Yesterday was an unusually rich day for reading about age – in particular how women are perceived as they age. Both by society and by oneself.
In one article discussing turning 30, the writer describes the arbitrariness of how women’s ages are perceived. “Age is a weapon society uses against women. Each year that you gain comfort in your own flesh, your flesh is seen as worthless.” A woman’s age, she writes, is never right, but a man’s age is always right.
And, she argues, it is not only about perception. It is also about keeping women down. If women really believe that youth is where it’s at – that everything fades away after 30 – they may not achieve all they can in life. If their worth is entirely wrapped up in the nubile sexual attractiveness tied to the “innocence of their youth” and the attached male attentions that come with it, what will they aspire to – will they ever ascend to the level of achievement that they might threaten the middle-aged male status quo in the professional world? “Better to tell women that youth is their best quality—that when their ass starts sagging and their face starts cracking, everything they love will fade away.”
But there is plenty of evidence that life doesn’t end (god forbid! “Older” people can still have a life!) at 30. The other article I happened across was a Slate article about women’s sexual lives and how women over 70 seem to be having their own sexual revolution. A lot of the women interviewed in the book the article discusses seem to have been very sexual creatures all along – or, in many cases, many embraced their sexuality only after hitting 60.
One woman stated: “…combination of feeling wild abandon and total comfort has been just amazing. After 70, there comes a sweetness about making love. We go slowly, there is no rush anymore. When you’re younger, it’s all about the orgasm, then it’s over. I love this suspended feeling, the absolute intimacy we have been able to achieve.” It is a bit much, perhaps, but if nothing else, the idea of looking at one’s intimate life (and all its facets) as striving for wild abandon, total comfort and this inexplicable suspended feeling is worthwhile.
I don’t want to sit around thinking about the septuagenarian set going at it, but we are all going to get there. Not to add that the Germans have already given us a film that removes any doubt about what elderly sex and relationships would be like (Cloud 9). It even covers this topic – where the main character, a married woman, has an okay relationship and active sex life with her husband, but then she meets an even older man and connects with him in a way that involves this aforementioned “wild abandon and total comfort” that is so rare in relationships at any age.
If the article imparts anything, it’s that you don’t wait for your 80s to try to find this kind of satisfaction and depth of feeling/connection.
Age is just a number, and I am fond of reminding people that it is never too late to do anything. As the writer of the Vice article on turning 30 stated, “The only real thing 30 took from me was the sense of limitless time.” There is thus an urgency to what we do, no matter what we do – at any age.