I Am Trying To Age Gracefully But I Just Can’t Face It
What Pisses Me Off! Sep 02, 2021
In a world of Insta filters and TikTok videos on ways to turn back the hands of time, we can’t avoid that fact that we all will age. Some sooner than others. And yes, there is a loud chorus of acceptance and “living your best lift at any age”, but there’s also the idea that yeah, aging sucks. Especially when you are a single South Asian woman. Meena Khan tells her unvarnished truth on aging and how as much as she’s trying to embrace it, it can be a tough pill to swallow.
WHAT PISSES ME OFF: I’M TRYING TO AGE GRACEFULLY BUT I JUST CAN’T FACE IT
I am in my mid-forties, single and embracing cognitive dissonances when it comes to the aging process. I am uncertain about what to say or how to react when my friends when talk about their children or when I see someone that I know who has jowls look mysteriously sculpted on social media because I will likely never have children, and I rarely use filters. The differences have left me feeling strange which is a far cry from what I believe that I am supposed to feel which is confident and unapologetic about my life choices.
For example, recently a dear friend, who has known me since I was 12 years old, and I were discussing our respective fitness goals. I lamented for the umpteenth time about the state of my abs, and how I will one day obtain a flat stomach. My friend observed that I have been battling my midsection since my teenage days and questioned whether I needed to change how I viewed my abs because overall I looked good.
I was taken aback by the comment because one part of me appreciated her gently raising the notion of self-acceptance but another part of me questioned whether self-acceptance is a form of acquiescence. The former is heralded as a sign of maturity which is in line with being in one’s forties but even if this approach could free me from fearing jeans made of non-stretch fabric, I dislike it intensely. I feel that if I accept my doughy midsection that somehow, I am losing my personal body ambition, which has been a golden thread that has united all of the phases of my life, in particular my youth.
Another strange feeling about being in this stage of my life is my white hair check. My hair has been my beauty calling card since I was born. I had bouncy, dark curls which my straight-haired mom adored and when you pair that with chubby cheeks, you have a cute little kid. As I progressed towards adulthood, when my figure was chunky and my skin was acne-ridden, my hair was glossy and just … great.
I do not want to lose this beauty trait under any circumstance, and have integrated collagen powder, and several other habits to preserve its beauty. My mother’s newest duty is to check the back of head for white hairs and to pluck them. She is not thrilled but she is kind enough to perform this task weekly. Approximately five days a week, I lean into my magnifying mirror to inspect, and to pluck out little white hairs located on the front and sides of my head.
By my estimate, I have approximately 50 white hairs, and my assiduous mental note taking on them permits me to identify newbies and repeat offenders, and how often I should inspect an area to keep them at bay. I even check my hair in the car when I am at a red light, taking mental notes of where the offending hair is on my scalp so that I can pluck it at home.
I feel somewhat idiotic writing these words about a Sisyphean task but that feeling dissipates when someone admires my mane and marvels at its natural dark brown colour which is free of white hairs. I lap up the praise and justify the hair plucking strategy with the following ageless question: If a hair is plucked and none is visible from the follicle, do I actually have a white hair?
I know that I am dealing with a sinking ship because with age comes more white hairs; my plucking strategy is unsustainable and in the long run I risk losing volume. One would think that as someone in her mid-forties, I would be a tad more mature about my hair and work on sound strategies such as embracing change. My natural reflex to this sensible, wise strategy just can’t be put into words.
The mere idea of multiple of white hairs being allowed to grow and flourish off of my mitochondria also triggers my fear of menopause and my inability to have children. This is strange because ever since I was a child, I expressed a disdain for having children. In fact, I feared children for many years because I did not understand them. As my cousins and friends had children, I gained confidence with them and began to appreciate them as people. Regardless of the confidence I never planned my life around having children.
When I was younger people would ask when I would get married and have kids. I rightfully found the questions to be intrusive and offensive, and this was in part due to my mother’s belief that no woman needs to be married, but she must always be financially independent. Mom’s belief helped me to push back against cultural norms regarding marriage and children.
Now, as I face a phase of my life in which having biological children will be nearly impossible, I sometimes question my stance. I wonder what would have been my parenting style and if I could handle the daily responsibility of motherhood. I wonder if I will lose out on a future partner because I will not be able to have children. I know that science has created options and that there is adoption, but I cannot help but wonder how my life would have developed had I decided to have children when I was in my twenties or thirties.
I look at my mother, and she appreciates how my brother and I support her. It strikes me that I will never have this type of support if I live to my late sixties, and I must admit I am intimidated. I find that the energy, confidence and, yes, the arrogance of my youth are leaving me, and in their places are wariness, nervousness and a feeling of strangeness.
A dear friend who is also South Asian, older, unmarried and independent suggested that we could pool our resources and become the Bronze Girls. I crumbled inside because I have no desire to be Dorothy, Rose, Sophia or Blanche. My mom loves the idea, but life’s disappointments have made me wary, as I explain below.
I recognise that my eternal fight against my doughy midsection and white hairs are likely symptoms of my disdain for growing older now that I am in my mid-forties. I know that I have been aging every day since I have been born but I was aging towards something I wanted, an empowered youth full of vigour and hope. In my mid-forties I look at the next few years, and all I can think is that this was the time my father started his slow descent towards ill health.
I admit that I am fearful that despite having modified my behaviour to embrace exercise and nutritious food, I will not outrun my DNA; half of which came from my father. I recall that when my dad beat cancer for the first time, his first act when he came home after surgery was to colour his hair. However, after his serious heart trouble he stopped colouring his hair, and I felt sad. My dad would always ask me to buy Garnier 10 Natural Black and when that stopped I recalled how he slowly grew more frail. As he became more ill, he relied on all of us to care for him, and I was honoured to assist him, and I also wondered who would care for me if I aged like my father.
For the first time in my life, I have no grand master plan on how to tackle the feeling of strangeness which I feel about growing older.
One popular approach is to look upon friends as family who will support me but having been through my share of romantic and platonic heartbreak, I am skittish. In fact, I find myself reducing the importance of friends and family because I now understand that I must always be loyal to myself and to be my own best friend. Friends and family cannot fulfill my needs, because that is my sole responsibility. They can support me as I try to embrace white hair and menopause but, in the end, I am sui generis. Relationships are finite and if someone leaves for any reason, I am now better equipped to keep calm and carry on.
I think that my ability to embrace my responsibilities to myself are what will help me to accept the consequences of aging. Additionally, I am fairer in my relationships because I no longer expect people to meet my expectations, and when they do, I am delighted.
I hope to one day be delighted with myself when it comes to aging with grace.
Main Image Photo Credit: www.unsplash.com
Meena (@meenalaregina) always loved the idea of exploring the non-conventional idea of beauty. Having grown up as a pimply chubby teenager, she wanted to see the change in the world that best reflected your uniqueness as well. Her well-received collection of blogs where she tries on various beauty p...
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