My birth certificate indicates I am 61 years of age, but I don’t see myself as as a sexagenarian; I identify as a 41 year old. That's odd, given I've been married 36 years, have two adult children and have physical restrictions that weren't present 20 years ago. I also haven't physically re-made myself in the attempt of turning back the clock. Well, there was that total knee replacement five years ago, but no liposuction, facelift, or eyelid surgery. And while I was born with auburn hair, I do admit that the naturalness of it is but a memory. With so many biological and experiential factors proving otherwise, why is it that I seem to be in denial about the entirety of the six decades that have shaped who I am? I've got several theories.
First, I remember my mother at my age. She raised five children, was an entrepreneur, nurtured a marriage of 56 years, and along with the greatest joys of life, also suffered profound sorrows. My admiration of her has increased as I have grown wiser. But my 61 was not her 61. She would not have gone to rock concerts or explored trendy places for happy hour, and I'm quite sure she would have silently questioned my leggings. Her demeanor was more sophisticated. In fact, she was more mature at age 30 than I am now. And while I loved her dearly, I have more in common with my adult children than I did with her when I was their age.
Then there's the stigma and broad generalizations of age. I've been a proud AARP volunteer for two years and serve as the organization's representative on several committees. As introductions are made, so are the inevitable attempts at humor by those 10 years my junior: "I'm getting up there myself. I'll have to get that card before I know it." Maybe I'm financially naive, but I don't ask for the senior citizen rate. I envision "senior" meaning someone older than myself. My life has similarities with those over 80, but frankly, that would have been the age of my parents. The lines between middle-aged and old are hazy; maybe you should call me a "pre-elder".
Finally, there is the culture we call Portland. Being part of a place that prides itself on youth, progressiveness, and all that is hip, works for and against me. Living in this city is the opposite of residing in a retirement community. There's a vibrancy and forwardness that quickens your step. While the math says I'm old enough to be the clerk's grandmother at Whole Foods, I don't see myself any different than all the millennials around me. On the other hand, after attending coalition meetings, I slink quietly away to my Prius, knowing the other activists are pedaling off on their bikes; the reality sets in--I am an "older adult".
Time Magazine reports 52% of Americans are considering aesthetic treatments. Getting Lifestyle Lifts have become the norm. Abigail Brooks, director of women's studies at Providence College, is concerned the pressure to undergo anti-aging procedures might actually be keeping women "forever 21 emotionally". My natural-aging face in the mirror is telling, but so is my exuberance of passion driven causes, curiosity, and the gift of spontaneity. When it all comes down to it, we want to see ourselves as relevant, continuing to grow, and admirably active. As we continue to explore identities, re-defining and physically re-making ourselves, what does it mean for the progression of time? Maybe it's not the age, but how we own it.
Welcome to Real Women Speak , where you’ll hear the voices of Oregon women who are struggling, soaring, muddling through and motivated to move forward.
Inspired by AARP Living Longer, Living Smarter, this blog chronicles stories from lighthearted happenings to questions of fortitude. From life-altering changes to simple anecdotes, our shared narratives serve to inspire, guide, and connect us.
Every woman has a voice. AARP Oregon seeks to amplify them.
About our guest blogger: My name is Elaine Friesen-Strang. I have played multiple roles in my personal and professional lives. While I consider how I intend to shape my sixth decade, I am involved with several organizations, including serving on the Executive Council for AARP Oregon.