I admit it. I am a female, who has hit that horribly depressive label of "middle age", I am especially stunned by what I see and how I feel. In my mind, I am still that child in need of permission for big changes, but what I see in the mirror is far from that youthful child. Passing a mirror, I am frequently unsure who looks back at me. I see my mother from a distance, though we could not have been more different in attitude and spirit or even demeanor. Somehow, she is in there. Maybe I want to see her, because the older I get, the more I miss her. The more I miss her, the more I think about the seemingly simpler times of my youth.
About a week or so from my birthday, I am settling in to my new age. My health is not cooperating, but I started this new year determined to make 50 the new 30. Working to avoid neck surgery due to an age related degenerative spinal condition, it hasn't been easy. I do not feel 30. The good thing, is that I am not sure I want to feel 30. While I enjoyed that time of my life, the true gift of my age, is that I really want to settle into a happy me, where I am today, not where I used to be. I am tired of trying to change things or go back in time, but the youthful protesting spirit is still a part of who I am. These days bring a constant reminder of the need to remember the fighting spirit.
My age has brought some recognition, and I am OK with my discoveries. I don't like the music today, and I am deeply unmotivated to participate, or see the point of common movements like Free the Nipple. My causes must exist outside of the shock value they provide. While I appreciate the attempt to revive the ERA, I am old enough to make a choice not to participate because I do not like the related shock value associated with women running around topless. But is this any different really, than those who burned the bra? Sadly, we are still fighting for the same rights, and may not have accomplished as much as we think we have. I might have felt differently when I was 18 when I might have agreed with the cause as well as the path. I think that I think differently now. I am a mother. I think in terms of ROI ( Return on Investment) and whether or not I would want my own daughter to protest in such a manner. Even as I write this, I wonder about the value of shock and if shock is truly at the base of all successful protest. Maybe this really is just a then and now, and the issues then, are just the same issues now.
It is impossible to not be touched by the politics and social environment of the day. Is it really possible that people supporting Donald Trump are looking at the possibility of what would happen if the 19th amendment was eliminated? Glued to the news and the election forecasters ( Who knew statistics taken in college would be helpful one day?) at Nate Silver's site, I am brought back there again and again during the day to see how various news events effect the predictions.
Those who want to wipe out the votes of women like myself, and my daughter hope to see a very different result than the one that is likely to occur. I am deeply troubled by this. Politics aside, I am deeply troubled by the idea of removing the rights of individuals. Is this the direction that we are going as a society? Are women expendable enough to be wiped away? Are they invaluable enough to not guarantee them the same rights and wages as men? The thought are extremely disturbing. How can there actually be enough people that think this way to have had repealing the 19th Amendment trending on Twitter last week?
Maybe it is my age... maybe it is the experiences that I have had as a single mother... all these thoughts and challenges to the rights of people like myself make me lose sleep. Unequal pay, the expectation that we, as mothers can do it all, while being single mothers facing challenges that men rarely face, yet remaining attractive enough to find another mate if we want... It is almost too much to reconcile. Faced with the constant barrage of stories and imagery about the value of being female, I think and re-think what I want to say to my daughter about the beauty of being who she is, and about the beauty of aging from a girl of her age to a woman of my own age.
I am fifty one. I am not what I was, but I am what I am now, at this moment in time. I am the summary of my life and my experiences, and each makes me more valuable than the one before. Trying to protect her from the ugliness of this particular period in history, I tell her the following: "You are beautiful, but that is not all that you are. You are smart, and you are worthy. Women before you have fought for you, and women like you will continue to fight for the life I hope you enjoy. Make sure you exercise that right to vote. I would prefer that you don't free the nipple, but I understand if you do. I love you."