There is this thought that I have often that I have never been able to articulate. It just floats in my mind, resurfacing every now and again. Last night it resurfaced again. Steve and I went to a concert at the Slowdown here in Omaha. Concerts aren’t really my scene. If I like a song, I listen to it on my iPod. I never feel the urge to see someone who sings well way off in the distance through a crowd or to have my eardrums ringing or to get human stampeded in a mosh pit (this, of course, has never happened. It’s just an irrational fear of mine).
Yesterday, Steve and I sat outside before the main singer came on and I told him it seemed like I was the only girl there with a wristband. There were so many young girls, all seemingly freshmen or sophomores in college. Some of the men didn’t seem that young, but guys are able to hold onto their youth much longer than women, it seems. Men can be 38 and still seem fresh out of college. Men can be 50 and seem 30. Show me a woman like that and I’ll show you injection needles.
This thought that I have that I can’t articulate is about how when we’re young, we feel like we own the world. And in a sense, we do. Look at all the tech billionaires – many are still in their twenties. If you created an app, you’re young. The rest of us think of apps as appetizers. The trends and pop culture spin around the young generation – the teenagers and college kids (no one starts wearing leggings because Goldie Hawn does). And then, after you pass that age – when you settle down and move to suburbia and get an SUV and take a job you don’t particularly want just because of the health insurance – then your vibrance begins to dull and you start to fade into the background instead of stand out in a crowd.
There is one girl I go to Happy Hour with that was born in the nineties. Yes, the god damn nineties. I tell her that she is the age of kids I babysat. She is young and hip and the world is her oyster. Last time we were at happy hour we were talking about our childhoods and she said, “I’m not trying to offend you, but you’re a little older than I am.” She softened the world ‘older’ for my benefit. “I know I am,” I told her. “You’re not offending me. It’s a fact.” She was talking about watching orange VHS tapes a lot or something that really wasn’t relevant to me because I am old enough to be her much older and out-of-touch sister.
Anyway, with all of this rambling, I still haven’t articulated the thought like I wanted to. When I met Steve, I was just about to turn 19. I thought the world revolved around me. Twelve years later, we live in a sensible neighborhood and drive a Japanese and a Korean car because you just can’t beat these warranties. Somehow time has stampeded on and now here we are closer to forty than twenty. I can’t help but feel irrelevant because of my age. But I guess it does make me feel a little better that one day all of those young girls at the concert last night will be looking back at pictures of themselves and thinking, “god, when did we get so old?” And there will be a fresh crop of freshmen and sophomore girls that remind them of their youth that isn’t even all that far gone yet.
I will stop trying to articulate what I clearly can’t and leave you with words by someone who can:
I forget that I am fifty-five years old until I look in the mirror. An average, lumpy, middle-aged woman, I move in the world in another body, my younger body, a body I lived in sometime in the past. I haven’t forgotten that home. I know it and love it. It is fluid and agile and smooth. Busy. Graceful, I remember. Strong.
…But the mirror remind me I am a middle-aged woman. I have grown invisible in the world. I am shocked by this shift every single day. I walk table to table at a bookstore, moving around other shoppers, picking up books, reading back covers, author’s introductions. A young man with soft black curls and gentle eyes steps in tight beside me and reaches across for a bestseller. I smile, move farther down, and say, “Sorry, I’m in your way.” He glances at me, through me, and goes on reading. No one looks up.
…I resist this invisibility. Sometimes the protest is silly: I resent the confident young clerk at the grocery store, her shine and elasticity, her belief that she is here, like this, forever. Sometimes I pity her, her failure to foresee her own inevitable fading.
…Once, I was young and vibrant; now, I am in the middle and eclipsed.
~Without a Map by Meredith Hall