As I age one more year I try to convince myself that age is only a number. Unfortunately that has proven difficult when you consider the fact that one little number has the power to define an entire person. A number can make you too young or too old, too tall or not tall enough, too heavy or too slim, too cold or too hot. It’s never “just right.” There is always something lacking, something in excess, as though infinity were perfection and non-existence the ideal. The number is never enough. It’s selfish and needy. It is always a qualifier, and sexist at that.
If you are a man, numbers encourage you to grow tall as a redwood, to generate millions, and to forget the confines of your numeric age. After all, the higher the number the more respectable you become. As a man you have the luxury to feel blasé about numbers because you define them! But what a cage those numbers are when you are a man.
If you are a woman, numbers dictate that you aim for everything that is petite, meek, and fragile, because the last thing you want is to overpower Man. Make enough money to assert your independence but not too much lest you overshadow your partner – because you can’t not have a partner. Do not have children when you are too young but hurry, you do not want to exceed your expiration date. Do not date a younger man; it will make you a pariah. Marry an older man. He will make a respectable woman out of you because his age can morph in accordance with societal expectations. He will protect you; you who are invisible.
In an ideal world these confines would not exist. Numbers would be exactly what they are: abstract theoretical concepts dreamt by philosophers in their pursuit of knowledge. And, since it’s an ideal world these abstract symbols would not be linked to oppressive gender roles because gender would not be oppressive. Unfortunately, it’s not an ideal world. The abstract has been qualified and associated with everything that should never have been qualified.
So here I am, valiantly defying society’s gendered terms of aging one wrinkle, gray hair, and unused ovum at a time, wondering what wisdoms this year will bring.
“Age is Only a Number” by Azul Serena