I am 40 Mother Fuckers!
Or How to Age Ungracefully as hell!
Okay, America, I made it.
I am 40 mother fucking years old.
I will quote myself from 2011 just prior to my birthday:
I’m at the age where I’m relentlessly told how worried I should be. Wrinkles, my ass, appearing that I’ve ceased to age or never aged at all. etc etc etc.
Frankly I think it’s all bullshit.
First of all I find it more than unnatural and frankly disconcerting when people show no signs of age. It just freaks me out.
Secondly I’m really fucking happy to have some crows feet and a sign that I have experienced things and that I am not the same as I was at 25 or 19.
Thirdly and most importantly I am Still Alive.
There have been many times in my life where I didn’t honestly think I’d made it. Dangerous situations, depression that made me too depressed to be actively suicidal, drug use, and a complete disregard for my own life.
I fucking made it.
I am STILL ALIVE.
Bolding for emphasis.
I am mother fucking alive.
Six years after writing that, I’m less astonished that I’ve survived but still pleasantly surprised. I’ve survived myself, the world, illness both mental and physical. I find myself officially of a certain age, a self proclaimed fine ass old auntie and I am still alive.
At 40 let’s talk about everything I’m doing wrong.
According to terrible beauty advice, I’m aging myself with my lipstick choices, hair color, non-dying of my gray hairs, full coverage (yes, you will pry my cake face from my cold, dead, hands), bold eye make up including the requisite goth 14 pounds of liner on choice days, I wear frequently kind of ridiculous clothing, chunky platform shoes-basically I do what the fuck I want with my appearance.
I mean, well look at how I like to present myself to the world:
Also on the list of things I’m absolutely not supposed to be doing at my age is the closest way I can self identify my ever shifting genders is Femme. Sparkly presenting Femme who lives in the body of a Black woman. I engage in almost daily selfies without a moment of shame. I do all sorts of shit wrong. Further evidence of my ain’t shit at agingness-
I am not actively or passively fighting things like cellulite, wrinkles, stretch marks, gray hairs, my mustache etc.
I still shop at Hot Topic and Forever 21 because my ass is chunky teen sized and I don’t have a lot of money for clothes.
I don’t give a tin shit about lifting my ass or rejuvenating my vagina.
I think gender essentialism is bullshit.
I think TERFS and SWERFS ain’t shit.
I’m still pretty heavily into exploring my Arthoe aesthetics.
What few fucks I had about the opinion of folks who are not me, about me have withered and died on the vine.
Can I tell y’all a secret? For a little while in my mid-30s I thought that as I got older and more chill, I’d magically care a bit more about having a good or proper image. I thought I’d try harder to project a strong image of Shannon-ness. That I’d somehow figure out the “true” essence of being me.
Once upon a time, my dream was to be a Nazgul Queen.
I wanted to fully inhabit my inherent Nazgul Queenhood. Terrifying, stately, maybe a murdery ghost thing. This particular statement went through several evolutions. I thought it would just, turn out to be ever so elegant and simple. No fucks given Beauty that would also inform how I feel about myself and you know, everything.
And yet, this idea of being the perfect expression of Me eludes me. In grand tradition, I’m not doing what I thought I should be doing and if I am doing it, I’m fucking it up.
I ain’t shit at aging.
Another thing I’m failing at is, Black Femme Magic (not a girl because technically speaking, I don’t identify as a woman only, genderqueerness on fleek), because a lot of the time y’all if I’m going to be honest, I am not good at it. I fake it, I try really hard and yet I miss the mark. I often feel excluded from Black Excellence.
There, here we arrive at the hurt place. The I’m fucking 40 and why can’t I do this place. Why the fuck does this still hurt my feelings sometimes? Why can’t I just, not?
In the past few years, I have gleefully watched my fellow Black folks do some amazing ass shit. I have met some of the smartest, most wonderful and magical Black folks and I love and value them so much, I’m a little ashamed to admit this but I feel apart from them.
Some of what I see held up as Black Excellence in my community are things that I am. I am a creator, I write, within the body of my work I have over the last twenty years done a lot of educating. I’m loud and aggressively anti-racist, I’m smart, I contribute to my community in the ways that I am able to. I offer my support in the ways I’m able to, on paper yes, I am Black Excellence.
Part of me says, hell yes you are.
And then, I really start looking at who/what is held up and appreciated and funded etc. There’s an aspect of my personality that being a writer on the internet for all of these years has exacerbated. I am a little bit of a data junkie. Since my earliest tries at being an online diarist, and learned how to parse web stats.
I learned (way back in the day) about tracking the IP addresses of people who caused me problems or bothered me, I learned all that stuff and while on one hand it is indeed great to know, for me it also causes me to question my Black Excellence and it sucks.
I also lurk and watch. I watch who gets those crucial helping signal boosts and acknowledgement and you know plain old support. I see it across platforms and art forms and creations and often where I land is that I just don’t measure up. And sometimes I talk about it in a way that I now know is harmful to my loved ones and I don’t know how to talk about it any other way.
I don’t want to cause my little chosen family harm and I don’t want to sit with these feelings because they fester.
So let me put it like this.
I’m fucking 40 and I’m still struggling with this huge and stupid thing that I hate.
I struggle with feeling accepted with skinfolk and kinfolk. I struggle with finding and holding onto feeling valued in my community. I get deep into the analytics of my links and campaigns and things and I see what tells my anxiety the truthy sounding lie. Look, nobody is reading this, nobody gives a fuck ‘bout you. Most of the time I cannot focus on the numbers.
