“We’re not old, but we’re not young anymore,” was a statement made by a character in the hit tv show “Firefly Lane.” I binged the last season this week, losing myself in the world of sisterly love and friendship and that line resonated with me. The characters are in their mid-40s, and I just love how the show does flashbacks of when they’re in their teens and early adulthood. It’s a tearjerker for sure, but a worthy one.
As a new 40-year-old, I often struggle with how I’m supposed to be at this age. Growing up in my era, 40 was definitely marketed in our culture as “old.” All-black, “Over the Hill” party decorations were in ample supply, and most considered their best years having been behind them. But these days, celebrities like JLo and Halle Barry are killing the 50-something scene. “Black don’t crack” and “Brown don’t frown” remarks are constantly confirmed by our leading ladies in the industry.
I suspect that race is one of the reasons aging in today’s climate is more socially acceptable. If white people are the dominating group who define beauty and majority of their counterparts age with gray hair and wrinkled, sagging body parts, well, then that is the programming in society’s messaging. But when we as a nation become more inclusive and obtain greater diversity awareness, then more melanated folks like myself whose jet black, kinky 4C tendrils drape a heart-shaped, smooth, chocolate-hued face, can re-define the aging criteria. We push the boundaries of beauty and aging to be a little wider and smear the 40 y.o cut-off. Those are my suspicions, and whether they are right or wrong, I think most would agree the media has quietly raised the aging bar too.
I think of Sandra Bullock being cast opposite a 40-something Channing Tatum in The Lost City. I love the line where she says (as they climb a whole mountain) that she’s getting too old for this. He quickly affirms that she is beautiful, and she corrects him that she didn’t say she wasn’t beautiful, she said that she was old. The script addresses her age but doesn’t make her beauty predicated on it, and that is definitely a new one for Hollywood, which has historically set the stage for age to be a primary requirement for beauty.
Being older, I’m more in tune with these types of age references in media. Often I find myself thinking, “Wait, if I’m 40, then how old are they?” in regard to my favorite celebrity. Because in my mind, they, too, are 40. But everyone is 40 to a 20 year old.
I know many of my elders would laugh at me when I talk about being old, just as many of my younger peeps would look at me crazy if I said I was young. I tend to lean more towards the younger crowd’s view myself, but was instantly reminded of my own youth recently when I received back-to-back unwanted comments from older Black women. Said women each had the nerve to give me their opinions on my makeup choices, yet I hadn’t asked for them in either case. I was reminded of another older Black woman years ago who had done the same thing, and in this more recent moment, I realized, this is old. Older Black women who cross these types of boundaries and think they can tell you what they feel about your appearance and what they feel works for you is, in my opinion, an old person’s behavior. The audacity to be that rude is preposterous to me, but as I said, I do believe it is an old-school way of functioning that is unfortunately attached to this particular generation.
I pray I never get that old. And not that I don’t want to get old in general, but I don’t want that type of distasteful, outdated mindset. And if I do have it, well, I hope I have enough sense to keep it to myself.
Interestingly enough, just as I became aware of my youth in this undesirable experience, I soon became aware of my maturity when I boldly responded to both women, telling them exactly how I felt about their unsolicited advice. A younger version of myself would have refrained from doing so and would have viewed it as “disrespectful to my elders.” Yet, this is 40. And I finally understand what others meant when they said you get to a point where you care less about what others think at this age.
So, back to Firefly Lane. When Danny said, “No you’re not old, but you’re not young either,” to a fretting Tully when she asks if she is old, it resonated. I finally felt I could adequately define how I feel as a new 40. I’m not young. But I’m not old either. And that, at least for right now, feels like a well-deserved, hard-fought-for, perfect place to be.
In other news, did you know that I just dropped the pre-sale for my debut novel When Love Wins? You can check out more here! This time around there is an audiobook in addition to the eBook and paperback versions. Make sure you are subscribed to my email list to catch special offers, discounts, insider information, and more!
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