I turned 31 on Friday and was basically as excited as a little kid jumping in a spacewalk (or as I was when my husband agreed that we needed one for our wedding, though he insisted on calling it a “moon bounce”).
When I was a pre-teen, Teen Magazine seemed like the bible. What great new advice about dating in high school or applying white eyeliner did it have in store? By the time I was 15, all I wanted was to read Seventeen Magazine.
I don't know when that adolescent urge to get older ASAP changes for women to a compulsion to lie about their age or be offended by the question. While I vividly remember telling my 1st after-college boyfriend that calling me an adult was “the meanest thing” he’d ever said to me, that had more to do with maintaining a childlike exuberance than aging.
When I turned 30 last year, I had a Taylor Swift/dinosaur themed birthday party. (Childlike exuberance much?) I hosted a ridiculously fun party on a Monday night at a big venue that donated a portion of the bar sales to my favorite nonprofit. Toward the end of the night, when friends would say they needed to leave -- you know, because work -- I’d say, “Ok, just stay until the end of this song.” Then, invariably, I’d have some amazing 90s pop jam or Kesha tune cued up, and I’d yell, “It’s a trap! This is the best playlist ever.”
This was not the birthday party of a gal who’s stressed about hitting the big 3-0. Instead I felt like my beloved Anna Kendrick on turning 30, “I feel really ready for it. I feel like in your twenties you have to put up with a lot of bullshit. I know you have to in your thirties as well, but you can always say, You know what? I'm 30-goddamned-years-old…”
Hilarious acapella-singing leading ladies like Ms. Kendrick aside, countless older actresses have lamented the dearth of roles for more mature women. Because society places a premium on a woman's youth, 45 year old actresses are routinely offered mother or grandmother roles, but rarely leading lady, or even more rarely, an older woman with sexuality. All the while, men are seen as more desirable as they age. Women pursuing younger men are called “cougars” while I literally can’t think of a term for the reverse except for “normal.” Please note: My moon bounce loving husband informs me that according to the ever clever Kristen Shaal, the term is a redenbacher based comically on the sex appeal of our favorite old man popcorn magnate. Orville Redenbacher.
Regardless of a woman’s industry or favorite style of sexual partners, the social pressure to suppress the aging process is strong. Personally, I’ve been pulling the occasional white strands from my mom’s hair for years, and more recently my own (eep!).
A friend of a friend is a successful activist and entrepreneur. I’ve always admired her poise and gorgeous silver coif. She’s not just “pulling it off.” It's part of her style. Her full head of gray hair seems like her totally authentic choice, one that comes with a confidence and glamour that draws people in.
Ann Glaviano, an excellent writer, performer, and DJ, recently suggested I embrace my own "tinsel," or what my sister calls my "sparkle.” Such compelling language in combination with my silver coifed friend’s charm was sufficient to make me change my hair pulling strategy. So as we come up on my 31st birthday, I now have 7 awkwardly 2-inch long silver strands that stand straight up. I’m hoping (once they grow out) they give me some cred.
On the other end of the spectrum, my business baby just celebrated its 1st birthday on Equal Pay Day in April. There was a part of me that was nervous about reminding my clients that while I’ve been doing this work informally for years, the business only launched a year ago. Celebrating felt a little risky -- like I’d be less impressive or lacking in the gravitas and credibility I strive for in this work.
As I second guessed my facebook post that shared my “time hop” from when I announced the business on Equal Pay Day 2015, a colleague put it in perspective. She said, “When I read your post, I didn’t think for a moment that you were nascent. I thought, ‘My god, she’s accomplished a lot in a year.’ ”
I strive to join Ann and my silver coiffed friend in normalizing the aging process for women. There’s no right way to do this stuff, but for both me and my business, I strive to age with grace, authenticity and pizazz. So, thanks for all the bday wishes -- it’s fun getting older. As my mother-in-law says, it certainly beats the alternative.
What do y’all think: Are you pulling your grays? Do you love birthdays or ignore them completely?