55 and Feeling Fine
By Stephanie Miller
As I approach 56 years of age I notice an impending sense of shame about who I am. I woke up this morning thinking about the cult of youth in the United States. I’ve noticed in the past few years the way that I’ve slipped below the mental horizon of many younger people. Teenagers standing in line talk as if I’m not even there. Men in bars and restaurants no longer give me the once over. Just this morning I realized that I have a growing sense of being ashamed of being in 50s. As if I have some personal culpability for aging.
Remember Lee Lee Sobieski? Mena Suvari? Calista Flockhart? We can barely recall the names of young ingénues that once were on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Living in Los Angeles I have watched women reach their zenith at 30 and then find themselves shelved just as they begin to acquire mastery. I recently met a woman who was actively working to change privacy laws because she wants women who work in Hollywood to be able to hide their age on sites like IMDB. What struck me is the culture of shame that we have created. Fearing that we won't be able to work or will be seen as dispensable because of our age is the real problem. Hiding my age or my gray hair is just a symptom of a larger cultural problem and when I comply I'm suggesting that I think it is okay. Our culture has a tendency to sweep people aside as they age. Ironically, it coincides with the age at which people begin to contribute to society instead of mostly taking from society.
The most astonishing part of our attitude about aging is that it is something completely universal to the human experience. We all age. We can’t escape it and we can’t control it. (Despite a mountain of supplements, books, diets and studies trying to forestall the inevitable.) We really have only one choice which is to embrace the inevitable truth of aging and death.
There’s nothing to fix. I’m not going to start a campaign to get directors to cast older actresses. I’m not going to rage about the injustice of senior citizen’s wisdom and experience being ignored but I am going to change the way I think. I’m going to stop hiding my age, I’m going to stop pretending that I’m younger than I am. I’m going to stand up and say my age when it’s 55 and 56 and 80 and hopefully 92 because it is a declaration of self-love and acceptance.
Guess what youngsters? I’m 55. I’m happy about that. Maybe you will be one day too, if not, consider the alternative.