Now that I’m sitting firmly in my 58th year, I sense a kind of undercurrent that it’s a fact I should to hide.
And when people say things like, “Oh, but you don’t look 57″ they miss the point that, by saying that, they’re implying that 57 is something I shouldn’t want to be or to look. So I might encourage those who like to comment on people’s ages (as I do) to consider something like, “Wow! No wonder you look so intriguing!” But you have to mean it.
The issue of openly aging reminds me of an episode in Germany 15 or 20 years ago:
I was on tour with my band, and we’d gone to a record store to do an in-store signing of a new album. We passed by a large cutout of Tina Turner and I got so excited I yelled, “I LOVE YOU, Tina Turner!” and hugged and kissed the cardboard cutout. I guess it caused some commotion.
Fast forward a few months. The buyer for that chain was in New York and had invited me to dinner, as preface to encouraging me to share his hotel room.
I was not encouraged, but he kept trying — and I don’t know how much that had to do with what happened next. I do know he knew about the cutout episode. So he turned to me and said, “Tina Turner – big deal. I see her walking around Koln all the time, looking like an old grandmother.”
I’m not sure how that statement was supposed to function in his strategy, but it stopped me cold. Probably not for the reasons he thought.
The image flew into my head:” Tina Turner, Public Grandmother-type.”
I just let it sit there, dazzling me. That Tina Turner had the cahones to walk around publicly “looking like an old grandmother” raised her in my estimation so suddenly and so high that I was flattened against the banquette.
For a split second I could imagine having such a strong sense of self-worth to be able to embody both being Tina Turner and being an openly aging woman just walking down the street, and it completely rocked my world.
At the same time, I could hear he meant the description to be degrading. It put me on notice: Whatever this guy saw in me as a woman, he wouldn’t see it 25 or 30 years down the road, no matter how rich a life I lived or how great my accomplishments.
The fact that I didn’t want anything to do with him personally was beside-the-point — he was in a position to have a some control over my career. So what he thought of me did mean something to me.
So what’s the takeaway here? I’m asking myself.
Fear of being who we truly are is nothing new. But living in fear of being outed is dehumanizing, the anxiety that some one thing about who we are will shut a door on the chance for all we truly are to shine.
I feel like I should have one last, summing-up sentence, but I don’t. So maybe someone else will sum this up for me.