They’ve given some odd compliments to me in the past that didn’t quite hit their mark. Here’s what not to say to an older person:

1)      “You remind me of my mom!” Oh great! Thanks! I’m about 10 years older than you but I remind you of someone who used to wipe your ass and clean your urine off your mattress pad. I know you meant well but this didn’t sit well with me. Tell me about the thing or trait you think I have in common with your mother, and then tell me why you think it’s great.  Otherwise, you’re already middle aging me, and I don’t like it.

2)      “You don’t look old enough to have kids that age!” No, I lied.  I like this one a lot.  Keep repeating it.

3)      “You’re our mother hen!” Yeah, I’ve got some caring tendencies like grooming the people I love (or is that kind of OCD?) and bringing them tea if they don’t feel up to par, but I think those are trademarks of a caring person, yes? Not necessarily your mom. Because moms also slap someone when they’ve been rude, and I can get fired for that.

4)      “You look so good for your age!” OK, thanks? But you’re still pointing out that I’m older, and that you-look-good-with-a-caveat. I tell older women that they look good, because who doesn’t want to hear that? No caveats.  No “you’d look so good if only you were…”

There was one not directed to me, but it was equally questionable:

5)      “You’ve got a matronly figure!” This was directed at a woman who is a mother but looks amazing—definitely NOT matronly. I’m not sure where the person was going with this, but don’t ever tell someone they’ve got a matronly figure. I’m surprised that the person who said it walked away without being beat down.

So how do you compliment or tell someone they look nice, or something?

How about:

–you look nice,

–your kids are so big!

–thanks for being so caring,

–you’ve got nice hair,

–“I underestimated your abilities with Excel.”

I realize now that the way I see myself might not match what my outside looks like. I don’t feel like I’ve aged much at all, but the lines are there and the other little telltale signs like all the white in my hair. I also now understand why older men might flirt with much younger women because they still feel like the younger men they were for a moment. We should make an effort not to define someone by one visible description at any time, so why don’t we try not to pigeon-hole someone by age?

Just because I’m almost 40 doesn’t mean I don’t love a good fart joke.

 

Do you see me now?

I would like to know exactly when I became invisible.

The best way to describe it is I’ve been commandeered by my own life and I no longer move of my own volition. I’m not even asked where I would like to go anymore. My life simply needs my corporeal form to carry out its mission and I have no choice but to move along.  The power of the sum of my life choices is scaring the ever-loving f*ck out of me. It has mutated and will eat me alive.

Any inkling at all that life will now stop and ask what I want is truly laughable.

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I have made all my choices deliberately, and I value them. However, the demands that my life choices make from me are growing exponentially and astronomically every day. I function as wife, mother, daughter, sister, in-law, co-worker, subordinate, colleague, alum, friend, volunteer, etc. The sum of these roles should not define me as a person yet I’m finding that I’ve allowed these roles to define me as a person because that’s what society needs from women my age. No one stops to look at everything I do, but just focuses on one little part which incidentally, needs something from me. I am not a person in the Gestalt sense, but I’ve been deconstructed into tiny little bits that function synchronistically.

The invisibility of older women is a familiar phenomenon in a culture where youth must be preserved at all costs in order for a woman to be valued. As long as a woman can perform a function, she has value. Women are defined as valuable if they are decorative, as an object of sexual desire, as a driver for her offspring, and as multitaskers working stoically through any pain or challenge. We must be useful to someone. If we’re not useful, no one can see us, and that is the sad truth.

I realized that I became invisible when I confessed something very human and all I got back was a blank stare. The idea that I can be tired or broken is incongruous to anyone else, or maybe it’s been repeated so often (which doesn’t make it any less true) that it has lost its meaning. I’m struggling with the idea of just being a role (not a person) and that my value lies in my usefulness to another. Do we all do this to each other? Maybe this is not just a challenge for me, but for us all to recognize the person behind the avatar we see each day.

I watched the movie Avatar years ago but one of things that I remember and still love about it was the “I see you” greeting by the Na’vi. I loved the elegance and recognition of the being you are talking to. I know that the Na’vi greeting is directly appropriated from the Hindu greeting of Namaste, but the essence of the greeting is beautiful and it should find a variation in every society every day. People need to be acknowledged and noticed. And appreciated.

I didn’t intend to rant today although by this point you understand that my fingers are not moving of my own volition.

