I feel bad for Demi, melting down and all. According to the tabs, she’s distraught over turning fifty. It must be horrifying when Ashton Kutcher takes a good look at you and realizes you’re no longer young, and then your life is over. Because what’s next, granny underwear and black whiskers that spring from your chin overnight? You might as well be dead.
Here is where being a movie star doesn’t help you. Demi might have a villa in France but even she can’t stop the clock.
What a surprise it would be for her to learn that average people like me are facing the very same aging process. Of course, we’re not making a career of having a preternaturally youthful body, but still, it’s hard. For Demi it’s hard because she’s in an unforgiving market. For the rest of us, it’s hard because we have so few cultural role models. Okay, there’s Hillary, she of the big brain and ample backside, who after bringing countless world leaders to heel will soon amble pantsuited and serene into retirement, excited about entering the new phase of her life. That’s a nice thought.
For any of us, moving into menopause and beyond is big. We should maybe take a sec to acknowledge just how big. Think of the other transitions we celebrate: first word, first steps, turning sixteen and driving, getting married, first jobs, kids – we celebrate all these moments. They are achievements! Accomplishments! Positive developments!
Then comes perimenopause, menopause, turning fifty…what rituals do we engage in to mark these transitions? We give each other black balloons and wrapping paper. With a big laugh and a nudge, we spring a wheelchair on the birthday girl at the office party. Ha. Ha.
This whole stupid cultural denigration of the great accomplishment of aging really pisses me off.
If I had my way, we’d call all the post-menopausal women up on stage and hand them an award for getting to this point in life without losing their minds. I mean, think of all we’ve done by this age. We’ve sublimated our natures to a guy (maybe more than one) so we could get pregnant and have a peaceful nest in which to raise our babies, while holding down fulltime jobs and managing said nest. We’ve been served up thirty, forty, fifty years of magazine covers at the grocery store telling us how we can be hotter, cuter, thinner, sexier, better cooks and lovers, more organized, and better balancers of work and life – and we read the articles and tried, oh Lord, how we tried. What did we get instead? A sense of failure, a sense that we’re not cutting it. Oh, and maybe also breast cancer, fibroids, prolapse, stress incontinence, hot flashes, wrinkles and whiskers. We learned to deal with increasingly frequent deaths and illnesses, we held our girlfriends’ hands at their husbands’ funerals, we shrugged and said the hell with it.
Maybe that’s our mistake. Maybe we should make a bigger deal of the courage inherent in aging thoughtfully, gratefully, sublimely. We could talk about how we’re not phased anymore about the changes to our bods, or the losses we suffer. We could revel in the maturity, self-knowledge and sense of “been there, done that,” that keep us on an even keel when younger women would be freaking out.
Those are the things we should be talking about. There’s something ahead to be excited about: power and grace. This is our reward for getting old. Maybe if we talked about this, young women like Demi wouldn’t be so freaked out because they would see aging as something less to be afraid of, and something more to aspire to.