I’m not going to lie, I hate being old. BUT, I really like growing older. Because I really like growing. It’s like this…
My back hurts, my knees hurt, my neck hurts. Sometimes the obscurity hurts. No matter how fabulous you are, there’s a kind of invisibility cloak that falls upon women over 50. It’s harder to get a job, a date, a cab. A lot of people think you’re less relevant, less cool, less fuckable. Those people are pretty much wrong.
It was depressing at first, until I realized invisibility is also a superpower. Worrying about how you look, what people see and think when they see you, caring about coming across a certain way, it is exhausting. It wears you down like millions of years of water carved the Grand Canyon. So yeah, I’m tired. But now I’m a freaking canyon, y’all. And a grand one, at that. What else you got? Bring it on. See, going around wondering about how you’re seen makes you an object. Here’s the thing: A wanted object or an object found wanting, either way you’re still an object. I’m done — I’m ready to be the subject. It’s time to revel in being the seer, not the seen. It’s a lot less draining, and it’s way more fun. (And if you do manage to see me, fine — I finally got the hair thing down, and over the years I’ve accumulated some cool AF T-shirts and sneakers.)
“Going around wondering about how you’re seen makes you an object. Here’s the thing: A wanted object or an object found wanting, either way you’re still an object. I’m done — I’m ready to be a subject.”
As Bette Davis said, “Aging is no place for sissies.” It’s hard and it hurts and you don’t look like you used to and you can’t do what you used to. But as with most things that are hard, aging is worth it. First of all, lots of people don’t get a chance to grow old. Whenever I want to wince or whine, I try to remember that not everyone is privileged to get to this place that’s “not for sissies”. Bette was right, aging is not for the faint of heart, and that’s why a lot of us lucky enough to get here have built some strong-ass hearts. I have been through a lot, I’ve done a lot, and I am not to be fucked with.
But it’s not just not being dead and not taking shit that makes me grateful. When I stop and think about all the things I’ve seen, I’m humbled by the enormity and breadth my life span has already encompassed. When I was born there were two kinds of drinking fountains: one for “Whites” and one for “Coloreds”. I was born in Miami Beach, when Black people had a curfew and my grandma’s housekeeper had to leave by 6 pm. There were signs on some beaches that said, “No Jews, N***rs or Dogs Allowed.” I’ve also seen a Black man elected President, twice.
When I was a little girl, our black-and-white TV showed angry people protesting busing, angry people against miniskirts, angry people protesting Vietnam, other angry people protesting the angry people protesting the Vietnam War. I’ve lived through the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, John Lennon, JFK and RFK. I’ve seen a triumphant Muhammed Ali, and a trembling Muhammed Ali light the torch at the 1996 Olympics. I was around when Cassius Clay became Ali, when Prince became the Artist, and when Madonna became…all kinds of Madonnas. In my lifetime the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, Jimi Hendrix was at Woodstock, and Beyoncé crushed it at Coachella. I’ve paid for 45s, albums, cassette tapes, CDs, and MP3s. I remember when there were four TV channels, phones with dials, typewriters, and an Internet with no “World Wide Web”. I’ve seen “Coffee, Tea or Me?” go to “#MeToo”. I watched the World Trade Center get hit on 9/11, and watched my own country elect a renowned moronic egotist. But I’ve also seen gay marriage and my own marriage — I used to think I’d never see the day for either one.
“I was around when Cassius Clay became Ali, when Prince became the Artist, and when Madonna became…all kinds of Madonnas.”
The world’s seen a lot in my lifetime and so have I. I’ve been earning paychecks since I was 14. I’ve been a mechanical bull operator in Ft. Lauderdale, a movie projectionist in Philadelphia, a second-grade teacher in Harlem, sold gym memberships in the Bronx, and worked at several TV networks in Manhattan. I’ve been to Europe, Scandinavia, South America, and most of the 50 states. I’ve bench-pressed 145 pounds, and there’ve been hundreds upon hundreds of books and movies. I found my birthmother, I’ve lost my parents. I’ve lived alone, I’ve lived with people, parrots, dogs, hamsters, and hermit crabs. I’ve been blessed and betrayed, adored and abused. Mostly, I’ve been really lucky.
It’s important to remember that I’m not just “old”, I’ve grown old – the operative word being “grown”. I’ve lived a lot and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve earned these sags, these bags, my bad back, my good wisdom. I’ve earned my cynicism – and my optimism (or what’s left of it). I’ve learned and I’ve earned and it all deserves respect. From myself and from others. So if you do manage to slice through the invisibility and glimpse me limping along on my daily* six-mile walk, give me a smile and a thumbs up. I’ll give you that and more.
*Hey, it’s almost daily.
This is the first edition of Age Against the Machine, Dixie Laite’s column about redefining life over 50. Want more Dixie? Read ‘Two of the gifts of age are wisdom and not giving so many f***s’
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Dixie Laite has been a second-grade teacher and mechanical bull operator, and for the past 25 years she’s worked for a variety of TV networks as a writer, editorial director, trainer, advice columnist, even an on-air personality. But primarily she’s trotted around New York City in one cowboy shirt or another, lurking around flea markets, gyms, and anywhere they’ll hand her French toast. Currently she lounges around her apartment with one husband, one dog, five parrots, and roughly 2,000 pairs of shoes. Dixie is the main lady behind Age Against the Machine, a column about empowering women over 50. Sign up for the Jumble & Flowdown newsletter to stay in the know about Dixie’s latest columns.
Follow Dixie on Instagram @dixielaite
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