 

 

 

 

 

Feels like something’s missing sometimes…

Limiting myself to only the named challenges was never part of my deal, but my list feels…so self-centred. I really do feel like random internet strangers stumbling upon my blog look at it and go, “Oh look. Another first-world crusade for self-empowerment and self-actualization. Excuse me while I lobby international governments for the release of political prisoners and the abolition of child porn.”

And I’m all like, “But I’ll zipline, and stuff…” as my voice tapers off and becomes inaudible…

And then I want to do this:

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And then I remember to ration my f*cks wisely, and I brush those feels right off!

I’ve had superhero fantasies of saving the world—I want to adopt all abused and orphaned children and nurture them. Or at least provide them with clean drinking water, a clean place to lie down, and maybe give them some toys, too. I’ve wanted to join an NGO going into developing nations and helping them build their community (but not in an imperialist and colonialist way). They can worship whatever and however they want, but I want them to be healthy when they do. I want girls everywhere to have access to education and choice over their lives and bodies. I want to help boost my fellow human beings up, and I feel like that’s lacking in my rather limited list.

But instead, I’ll forsake meat and dairy for a month and tell you all about it.

My favourite professor ever from my favourite class ever, EVER, is Arvind Singhal.

Look at him, all professor-like. But go check out his CV. He's kind of a big deal.

Look at him, all professor-like. But go check out his CV. He’s kind of a big deal.

He taught Communicating for Social Change during my graduate program. I won’t ruin the experience for any other prospective students but it is worth every virtual dollar. Among the many lovely and eye-opening things he taught, he repeated one mantra, and it still remains with me, “Begin here. Begin now.”

My life choices have served me well, and for the most part, I’ve chosen wisely. I did not choose the life of an aide worker, but chose a rather conventional life. Maybe I’ll still get a chance to do aide work, but maybe that’s for someone who’s stronger than I am. I’m not sure that I’d be of much help in the face of so much human suffering.

However, what I can do and what I am doing is starting here, starting now. I try to raise my children to not accept inequality as a human condition. I try to support every person’s effort at bettering the world through baking for bake sales, raising money for kids clubs, and donating generously to groups like UNICEF and the Red Cross who already know how to help people. I buy fairly traded products whenever I can. Maybe I won’t develop an Oxfam, but maybe I’ll have an impact on one life, and maybe that’s good enough?

I. Ran.

I RAN OUTSIDE. F*ck treadmill vertigo! I RAN OUTSIDE!

All my fears of face-planting and eating a healthy portion of cement were silenced. I didn’t run as hard as I did when the temperatures were 25°C degrees outside, but my running shoes connected to dry pavement and icy sections alike. The familiar rhythm of right-left footfalls restarted, and my body easily picked up where I left off. I didn’t run as long as I normally do either, but I RAN. I only did one short slip when I flailed wildly to keep my balance, but I stayed upright! I think I had mini-core workout when that happened as well. As I pushed hard but not too hard, I realized that the main thing keeping me from running are minor, tiny challenges that exist solely in my head. All my obstacles are in my head, not outside of it.

I realize that as I typed this sentence that the cheese factor is off the scales. It smells an awful lot like a banal platitude a la “Anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”; “Living well is the best revenge”; “Go with the flow”; “The only thing to fear is fear itself”; etc. Really banal, yes? Like really, really banal. I’m even rolling my eyes reflexively and I wrote that. Sure they’re true, but all I hear is the, “BANAL CLICHE BANAL BANAL PLATITUDE,” and tune it out.

But you know what isn’t banal? Anxiety. You know what’s really hard to tune out? Anxiety. Anxiety is dangerous. Anxiety is the leading cause of unlived lives and a lack of fulfillment. Anxiety is the cause of spiritual and emotional death that leaves an abyss of blackness right where a will to live would be. Anxiety whispers in your head all the reasons why you can’t do something. Anxiety creates doubt, and doubt creates fear. The next thing you know, you’re lying in the snow like Hammy paralyzed by a lack of survival instinct. It’s a mental scourge.

I did list all the obstacles.  I couldn’t run in -30 (fair enough–that temperature is inhuman, insane, and not fun, and I do.not.want frostbite and gangrene). I can’t run when the sidewalks are icy because I’ll slip and fall. I can’t run in the cold because it’ll cause my lungs to seize. I can’t run because I can’t train as hard as I did. I did listen. I nodded as I listened, and then I laced up my shoes and I went anyway.

 

Illustrations and brilliance courtesy of Allie of Hyperbole and a Half

Illustrations and brilliance courtesy of Allie of Hyperbole and a Half