Why Do Women Have To Be So Afraid Of Getting Old?

By Elaine Dove

I’ve noticed recently that when I run into female friends, especially in groups, that one of the ways women often bond is to enter into a discussion about how we don’t like how we look.

Somehow, a conversation that starts with “How are you?” often turns into a shared lament about weight, age, hair, the fit of jeans, etc. I’ll admit freely that I don’t want to have this conversation. In fact, I often fall silent and end up wandering away when it happens. I keep asking myself if there’s a way for me to bring up what’s happening and my feelings about it. I wonder if doing so would be helpful or just make others more uncomfortable than they obviously already feel.

Here’s why I don’t want to have that conversation: I know that age is not just a number. I know that weight is not just a number.

I’ve been a dancer for more than 25 years and I know that I can’t do the things I used to do with my body. Warmups that used to take 15 minutes now take 30 or 40 and there are a lot of things I just don’t do any more because of the cost to my joints and ligaments. I also know that my knees are going to tell me about it if I gain more than a certain amount of weight.

The art form I’ve practiced for all of my adult life gives me very direct feedback about everyday physics and the effects of aging. I’m fine with it. I feel enormously grateful to have had the chance to dance and perform so much in my lifetime, and to still be doing so to any extent at the age of 42.  Due to the wear and tear of my chosen art, I have to take good care of my body to continue living in it. And I’ve learned that refraining from negative and shaming attitudes toward myself is a big part of that.

Being a dancer has brought me into and kept me in a close relationship with my body, which has been bad at times and is now pretty good. I do understand the sentiment behind statements like “You can do whatever you want, age doesn’t matter!” and “You go girl!” which seem to be the flip side of the body-hating conversation. I guess my question is, isn’t there a middle ground for all this? A place where it’s okay to both have insecurities, and be comfortable and happy with yourself? I don’t see the two as being mutually exclusive: the need for us, as women, to tear ourselves to pieces or to pretend a false confidence based on false ideas.

I could say that I want us to love ourselves— but it’s deeper than that.

I want us to be grounded in reality, to understand that aging and change happen, and that it’s really okay. I question the kind of attitude that requires a woman to vanish under any circumstances. And sure, I don’t dance like I did at 22 or 32 — and I don’t regret it, because I also don’t wear awful costumes any more or agree to appear in work with which I’m not comfortable. I intend to dance in whatever way feels right to me as long as I can because I love it, and that love doesn’t come from whether or not I think I look great in a certain pair of pants.

Elaine Dove is an artist and healer living in Austin, Texas. For more information, visit her blog.

[Photo By nowhere Zen New Jersey]

Subscribe today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Must Read

Hispanic Texans on pace to become largest population group in state by 2022

Victor Landa June 6, 2019

For many years, the prospect that Hispanic Texans would become the state’s largest population group has been a question of “when” and not “if.” With growth among the Hispanic population […]

Census citizenship question began as GOP plan to hurt Democrats, documents show

Victor Landa June 3, 2019

Newly revealed documents appeared to confirm Thursday what many critics had long suspected — that the Trump administration’s drive to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census began as […]

Latino leaders sound alarms over mobilizing Latino voters in 2020

Victor Landa June 11, 2019

Democratic presidential candidates are squandering a critical early opportunity to mobilize Latino voters ahead of 2020, potentially easing Donald Trump’s path to reelection, according to leading Latino political operatives in battleground […]

Running while brown: How Julián Castro is navigating white presidential politics

Victor Landa June 25, 2019

EAST LOS ANGELES — By the time his plane touched down in California at the end of a whirlwind week, Julián Castro had set an early political benchmark in the […]

Advocates wonder: Where’s the outreach from Democratic presidential candidates to Latino voters?

Victor Landa

MIAMI — There is outrage over Trump administration policies that have torn migrant families apart and left some children locked up. There is pervasive fear of immigration raids. And there […]

LatinX Voters Will be a Core 2020 Voting Bloc. Are Democrats Paying Enough Attention?

Victor Landa August 1, 2019

DEMOCRATS RUNNING FOR president are awakening to the reality that Latinx voters, poised to become the largest nonwhite eligible voting bloc in 2020, are crucial to their chances of winning the […]

Segregation of Latino Students From White Peers Increased Over a Generation, Study Finds

Victor Landa

In 1998, the average Latino student in elementary school attended a school where 40 percent of her classmates were white. But by 2015, the average young Latino student was attending a school […]

Castro stands up for issues that matter to Latinos

Victor Landa

Wednesday night’s Democratic debate is the last call for what Vox termed the “mega-debate.” By September, the standards to qualify for the big stage will be significantly higher, so tonight was […]