Sometimes, they are all I can focus on and thus will begin a shame spiral that lands me in a pit of depression, watching my self-esteem shit itself and die and usually ends up with me feeling like the worst person in the world. I thought by now I’d be over it, I failed at growing out of it.
I’m 40 and I know that what leads me down that path, is a lot of mental illness talking. It is trauma. It is the fear of a child who feels lost and rejected. These are the feelings of a person who now knows love and acceptance and support and who is terrified to lose it. Then again, these are the feelings of someone who has already been rejected and just wants the data to back it up.
These are the feelings of someone who has these problems that turn into anxieties that turn into obsessions that turn into hours picking my face and seething and raging inside because I don’t get to be Black Excellence. I am fresh out of magic. Sometimes, I feel invisible and left behind. The world is a big place and rationally I always know that. Emotionally, sometimes I feel like the kid standing aside while everybody else has recess.
Y’all, the struggle is still real.
I’m fucking 40 years old and you know what? I haven’t grown out of it. I ain’t shit at being an adult in this regard and you know what? Just like the lumps on my ass, my grey pubes, my jiggly belly, my slightly cock eyedness, my inability to have on fleek eyebrows, my occasional stutter, my shaky ass hands, my not always successful outfits, my wigs, filthy mouthed, snarky, wobbly legged, prone to falling down ass type person and it is okay.
It isn’t awesome to still be living with these things, these anxieties and breakdowns and panic attacks and bullshit but, I’m fucking alive.
All that unpleasantness said, here’s what gives me hope and why getting older is such a wonder to me.
The magic of getting older isn’t in redoing my body in order to be considered “acceptable” (see narratives on shit like 40 is the new 20 or look I’m 40 and my body is the best), it isn’t in doing myself over, it isn’t even in my grey hairs and sagging tits- the magic lives in the fact that at 40 I have learned that I don’t have my shit together.
And that’s okay.
The thing I held on to for years was that somehow when I turned 40 I’d just have it all figured out. I’d not have facial tics and muscle spams from anxiety, I’d be able to cry like a normal goddamn person, and you know have things figured out. I pictured myself blossoming into some smooth butterfly with rad hair and no fucks given.
That is not what has happened.
I am 40 years old. I am riddled with anxieties and my anxieties cause me to do weird things like obsess on how many people click on my links or read my work. I get so wound up I give myself headaches and get constipated. My face twitches. I’m clumsier than ever. I still get wide eyed, sweaty and kind of weird when people I admire are nice to me. My feelings get hurt by small things and it’s okay.
I say it’s okay because I’ve learned that in order to survive I need to accept a lot of things. I need to accept that I have problems. And by accepting that fact, I can get down to doing the work of dealing with them to the best of my ability. Part of that process has meant I stopped giving a single hot fuck about a lot of shit:
- Fuck Eurocentric fat hating beauty ideals.
- Fuck being perfect.
- Fuck respectability politics.
- Fuck culturally mandated and approved competition to be “the best”.
Basically the death of my fucks has meant I’m able to focus on what actually matters to me as an individual human. Yes, it is hilarious to many of my friends and loved ones how I express my lack of fucks to give but the real truth is that, I need that energy to work on me.
That means, I have the will and finally –finally- the love of myself to work on my shit. The miracle of turning 40 not only means I have survived to ascend to Fine Ass Old Auntie Stage of life, but it means that, I am gonna fight like a mother fucking honey badger for myself.
I can very proudly say that I am a screwed up, damaged, traumatized, shitbucket of feelings, anxieties, depression, joy, happy dances, bad twerking, scarred face having, emo poetry writing, ranty, gassy, limping ass amazing ass human being.
What does this have to do with you?
Y’all, seriously if I can, you can.
If you are scared about aging, if growing up scares you, if you’re really fucked up and the future looks bleak, look at me:
See that guy? I mean, look at me. I am a ridiculous fucking creature.
That guy made it and I believe you can too.
None of us makes it out alive and that’s okay. Don’t be scared. We’re mortal. We’re humans and human beings are notoriously the messiest of things and that’s okay. It’s okay if your eyebrows aren’t perfect, you’re confused, maybe stink a little bit and don’t totally know what you’re doing in life. Forgive yourself, your foibles, don’t shame yourself about them and get to work.
What does that mean for me?
Shit y’all, I don’t even know.
That said, I’m going to enjoy the shit out of as much of my life as I am able. I am going to continue not being an abusive asshole to myself. I’m going to accept (work on accepting) the ways my life as an not totally able bodied person is changing, I’m going to keep working on not being an asshole when my feelings are hurt. I’m going to learn to put on false eyelashes.
What’s gonna happen? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
What am I gonna do about myself? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I decided to embark on my 40s thusly:
I am the shruggie. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I am going to write like a motherfucker.
I am going to continue being a creepy little weirdo.
Maybe I’ll learn how to twerk right. Maybe, I will FINALLY figure out how to express my genderfeelings in an outward way. Maybe I will figure out how to find a good drug cocktail that will help my quality of life.
To end, I have tips on how to be as ain’t shit at aging as I am:
- Try not to be an asshole to yourself. The world is full of them, nobody needs to have more in their head.
- Use sunscreen.
- Drink water.
- Eat food.
- If you are so moved, move your body if you can.
- Take as good care of your health as you are able to.
- Laugh at memes.
- Wear whatever the fuck you want.
- Love hard.
And thank you to my chosen family. Y’all know who you are. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for helping me stay alive even when it’s been hard. And hey you, person reading this. I love you too.