Celebrating birthdays can be a huge pressure, especially for women, because society expects them to look young. Host Whitney Lauritsen talks about her birthday experiences, the paradox of getting older, and her reflections on ageism. When we’re young, we want to grow up as fast as possible because we feel limited based on our age. But now that we’re older, we wish to become young again. It’s a constraining paradox that steals the joy of living. It’s about that time that we find out who we are and what we’re capable of. When we accept our age, wonderful things happen. Tune in!
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Birthdays And The Paradox Of Getting Older
This episode happens to come out on my birthday. I thought I would use this as an opportunity to explore ageism because I feel like birthdays bring up a lot of emotions for us. Every year, it is a little different for me. Before I get into some of my thoughts, a lot of people like to ask about what you are doing on your birthday. I have no idea.
I am recording this on March 13th, 2022. My birthday is over a week away and I have no plans. My experience for the past couple of years has been a bit tainted because of COVID. My birthday in 2020 was a few days after the lockdown started in Los Angeles. Do you know what I did? I am pretty sure I had an amusing experience that year, which was going to Starbucks to redeem their free drink offer.
Some people get into all that stuff. I have not taken advantage of a ton but maybe I will do that this year. That sounds fun. I like getting free perks on my birthday. It was in 2020 that I wanted to see how I could push the limits of Starbucks or a free birthday thing. I went and I ordered an espresso with twelve shots because that was the most you could order. At Starbucks, you can get any drink on your birthday or at least you could back then.
I thought, “Let’s see how many shots of espresso I can get for free.” I went through the drive-through. This is why I think it was 2020. I felt embarrassed and bad for the baristas. I am like, “Is it a lot of work for them to do it?” I thought it was my birthday so I would be a little selfish, which sounds weird to say. They did not make a big deal out of it but the guy that handed me the espresso is like, “Are you staying up late or something tonight?”
I took the drink home, put it in the refrigerator and measured out espresso shots for a week. I made a video of it but I was too embarrassed to post it. I thought that people would be mean so I never shared that. This is the first time I think I publicly shared it. I do not remember if I did anything in 2021. I have not had a super memorable birthday since COVID.
In 2022, the mask mandates were lifted in LA. It feels like things are a little bit calm but I tend to be more cautious around COVID. I do not trust the calm and thus, I do not plan to do anything big but I would like to do something. I will share with you if I do anything exciting for my birthday. It will probably be a meal with a loved one and maybe something outside because, sadly, I do not spend that much time outside these days.
In 2019, I had a good birthday. I went to Santa Barbara and spent the whole day going to some cool restaurants and taking a walk along the beach with Evie at this cool dog beach. That was the last good birthday I can remember. In general, I am not a big celebrator. I do not like to draw a lot of attention to it. I like feeling special and getting gifts. That, to me, would probably be the best thing, getting some gifts.
I wrote a list of ideal things to send to my family in case they wanted to splurge a little for my birthday. Some things on my birthday list are an Oculus, which is a big splurge. It is about $300. My sister tends to be generous. She does not even ask me about my birthday but that is probably what I would ask for to see if she would get it for me. My parents and my sister often give me gift cards for birthdays and Christmas.
I would say my top birthday gift right now is a Ledger, which is what they call a cold storage device. A hard wallet is another term for it for cryptocurrency. I do not have one of those yet. They are about $70. I thought, “I will wait and see if anyone gets it from me on my birthday or maybe I will treat myself and buy it for myself on my birthday.” This other big splurge. This is a timely gift. Jackery makes these big generators that you can bring on camping trips or use if the power goes out. I have started to become a little bit more mindful of survival prepping. I do not know if you read the blog post with Clint Emerson. It is a good one. I have been thinking more about it due to everything that is going on in Ukraine.We can't choose to be younger or older. We just are. Click To Tweet
I mostly want to Jackery for my car road trips and you can plug in any power to it. They also have a solar power generator. You can charge it from the sun, which I think is cool. The one that I want is about $500 for the kit. I have been planted to get it for myself. I have been waiting for that to go on sale. Those are some of the gifts.
