18 May 2010

Motherhood and Youth

Sunday morning found us shopping at Target for some necessities (diapers) and a few incidentals as well. A excitedly picked out what I can only describe as the LOUDEST PAIR OF PANTS EVER - leggings with large seahorses printed on, in every color of the rainbow. Of course, we got the matching top which was far more subdued - a turquoise blue with two seahorses, nose to nose. On her, it's adorable. Loud, but appropriate. And I remarked to M later that night, "It must be nice to be 2 and be able to wear something that loud and pull it off."

"Well," he said, "There are more than a few women who..."

I didn't let him finish the thought. "I SAID, and pull it off."

"Ah. Good point."

I was thinking of the article I had read earlier in the day that discussed, rather venomously, youth obsessed mothers, particularly those who share crushes with their tween and teen daughters. My initial reaction was to be mildly revolted by these women

but after several re-reads, I found that my disgust extended to the author as well. It's no secret that we live in a society where culturally, we are obsessed with youth and more often these days, we read about this obsession manifesting itself in the hyper-sexualization of our daughters, often as young as toddlers. Our teenaged girls are obsessed with being viewed as sexually available adults and really, the only way I can think to explain our little ones parading around stages in barely-there stripper outfits is to say that their own mothers are living vicariously through them. That is, by the way, being nice about it.

Yet somehow, the author in the article on moms and daughters manages to actually make his words mock women over 20 - "For starters, the societal fixation with youth leads some people to believe they are still, in fact, young." At 35, my older friends tell me how young I still am. I still get carded for beer and to get into bars (and often, these events lead to apologies from the person carding me when they see my date of birth). I know that I am not young, but nor am I old. I am, simply, where I am in my life and I learned as a teenager, living on my own, that youth is more a state of mind after, say, age 13. In some sad cases, depending on your life thus far, you can have youths who are aged well beyond my paltry 35 years.

My friend and brilliant photographer, Shadow Angelina, discussed this with me when she was visiting back in March. "You hardly have the skin of a 35-year old!" she proclaimed. She's right, but our markers are our mothers and grandmothers. Her Memere, at age 19, looked to be in her 40's. My own mother, in her 60's, looks to me as though she's maybe in her early 50's or what I grew up thinking of as late 40's, though that doesn't really fly anymore. I trust her opinion as she finds beauty in women and brings it out with her lens, no matter what or how young or old.

It's in how we care for ourselves, and, again, as our intrepid author noted, "...both generations wear similar clothes, drink the same lattes and collegially follow "American Idol" and "Glee' is a factor..."

But is that actually a product of grown women trying to be more youthful or young girls trying to be more grown? At 13, I wasn't allowed coffee, never mind lattes. I had no desire to wear business attire and I'm sure that my own mother was not about to run out and by Doc Martens and a Sex Pistols shirt. I might have been allowed to watch "American Idol" had it existed then, but if I had developed a crush on any teeny-bopper, she certainly wouldn't have shared it with me. Thank God.

And I don't understand a fully grown woman who actually has a blanky emblazoned with a teen idol on it. Similarly, I snickered (yes, I did) at the mother I saw at the ball field wearing neon pink sweatpants with "LOVE" emblazoned across her arse, in rhinestones. There is, to my mind, a very, very narrow window of time in a young woman's life where such pants are almost acceptable and it's somwhere between 21 and 23. It's trashy no matter the age, but almost do-able during that period of time. Afterwards, to me, it just smacks of desperation. Give me my jeans and t-shirts on my day off, thank you very much. Timeless, ageless.

So, while I don't feel or think that I am "old", act old, look old or even dress old, you won't catch me mooning over a 16-year old boy (ew), nor will you find me struggling into rainbow seahorse print leggings or mini skirts in an effort to re-capture my youth.

You will find me asking this though: Why don't we just allow ourselves to be? Take care of yourself, your skin, your fitness, your health. Be truly happy with where and who you are and you'll be radiant (the ultimate in creating a youthful appearance). The most beautiful young women I know are often times older than I am, but they're confident in themselves and where they are in their lives and these things combine to create a glow that no amount of lack of sleep or poopy diapers or chaotic schedules can squelch.  They certainly don't need to compete with their daughters for a turn on the pole.

Are women trying to hard to be young or are young girls trying to hard to be women? Is it somewhere in between and how do you teach your daughters what's age-appropriate?


Anonymous said...

SKL here. All I can say is, I'm with you. I am very happy being at the age I am at. I happened to notice the other day that I am exactly half of the age at which my grandmother (whom I take after) died. So, if I still have half of my life ahead of me, how can I be "old"? If the first half of my life is any indication, I have a great deal left to accomplish.

There are times, however, when I feel physically old. I am working on that - exercise, vitamins, trying to catch what sleep I can.

Having two 3-year-olds, and knowing I won't get my life back for at least 15 years, means I had better keep myself in shape. Also, I want to be there for my daughters' weddings (should they choose to marry). And what if they wait as long as I did to make me a granny? No, I can't afford to feel old.

But no, I have no desire to look, dress, or act like a teenager or dorm resident. I never aspired to reflect the teen/campus girl stereotypes even when I was one. Those years are so filled with insecurities (and foolishness), who would want to re-live them?

Phe said...

SKL: Let me just say how happy I am to see you here. Of course I remember you (and still read all of your comments) from Work it Mom!

I especially agree with your last point - I didn't want to live through those insecurities then, so why should I choose to now?

Julie said...

Don't get me wrong - I understand that women feel pressure to be "attractive" and that means a certain age / height / weight / complexion / etc etc...As we age, if we are among those who can "pull off" wearing XYZ it makes us feel better about ourselves...But in the end, you have no choice except to be the age you are.

You can pretend and / wish you were older or younger, but - let's face it - you are who / what you are.

The best policy is to be the best YOU...whatever your age.

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