Getting Older Is Not A Consolation Prize

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 8.442% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I’m forty-two now.  I know what forty-two is supposed to feel like: the first creaks of oldness, settling into a mundane life in suburbia, the first pangs of losing yourself in that self-involved, Baby Boomer-like nostalgia where only the old songs are the good ones.
Yet with each year, I keep picking up power.
It’s odd.  On Saturday, jenphalian took me out to get a manicure.  On top of Bec’s henna, that leaves me with some pretty pretty hands:
Decoration!
And as I left the parlor with my henna hands and my purple fingernails, I thought of what a strange difference this was.  Back when I was twenty, I might have done the fingernails and henna, but it would have been as a way to show How Radically Different I Was.  I was so desperate to make a unique mark back then that my every move spoke of flopsweat.  It wouldn’t have been art to please me, but rather art to define me.
What I didn’t guess was that over twenty years, I’d be finally be defining myself.  And part of that identity is pretty pretty princess nails.
America’s culture is youth-crazed, so there’s this concept that middle-aged life kind of a consolation prize – sure, your life isn’t as exciting as it once was, and you’re uglier, but now at least you have some money before you start dying!  We all know old age is sad and pathetic.
For me, though, age is strength.  I’m learning more every day because I’m not wrestling with new problems – just variants on old ones.  I’m a better writer because I have the discipline to sit down and work every day, even when I feel like fucking off and playing Mass Effect.  I’ve got a better sex life because I’m exploring kink and polyamory responsibly, without the psychodrama or insecure implosions I would have engendered as a twenty-something kid.  I’m listening to more kinds of music, exploring more fiction.
I’m told that middle-aged suburbia is to have your life shrink.  Mine’s expanding.
Every day I wake up and I feel more me.  It’s a concept that is strong, quiet, confident.  It’s not always there – I’m shaken by my usual insecurities – but more and more I’m waking up and going, “Yeah, I’m going to fuck up sometimes, but mostly I know what I’m doing.”
That’s potency.  Born of experience.
There’s a part of me that’s thinking about getting a tattoo, now – not a huge piece of artwork but rather some lyrics that mean a lot to me.  (It’s from the chorus to this song, in case you’re curious, the words of which sum up pretty much entirely what I’m trying to do ever.)  And before, I’d always thought, “How do people get tattoos of silly things like that?  What if you’re wrong?  What if you put the wrong thing on your body?”
Forty-two year-old me hasn’t made the decision yet.  But if I do, it’ll be like my henna and nails – something for me that I don’t mind you watching.  I’m comfortable in who I am, settling into my skin.
This isn’t what old age was supposed to be like, but I’m glad as hell that it is.

3 Comments

  1. jen
    Mar 5, 2012

    I think that would be a fantastic tattoo.

  2. TheFerrett
    Mar 5, 2012

    The next step would be where to actually get the tattoo. My arms are my best feature….

  3. jen
    Mar 5, 2012

    Since you can’t tattoo your brain, sure. A bicep piece would be hot on you. Or across the inner forearm (notable, that’s where my mom got her first tattoo, for very similar reasons to this).

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