Some people like to hear, “What do you want for your birthday?” Other than that, going to meals tends to be nice. I like it when friends offer to take me out for my birthday but it has been a little weird and different during COVID. I do like getting happy birthday messages but those tend to overwhelm me. They trigger me to feel like I have to respond to everybody. I might have even taken my birthday off my personal Facebook page because I did not want to have to deal with the bombardment but I simultaneously feel sad if people do not wish me a happy birthday.
If I feel like I can read all the messages without pressure to respond, that feels good because of being acknowledged but also, I do not want to spend my birthday replying to every text message, direct message, email, Facebook message. It is a little too much. It would be nice if there was some tool where everybody could leave messages in one place. If someone was going to develop new technology for birthdays, it is going to be fun. It is an app where everybody can post in one place. You can get all your messages but there is no way for you to respond to that and thus, nobody leaving messages expects a response. That is an introvert stream I suppose.
Making Assumptions Based On Age
What I want to talk about is ageism because that comes up a lot. A lot of people will ask how old are you. I do not like talking about my age. I am not ashamed of my age. I feel pretty neutral about it but what I do not feel good about is people putting me into a category making assumptions about me based on my age.
I started to avoid talking about age. I do not usually share my birth year anywhere publicly. I am sure you could piece together approximately how old I am based on some episodes. I know that I had mentioned when I went to school, for example. If you wanted to know and you do not know yet how old I am, you could figure it out but I would appreciate you keeping it to yourself. I would also encourage you not to even think about it. That is something that I have started to practice.
I am trying to avoid asking people how old they are or looking it up because I find myself doing that. I step back and think, “If I do not want people to judge me from my age, why am I trying to put into context who somebody is based on how old they are?” I find myself doing this whenever I am getting into the comparison trap.
As I have talked about a few times, sprinkled it in here and there, I started getting gray hairs. The first gray hair I got was several years ago. It was in 2012. I remember where I was when I got my first that I knew of gray hair. I was at my friend’s place in Massachusetts visiting her I looked in the mirror and saw gray hair. There is gray hair that has been coming out. I plucked it out and stared at it. I was like, “My first gray hair.” I was in disbelief.
I got worried that I was going gray but I did not start getting more gray hairs until several years ago. I do not know if that was a rogue hair. I am not sure but it was around COVID time that I started noticing more prominent gray hairs and I was plucking them out. It is possible it was a little before COVID, to be honest. Maybe it was 2019. It does matter. Somewhere in the past several years, they started to pop up more.
I started to have a lot of anxiety and I was plucking them out every day. I would look in the mirror and I would pluck out my gray hairs. When COVID came around, I felt more relaxed because no one was seeing me except on camera here. I remember, for a while, when I started doing the videos for the episode, I would try to hide my gray hair when I was in the show with Jason. Even when I had guests now, I was wearing my headphones, which pulled back my hair. You can’t see any of it and were in a bun. I felt protected that way.
I have not worn my hair down a ton and part of that is because I find hair in general to be the least of my concerns. I do not like dealing with that. I do not like washing it. Now, my hair is a little on the greasy side. Putting my hair up in a bun tends to feel like an easy way to not deal with it but it also feels like an easy way to conceal my gray hair.
On my YouTube video, which by the way, it like to mention, I am months behind on posting YouTube videos. Even more, I was in the habit of posting them over those in the fall of 2021. When Jason left the show, I had to take on so much more work to manage the show that the YouTube videos went on the back burner. I still record them for every single episode. I started posting clips for the guest episodes on Instagram. Eventually, they will go and TikTok but that is it. There is a huge backlog.
If you are like, “Where is this video she is talking about with her gray hair?” It probably won’t be out for several months there. Thank you for your patience. If any of you want to volunteer to post my videos, that would be a good gift. I would love a volunteer to help. They are not that hard to do. It is just overwhelming. When I get overwhelmed, I do not do it. I procrastinate.
If I tilt my head down, you can see some of the gray hairs coming in. I have become fascinated by gray hairs because they are in certain areas of my hair more than others. If you do not look closely, you probably would not even see them. The very first conversation I had with a hairdresser about my gray hair happened when I got my haircut for the first time in a while.
