I am ma’am. Hear me roar.
Today, I’m 45. I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit in the past few years looping on one particular reel of anxiety and here it is. It’s the creeping fear that as a middle-aged woman — especially one in my chosen profession — I’m losing shelf life with each passing of an egg down my Fallopian tubes.
It should be a non-concern. Unlike most species on the planet, I’ll be able to go on for decades after my biological fertility has ended. SIMPLY DECADES DARLING. And yet, I can’t shake the feeling. It’s due in part to the fact that I work in an industry filled with bright, vibrant, curious Millennials — not those lazy, entitled ones you hear so much about. I love the contrast and commonalities in our lives. I love the fact that I’m cooler, smarter and better because of them. Regardless of how much I’ve learned from them — and likewise — I have been plagued by a more-than-fleeting concern that I’m at the sunset of a career that’s been filled with learning, curiosity and creativity. Let me say that one part again, in a bigger font.
I have been plagued by a more-than-fleeting concern that I’m at the sunset of a career that’s been filled with learning, curiosity and creativity.
I’m in my forties for fuck’s sake. To label that line of thinking as fatalistic is apropos. To call it crazy is not. Because in my business, women often edge themselves out agency doors and into lucrative and flexible freelance, corporate marketing and communication jobs or completely different professions. Oh, there are exceptions to that rule, including my own bad-ass CEO and the women-of-a-certain-age that I’ve been lucky enough to learn from over the years. But these are the handful, not the overflowing cup. The number of champions for a woman my age (or who are my age) gets smaller by the year.
After all, the target on our briefs is rarely “middle-aged woman with a mortgage and symptoms of perimenopause” (a word that Word puts a squiggly red line under to indicate a spelling mistake. Oh, the irony.). And you definitely don’t see “woman 55+ who still likes all the same things she used to and who also managed to evolve and stay relevant and cool EVEN THOUGH SHE’S SO DAMN OLD.” The truth is generational barriers come slamming down into a not-often openly acknowledged ism. Your youth is a shiny weapon of power. Your age is a detriment that can make you invisible.
But, the other, much larger truth to reckon with is that I’ll continue to have worth even sans these dusty, old eggs. As a matter of fact, my prospects are looking wayyyyyyyy up, thanks to female Presidential candidates, the state of the impending worker shortage and the fact that by 2020 there will be an unprecedented crossing of the generational streams resulting in a Ghostbuster-esque explosion that catapults the number of people 65 and older above the number of children five and under FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE. It’s a global trend line that keeps on going. (In other news, while people over 65 will increase in number in many parts of the planet, my ability to write punchy sentences with terrific clarity, continues to decline.)
It’s taken pretty much all of the first five years of my forties but I’m finally managing to cross my age-based relevance off my list of worries. (If you’re woefully undereducated on things like horoscopes you should know that lists are basically a core Virgo value and who can argue newspaper-based fortune telling?) At age 45, I have never felt more self worth, especially during my sharp-eyed, tenuously self aware youth. I have some perspective, gained from milestones accumulated. That perspective gives me the ability to relate up and down the scale of the human experience. It allows me the wisdom to give pretty credible advice and know that I can gain the same from someone else, no matter if they are 25 or 85.
So, henceforth I do officially make a birthday declaration that I will no longer worry about aging out. Of my love of emojis, young adult fiction and personal improvement. Of my curiosity and intellect. Of my industry. Or of my inherent value. I will strike a power pose smack dab in the center of my viability. Claiming space that I had ceded. Taking my place among the visible and visibly wrinkled.
I am ma’am. Hear me roar.