In one month, I’ll turn 37.
My whole life, ads and TV shows have taught me I’m supposed to be horrified.
I mean, I’ve just committed a huge error. I’ve told you all my age. Women are never supposed to admit how old they are, right? Our ideal is eternal girlhood, isn’t it?
But that was never my ideal.
When I was 10, I couldn’t wait to be 18.
When I was 18, I couldn’t wait to be 25.
When I was 25, I couldn’t wait to be 35.
I haven’t been chasing eternal girlhood. I’ve been chasing a magical number that would transform me from “thing” to “person we respect and take seriously.” Men would stop seeing me as something they could use for pleasure and start seeing me as a human being of equal value. Once they weren’t so distracted with wondering whether or not they could sleep with me, they’d finally be willing to hear me out. They’d finally listen to what I have to say.
I’d just endure a few decades of being objectified, grow some gray hairs, and go from object to source of wisdom. If men didn’t see me as a potential sexual conquest, obviously the only alternative was revered elder, right?
I didn’t realize what the third, most likely, option was.
That I’d become invisible.
I get that I’m on the younger side of “getting older,” but starting to fade out of existence is a strange feeling.
I don’t get the attention I used to get.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want that kind of attention. I never did. But I’ve gotten it since I was 13. It’s been part of my life for most of my life.
And now I’m older and men don’t really notice me like that anymore.
And that’s freeing in some ways.
I don’t have to give my polite, “Sorry, but I’m married,” speech anymore and then see some guy’s look of disbelief because I don’t wear a ring and he thinks I’m just some lying bitch making excuses. (And the fact that I might just not be interested, married or not, isn’t an acceptable reason, anyway.)
But it’s also really weird to walk through life without being seen or heard.
I’ve started fading in and out of existence, at the convenience of men. I cease to exist when I’m walking through a store and a man steps in front of me without apologizing. And I temporarily fade back into reality when I say something a man doesn’t like, then immediately disappear again. I exist only while being scolded or “educated” by men who assume I’m ignorant without asking a few questions to find out what I know first.
I’m starting to act out.
I’ve put on some weight over the past couple of years. It’s not an unhealthy amount or anything, but it’s another strange transformation for me.
I was always the skinny girl. Like, abnormally thin. The girl people could pick up and toss around if they wanted to. The girl who had to ride on someone else’s lap or wedge herself between the front captains seats if the van was too full. The girl who wasn’t the least bit threatening. The girl who took up the least amount of space. Compact. Convenient.
But right now, I’m all about taking up as much damn space as possible.
I keep thinking things like, “Man, I should probably lose a few pounds,” right before I eat an entire bag of chips in rebellion.
If I’m being entirely honest, I want to eat all the things and take up all the space.
I want to ladyspread all over the damn place.
I want to get to a door at the same time as a man and instead of letting him step through first while I meekly say, “Oh, sorry. You go,” while he doesn’t even glance at me, I’ll be like, “Woah. Wait a minute there, buddy. I’m going first. It won’t kill you to walk two steps behind me through this doorway, pal.”
I want to walk down a sidewalk playing chicken with some dude and shoulder check him when he won’t acknowledge that I’m there, and I exist in space, and he doesn’t have any better right to the sidewalk than I have.
I’m tired of making myself small to accommodate the men around me.
I’m not small.
I won’t fade like the script says I should. I’m cranking up the contrast on this bitch instead.
I’m not going to pretend I’m ashamed of getting older. Getting older is rad. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. I’ve got mad life experience, y’all, and I’m not afraid to use it. But if you want access to it (and you do, if you aren’t totally arrogant), you’re going to have to acknowledge my full humanity.
I exist whether it’s convenient for you or not, and you will see me.
(Or you’ll get shoulder checked.)
Image credit: Gisella Klein, flickr (Creative Commons)