I was nervous because I was seeing a new hairdresser. I was afraid that he was going to ask me about my gray hair and he did but he did in a kind way, which was nice. He asked if I had ever colored my hair. I said, “I used to.” He mentioned how I have been thinking about it with my gray hair. He said, “One thing you can do is do some highlights and that will help them blend more into your hair. That was it. It was nice. I got thinking about it.
I feel like growing out my gray hair is a rebellious act and this ties into ageism because the only reason I would dye my hair is to hide my age. The only reason I would dye my hair is so that people would not judge me and think that I am “older than I am.” I have had the privilege of looking younger than I am. People assume that I am sometimes ten years younger than I am, all the time. It is very rare that somebody thinks that I am my age or I am older than I am. I think that is a privilege.
Some of us naturally, through our genetics, look younger. There is a time when people, especially women, seem to be fixated on looking younger. Dying hair has been a big thing for women, especially. There is a lot of sexism too, which bothers me. It is very rare that I see a man who dies his hair. It is, to me, common to see men with salt and pepper hair and with full-on gray hair. Societaly, it seems to be the norm. It seems to be not a big deal.
Men generally, from my perspective, seem to be more concerned when they start to go balding. I know a lot of men are self-conscious about losing their hair and having less hair and I do not care. I rarely think about a man’s hair. It is not an attraction factor for me. Maybe subtly, I will notice it but I have dated men who are balding.
One guy immediately comes to mind who always wore a hat. When he took off his hat around me, he only had hair around the back of his head. It was not a big deal. It was attractive to him. It had nothing to do with his hair but I noticed it. That is all it was. I find it is fascinating that it is such a common thing. In fact, it is abnormal it seems, at least in the United States, for women to not dye their gray hair. It is because there is so much pressure for women to look young.True substantial relationships have nothing to do with age. Click To Tweet
In addition to my hair, I do not want to be bothered with my appearance. It drives me nuts that there is so much pressure on women and men too. I am not that I am trying not to make this a gender issue but I see this so much with women and people that identify as women to wear makeup, to do their hair, to pay attention to their clothes. There is so much around looking younger.
I do not want to go through my life trying to be anything than who I am right now. I even think it is strange that I take some pride in looking younger than I am. That is why the gray hairs are a little unsettling because I feel like this is the first time in my life where I have been afraid of looking older. It is like, “Are people going to know that I am not in that range?”
The truth is that women get gray hair at all different ages. I do not know statistically but I certainly know that women get gray hair in their twenties. It is hard to know that because many of them dye their hair. It makes me wonder how many women have gray hair but you would never know it because they are hiding it.
I find myself thrilled when I see women with gray hair, especially women that I perceive to be around my age or younger. I am like, “Thank you for reducing this burden. Thank you for making it more normal.” I even saw this woman at the trade show that I came back from had fully dyed her hair gray, as far as I could tell. I did not talk to her. Maybe she did have full gray hair. She looks very young. It looked like she made a more trendy decision to dye her hair like silver. Kim Kardashian did this a while back several ago.
I thought it looked cool. I was walking around this trade show with my friend and she pointed this woman out. She was like, “I do not understand why someone her age would dye her hair gray. Why would not she wait until her hair goes fully gray? Why would she want to be gray any earlier than she needs to?” I hope that was such an interesting commentary because it is like, “Who cares? Why do we care so much over what color hair people have? How much hair do they have? Why do we put much emphasis on this? Why do women put much work into their faces?”
Ageism, Sexism, Capitalism
I am becoming increasingly perplexed by that. I feel like the more I pay attention to ageism, sexism and capitalism too, which is I am tied into this. I notice a lot on platforms like TikTok. There are many videos. This is true of any platform because I spend the most time on TikTok now. I see so much there. There are many tips on our faces. How to get rid of wrinkles? There are conversations around Botox. There are many conversations around moisturizers.
