There was a TV show I used to watch called Eerie, Indiana. One of the characters was known as “the Kid with Gray Hair.” And I think ever since then I’ve wanted to go gray. I keep trying to coax my grays into a streak, but so far they insist on remaining scattered.
I don’t mind getting older. Turning 40 feels a little weird, but it doesn’t upset me. I don’t want to go back to being young. But I come from a culture that worships the appearance of youth and has a general disdain for the old, a disgust for aging, a denial of death.
I read an article recently that said the “antiaging” hashtag on TikTok has 5.6 billion views. Looking young fuels a $67.2-billion dollar anti-aging industry, which is ultimately grounded in heteronormativity and patriarchy. The worth of a woman is so often reduced to her appearance, and the naivety of youth is that desired appearance, and so both younger and older women are routinely discriminated against for their age. Though, of course, older men face ageism too.
That said, I don’t think you should automatically respect your elders simply because they have spent more time alive than you — age doesn’t make you wise. Wisdom comes from openness and curiosity and an ability to push through denial and change your views when new information comes to light. I also think we should take children more seriously and make young people’s lives easier.
Even though sometimes I get nostalgic for aspects of my past, like pre-algorithm social media and a lower cost of living, I will never worship at the altar of youth. I know far too many people who didn’t get the chance to grow old, who died in their teens, their 20s, their 30s, their 40s. As life expectancy in the US declines, as healthcare costs rise, as we ignore an ongoing pandemic, it’s so obvious that we don’t see human life as valuable, especially the lives of the elderly.
Every day, I see, frankly, weird social narratives get pushed about age. For example, “by age [X], you should have reached [some arbitrary point in a career or have a certain relationship status or own a certain amount of property].” And social pressure makes people want those things and then makes them feel bad if they don’t have them. As if there’s only one “right” way to live a life according to preordained steps that must…