Here is my confession: I almost never admit my real age. Even when I’m in the company of someone who knows what it is, I won’t say the number. Despite myriad liberal and feminist viewpoints, my age is the one space I cannot make peace with right now. Although I never outright lie about how old I am (except for when I have to enter my birthdate for website memberships), I do lie by omission all the time.
I look much, much younger than I am (not to sound vain or anything) thanks to great genes, diligent skincare, funky clothes and monthly applications of hair dye. Just the other day my daughter’s preschool teacher was referencing a Bugs Bunny cartoon and then stopped herself and said, “Oh, you’re too young to know what I’m talking about.” Actually, I’m four years older than she is but she has no idea. No one does. Even when I’m in the midst of older moms, I acknowledge being part of the club but never say my number because it’s usually the highest.
I don’t remember feeling so squirrelly about my age before having my daughter. I lived and worked in Manhattan where 40 is definitely the new 30 (at least) and was surrounded by women (with and without children) close in age to me. It wasn’t just easy to feel fabulous about being 40, it was almost a prerequisite to being taken seriously. I had a thriving career with peers I respected and who respected me. Many of the women I worked with (including the company’s president and my boss) were encouraging examples of how powerful getting older can be.
And then I moved two hours north of the city to a much less hip rural community where women often get married and have babies right out of high school. And even if they wait until few years after college to start a family, they’re still just in their early 30s now that our kids are about to begin kindergarten. Even the older moms of my daughter’s classmates are only older because that child is their last, not their first (or only). To be a 40+ first-time mom where I live now is exceptional and quite honestly, it makes me feel a bit like a freak.
I don’t wear the freak robe well, especially not in a context where I already feel marginalized (see my previous post about being African American in a mostly white community). I suppose I started omitting my age as a way to cope and deflect yet another “other” distinction. The truth is I’m passing as a younger mother. And while I don’t worry so much about being “discovered,” I do have to deal with the gnawing reality that I’m not living authentically if telling my age makes me so uncomfortable despite the fact that I love my daughter desperately and being her mother is the greatest gift I’ve ever received.
And really, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Living authentically, even as (or perhaps especially as) a mother. I’m just not sure what that means for me right now as I try to negotiate how much my life has changed in the last five years. It’s not just becoming at mother at 43, or moving to a town with a very different culture than I’m used to, or being at home with my daughter after working for 30 years – it’s the combined impact of losing my sense of self in the context of motherhood which has left me feeling emotionally and spiritually challenged.
Contributing to this site (which is easily found by Googling my name) has been a small step toward being able to come clean about my age. I still don’t relish the idea of saying it out loud but maybe it will help to practice a little each day. Yes. Stand in front of the mirror and say, “Hello there. I’m 47 (okay, almost 48) and it’s really okay.”