There has this big trending thing called slugging in which women put petroleum jelly all over their face at night and rave about how youthful their skin looks. It takes away wrinkles, dryness and whatever else as vibrancy. There is a lot of talk around tools like the gua sha tool, which I think is amazing. I have one and I use it from time to time. The rollers and there are now electronic devices you can use. It is all about making your face look thinner and more youthful.
It is this obsession with a thin young appearance that objectifies women but men do it too, certainly. They do various things. I know men that are concerned with their age, wrinkles and looking old. Why is that? This is something I used to think about because I am not that concerned, to be honest. I do not need to dye my hair.
The wrinkles are not that big of a deal. I do not want to spend my time and money trying to change my appearance. I do not want to use filters online. I do not want to have to use special lighting. Why? All of that stuff is expensive, time-consuming, exhausting and draining. I have a limited amount of energy. Do I want to have to work harder and longer to make more money flick and put that money and time into looking at something that I am not?
If you think about this cycle, this hamster wheel that we are on, it all feeds into it. We want to look younger to feel more accepted because maybe we will feel more attractive and get a partner. What happens when you get that partner? People do not stop being concerned about how they look because now they are concerned about how their friends appear to them. Maybe they feel they have to have a certain status in order to maintain those friendships. Are they friends if they only accept you because you look a certain way?
Maybe you want to look a certain way to be accepted on social media. I am concerned about that sometimes and my ego flares up and I am afraid I look too old to be on TikTok, which is dumb because who cares how old you are? Why is a platform limited to your age? We have the cycle of people being afraid of how they look for work. You are going to be rejected.
I get concerned about the older I get whenever I have to type in my age when applying for some campaign online, which I do less of these days. It is like, “They are choosing people based on their age. I could miss out on something because I might not fall into the age range that they want.” The more I examined it, the more I believe that they are little examples of when age truly matters but we play much emphasis on it that we have made it matter.
I want to dig into some resources that I have gathered. The number one resource is a book that I do not think I completed yet but I went back to my notes and realized I took a lot more notes on what I remember taking. I must have read much more of this book than I realized. It is called This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism.
In the podcast section, you will find this episode and you can get links to it all. The links tend to be affiliate links. That is a way to support me. If you want to get me a little gift, help me pay for things like a Jackery or an Oculus headset. Not to say that is the only reason I do it. It supports the business ultimately. If you buy a book like This Chair Rocks or you get the Kindle version using the links in the description is a way to support my work. That is over at Wellevatr.com and it is a fantastic read. I loved re-reading my notes. Here are some of the ways to discuss ageism.
Ageism is a prejudice against your own future selves, as Todd Nelson and many other age scholars have observed and have the dubious distinction of being the only -ism related to a universal condition. I thought that was so fascinating. Sexism is limited to certain genders. Racism is based on different races. There are a lot of isms that we use but ageism is something that we all experience. I think every human being, even if a human being, does not have the privilege of living a long life. They are somehow put into categories, judged, perceived in a way related to their age babies.
We believe certain and project certain things. We treat them differently because of their ages. That is one of the few ages in life because babies are dependent on other human beings. It almost feels like it is innocent. I remember as a young girl being aware of my age. I believe once our brains start to develop, Even at young ages, we feel ageism.
My mother used to say to me that I always wanted to be older. I remember that I wanted to grow up as quickly as possible because I felt limited based on my age. I wanted to be taken more seriously, access new things and the freedom that a different age offered. What is interesting is that once we reach some of these ages, we start to have the opposite feeling of wishing that we are younger. It is a big paradox and it is extremely constraining.
Making Peace With The Passage Of Time
One of my favorite quotes in This Chair Rocks is, “Wouldn’t I be better off making peace with the passage of time than waging a battle no one could ever win?” That is poignant because there are only two choices in life and that is to live or die. Are they even choices? My point being is we can’t choose to be younger or older. We just are. We can look forward to getting older like I did but now I would probably be more excited to get younger than I am getting older but I do not have the choice to go back.Ageism is not about how we look; it's about what people in power want our appearance to mean. Click To Tweet
We are either alive or dead. We do not have control over those things. The book also says that your life does change as you get older and you get into what is important and what is not. As we get older, we tend to move into jobs that suit us better, for example. We also have more time to figure out what we want to do with our lives, more time to accomplish it and share what we know and more time to wind down with those we love. Those are all the privileges of time.
