Learning What Comes With Age, At 28
I’ve been watching AOL‘s BUILD Series on YouTube since some time in autumn 2016. Today I had a “micro-moment” that made me reflect on what I’ve learned about life and purpose as a woman. I was searching for a video to listen to from the series, I stumbled upon one interview subject who was one of the inspirations for why I chose to do the Certain Beauty project in the first place: Debra Winger.
She was interviewed because she was promoting her new movie called, The Lovers. Winger is friends with Gloria Steinem, another woman of a “certain age” (you’re getting why I came up with the brand name Certain Beauty by now right?), which is perfect in an imperfect world because after getting all jacked up on wise and witty words from a strong older woman, YouTube recommended I watch another recent interview from the BUILD Series with Gloria Steinem who was interviewing Sheila Nevins about her new book called, You Don’t Look Your Age.
“Gloria Steinem, who is a very good friend of mine, would probably be very upset with me for saying this, but sometimes women are their own worst enemy.
Come on, girls, let’s look our age, and let’s lead with it. Let’s put the word out that it’s OK to be getting older, and to command respect for it.” — Debra Winger
That quote came from an interview Winger gave to The Telegraph back in 2016. It basically sums up what I set out to do with Certain Beauty: grow a movement from the organic desire to stop youthification as Gloria Steinem puts it. I was bummed it didn’t go viral, but I was also younger and trying to get noticed. You tend to care about getting noticed for how great you are when you’re young and anxious to go fast.
So after this mini-binge watching of strong older women, what did I come away with that was so worth writing about?
Chasing “going viral” is like chasing youth
This isn’t meant to be a blathering on about how being an older women is actually great or about the fight against the pressure to stay young looking. I’m saying let’s stop chasing “going viral” or creating change fast. Let’s enjoy the little victories we can achieve, however small the ripple effect.
Good things take time, and change doesn’t happen over night. It’s hard to see change when you look for the negative more than the positive. And I only learned that through experience. And here’s the beauty: in order to gain experience you have to take chances and age! That’s probably why I’m not so freaked out about aging. I’ve always been eager to learn, but I let go of rushing the learning of everything. You can’t know it all, and even if you think you know how to make something go viral, the element of surprise will always surprise. Especially the know-it-alls.
If everything goes viral, then what is viral?
I wasn’t able to make Certain Beauty go viral, but not all things can, need or should go viral. Common sense doesn’t get covered like pure spectacle and chaos. Really deep and long lasting, systemic change happens when you’re not paying attention. Before you know it it’s normal for your mom to be using a smartphone or for all of us to be buying flying cars. It comes with age to realize that whatever you do, not everyone will find it and celebrate it. And that’s ok too. Nothing everything is meant to be universally accepted, it that were not true then nothing would be remarkable or special. Overtime people would stop trying all together probably. But that’s getting into philosophy and logic, the if-this-then-that solipsistic discussion (a.k.a wheel spinning).
Not all of us might be able to make a living off whatever it is we care about or are trying to make “happen,” but most of us would be richer for knowing how to let go, enjoy life and do everything else in our life better. Why? Because you never know unless you try, and you never get anywhere unless you accept that with all things there is a risk of failure, embarrassment and loss. You know that saying that “the journey is its own reward” ? The reward in attempting to inspire and help others with a cause or movement is experiences you gain, the skills you develop, the people you do touch and the connections you make that in their own quiet way will effect some change that the naked eye will never see but the heart and mind will absolutely reveal.
Have things changed for the better, for women?
Though slight, there is progress being made in society in regards to older women, beauty standards and opportunities, since I completed that grad school project in 2015. It may be hard to see given that negative tends to be reported and covered more often. But, as Gloria Steinem said in that BUILD Series interview embedded above, “I think what we’re trying to do is change society to fit the individual, not the individual to fit society—if that makes sense. And that’s what movements are for.”
It’s because of women like Gloria Steinem, Debra Winger, Sheila Nevins, Viola Davis, Harriet Tubman, Cleopatra and so on that women are being “the bull AND the china shop.” A movement isn’t about one person, it’s about all of us sending the elevator down so we all rise. Doesn’t matter who presses the button, only matters that it keeps getting pressed. I heard that from a woman named Starr Cunningham, who I met at Women’s Day discussion panel this year. She reminded me the way Debra Winger, Gloria Steinem and all strong young and older women remind me why I did Certain Beauty and why we keep going and doing what we do no matter how slow things around us are to catch up.