Aging Ungracefully & Awkwardly (DIARY)
You were born with it! It’s not just Maybelline…
Passionista Principle: “You can’t fight darkness with darkness but you can switch on the light.” ~Deepak Chopra
Nobody knew how old my grandmother was until she died. Well, I’m sure that my grandfather knew but he wasn’t telling. I’m talking about my mom’s parents from Buxton, Guyana. Granny and Grandfather were so in love that my granddad died almost exactly a year after my grandma died for practically no reason. He died of a broken heart; because she left him.
I also didn’t know my mom’s age until recently. I only know her age now because I kind of investigated it. “In Guyana people are not in your personal business like they are here,” she always says. “Nobody cares about your age.” And indeed my family is currently in Guyana celebrating the 100th birthday of Aunt Emmy, one of my Granny’s sisters.
I have had issues with my age for totally different reasons. When I graduated from college with the decision to work in media and entertainment, telling the stories of women, I was advised by my very first agent and mentors to dial back my age. They explained that everyone you saw on TV had a “stage age,” and that being perceived as “too old” could affect your livelihood. I was 22 but playing 18-year-olds in commercials like Dr. Pepper so the stock answer to “how old are you” at auditions was “I play 18 to 24.”
This was compounded by the fact that I am a classic overachiever. I remember being 25 or 26 years old and feeling old when my hip hop theater play “Goddess City” was first produced off-Broadway at the Present Company Theater. I was angry at myself that I had not accomplished more. One of my idols, Ntozake Shange, had her epic play “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf” on Broadway to critical acclaim when she was 25. I felt that if I was not hitting that incredibly high standard that I was a complete failure. I realize now that I missed some of the joy of the extraordinary things I was doing at a very young age.
So my agents made me 4 years younger and I rocked out with it professionally. In my personal life, I didn’t care about my age at all and neither did my friends, only where work is concerned. My career evolved to author, TV personality and Lifestyle Passionista. As a writer and TV personality you are often in situations where you must declare your age or it is printed next to your photo. Then people take it and run with it. They print it in magazines, on your bio, in books and so on. In any other profession it is illegal, actually against the law, for people to ask your age and use it to decide whether you deserve employment or not. Every time I lied about my age it hurt deep in my tummy.
That pain in my tummy was the pang to my integrity. I was deceiving myself and others. How we do anything is how we do everything. You can’t rail against government thieves or carjackers and pocket pens at work.
It always goes the same way. An editor or producer says, “We have to say your age.” I then would say I don’t give my age; and they would say, you must, then I would lie. I kind of felt like, it ‘s none of your business so you’re asking for me to lie to you. Can you imagine if you had to declare your weight or have it posted next to your name every time your spoke?! Aye dios mio. (smiles)
Anyway, a big part of my work is about finding joy by living authentically so I am letting this false belief go. If I think that people will not hire me if I am thirty-nine instead of thirty-five; or if I weigh one hundred and sixty pounds versus one hundred and thirty pounds, then I am not truly believing my mantra that we create our own destiny.
I am excited about aging although I refuse to do it gracefully. But I’m not really a graceful person about anything. I am loud, bodacious, outspoken, clumsy at times, and perfectly fine with that. So maybe I am aging awkwardly. Who cares? I am having a great time doing it and I look forward to my fun, flirty and fortieth birthday. I forgive myself for lying about my age.
How we do anything is how we do everything. I grew up in a wonderful family that happened to have many secrets and lies. I still don’t believe it’s anyone’s business but I can’t be the greatest expression of myself by participating in any kind of dishonesty. As usual, we teach what we most need to learn so I shine a light on this shadow.
And so it is.