I turned 31 last week and I honestly don’t care who knows it. When I turned 30 last year, older men kept saying things to me like, “How old are you? 21?” I couldn’t figure out if they thought they were complimenting me or if they thought all women want nothing more than to be young forever or what. Whenever I would scoff and happily declare that I was in fact 30 they would get uncomfortable. I guess I was a killjoy for not playing along with the joke that I was almost a decade younger. I guess it’s no fun when a woman isn’t interested in “chasing youth” anymore.
To be clear, I have nothing against 20 year olds. I totally enjoyed my 20s and furthermore, now that I’ve reached my 30s I don’t consider myself old at all. But I was a mess in my 20s. The summer after I graduated college I was staying at a local bar with friends until closing on a Tuesday and then going to work at my adult job at 8:30 the next morning. The only reason I would want to revisit my 20s would be to make more productive use of them – to take advantage of internships in college, study abroad more, really, to be more grown up really. But that’s not what these guys were trying to say. They thought it was complimentary to joke that I might be turning 21 because that’s what all women want, to be young and never grow any older. That’s what society wants, for women to constantly be chasing our tails, trying to recapture the past.
I get sad when women say things like “It’s my fifth anniversary of turning 25.” It was funny to me that turning 31 meant that I had been able to legally drink for a decade. I wanted to hashtag my birthday photos or post something about how it was the tenth anniversary of my “first beer”. But I was too afraid it would misconstrued as me being ashamed of my age or wishing I was still in my early 20s. Some guys definitely freak out about getting older but I will guarantee you its way fewer than for women. We have been conditioned as women to fear the aging process and fight it every step of the way. Men, have been conditioned to expect women to do everything in our power to always remain young and beautiful.
I’m tired of it. I’m tired of hearing women basically apologize for being their age. I’m tired of people being uncomfortable because I’m happy to be 31. Do not hide from who you are. If you spend your life constantly chasing youth, your past, generally fighting the tide, you’re going to wake up one day in your 70s and realize you were miserable your whole life because you listened to “everyone else” instead of blazing your own trail. All these standards are fictional. They’re created constructs and there is no law, rule, or signed accord that says you have to adhere to them or suffer the consequences. Stop waiting for everyone else to tell you it’s ok to be yourself. I promise, it’s more than ok.