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The Crone Gives Zero Fucks

Today is my 40th birthday. 

And it’s 3 am, and I can’t sleep. I’m in Portland, and I’m having an attack of dread, a phantom of trauma that has haunted me for far more than half my life, mostly robbing me of sleep and peace. I wanted to sleep tonight; I wanted to wake up well-rested take photos, and feel like my best self - that self has been far away of late. Lost in the oceans of adulthood, my life has crowded out simple pleasure and worry-free time alone. 

Also, I have (apparently?) (officially?) reached the age when I am supposed to hate my face. For the first time in my life, other women and the algorithm on my phone agree: I am now meant to become preoccupied with something I have lost. Now is the phase of life when I should trade my time, money, and energy for products and technology that will buy back beauty. In reality, I have been told, it is too late. I should have started in my 30s. maybe my 20s.

Why would anyone want to be 20 again? 

40 is too young to make an enemy of myself - a person I hope to live with for at least another 40 years. If I hate my face at 40, how will I love it at 85? 

In dreading the end of beauty, we harvest our life before it is complete; we cut our blossoms before withering even has the opportunity to tug at them; we obscure the facts we grow into and out of by grasping at the past and pulling it taut over us, hiding our eyes. But the pink light of morning can not be stopped, and beauty can not stay. 

Age is a place I have learned about only through other’s fear of it. But the flower’s first bloom is not the only time it is beautiful. 

In every moment of our life, we think we know all its nights and days; we think we understand everything. We think about our future as though we have been there. Life is never still, and to be here is to swim its current through  - always and only discovering. 

I have spent the last 20 years building a life I, at 20, couldn’t even dream of. After talking to women my age and older, I realise my feelings are shared. Entering our 40s and beyond is a time of many contradictions. 

I spend my birthday wondering if I should dress up formally. I'm struggling to align my internal clock with the local time, hoping I have packed for the weather. Should I take the photos I planned even though I haven't slept a moment. It will, I know, show in my face ( i took the photos anyway, they are in this post )

On one hand, I have finally found a rhythm with myself; I have discovered an authenticity free from the insecurities, expectations and impossibly high pressure of my youth. On the other hand, I have been told by older women that I can expect to be discarded, marginalised, and become invisible as I age. I often remember that all of the deepest experiences of beauty that I have discovered so far in my life have existed far from the perpetual scrutiny of the male gaze; they have been mostly invisible to the world.

Even on dread-saturated nights - caught up worrying about what we all worry about, the human condition: our remarkable susceptibility to change, I know in my best moments, I am confident. I was told that as I age, there will be a sometimes crushing weight of insecurity that comes with my changing body. Someone told me the urge to pluck grey hairs would be strong, but to avoid it. However, I love them. My hair has changed the most; it’s darker now, and the texture is shifting. So far, I do not feel betrayed by anything. 

But inside that is another question. How is it possible to feel both more and less confident at the same time? Why am i expected to adopt this new doubt, new fear?  In many ways my inner self feels as youthful - perhaps even more youthful than ever. But there is a stark contrast between how i feel and how people expect me to feel, as though this year my birthday gift was a borrowed emotion i am reluctant to take out of the box. 

We undeniably live in a world that places much of our value in our youth, culture all but insists we stay perpetually fit and beautiful, or work endlessly to do so. but this concept of value is unacceptable and robs every life of beauty, and perhaps even more damaging, it makes freedom from beauty equally impossible, beauty becomes oppression. 

I want this to be a time of liberation. Freed from the objectification of youth and allowing myself to more fully enjoy my own wisdom, my own body. I want to turn my focus to my innermost part, but outward also, away from myself and into others, the things i can make and build with other other people, from art to relationships to sex. I want to discover if aging can be healing to my heart and mind. But that work will mean forsaking the patriarchal conditioning about self worth and value, to untethering myself the narrative around getting older and one day, being old. 

( The title was inspired by my dearest friend )


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