There is an interesting thing I am going to get to after sharing some of these quotes. There is a reference within This Chair Rocks that I looked up and was intrigued by so stay with me on this. One section of the book that piqued my curiosity is how advertisements, movies, policies, bylaws, products and promotions have shaped our unconscious beliefs with one overarching method that old equals no good.
One of the reasons this book states is that conflict sells papers. The media perpetuates the myth that intergenerational competition is inevitable and people readily buy into it, which resonates with me deeply. It is not only the fears, the concerns and the stress that we feel about our age but the way that we are pitted against each other based on other people’s ages.
TikTok again is a great example. I am a Millennial. That will give you at least an idea of how old I am if you care. There is so much controversy around Millennials versus Gen Z and how Gen Z thinks Millennials are old. There are tons of controversy around Boomers. There are not a lot of people talking about Gen X. The generation before Millennials does not get a ton of flack.
It is somehow the Boomers, the Millennials and the Gen Z are seemed to be in the news. It is all about pitting us against each other. I love how this book is saying, “It is a form of capitalism. If we can create conflict that is not even there, it makes more money.” Somehow people feel superior and inferior. We want to defend ourselves and place ourselves in these boxes. For what? Is that a way to sell us more, to create more rules or to create more limitations?
Another great point in the book is what was the hardest prejudice to let go of? The author said, “The prejudice was against themselves, their own future, their older self as being inferior to their younger self.” It is nuts. Not only do we feel the comparison to other people but we feel the comparison to ourselves so many of us feel inferior to our younger selves.
When I look back on my younger self, she feels inferior to who I am now but I would prefer not to compare what feels inferior is that I have learned much. It becomes much more confident. I would rather be who I am right now than look younger and be younger. That was no advantage, a deep advantage.
Maybe that was an advantage in status and I looked more attractive to men. Who cares? My substantial relationships, hopefully, had nothing to do with age. I was not chosen because of my age, to my knowledge. If I was, that is disturbing. I am sure I was rejected many times without even knowing it because of my age. I was either too young or too old for somebody. That is silly when you think about these dating apps, all the judgments, how many people limit.
One of the number one things I would guess in a dating app is choosing an age range. I know many people who have dated people way older than them. I have dated a number of men younger than me and a number of men significantly older than me. I cannot say that any of those ages made much of a difference. It is so ridiculous.
Someone had quoted in the book. Robert Butler said, “Ageism allows the younger generations to see older people as different than themselves. Thus, they subtly cease to identify with their elders as human beings.” We have gotten to a point where we cannot even connect with each other, which starts to remove our humanity. That is absolutely insane to me.
I recorded an episode in advance about how triggered I get when things feel transactional because when something feels transactional, it does not feel human to me, it feels like a robot. That is a big issue. Right now, many people use filters on social media in order to look younger or more attractive than they look or feel so they are using technology to change themselves or manipulate them so much that they are not even themselves. They are more technology than they are as a human.
One of the big concerns people have about Web3, which I have spoken about. It is a big interest of mine and a lot of people are concerned. Web3 is a bit of an umbrella term for the blockchain cryptocurrency, NFTs and the metaverse. If you do not know much about them, I have a separate show called Web3 with Whitney. That is all about that. You can always reach out to me and ask me. I would be happy to help you understand it.
One thing that I think a lot about is these concerns about the metaverse. This fear that we are going to be digitized that we are not going to connect with each other as human beings. What is interesting in the context of this topic of ageism is wondering, “How much do we connect with each other as human beings?” Even right now, I am recording this on my computer and you are reading this on a device, all digital.
Sense Of Freedom In The Metaverse
We are already at a point where we have created a divide amongst ourselves. Much of what we do spend our time on is through devices. In a way, we do not experience our humanity that much now. I am not going to get into the metaverse now. What is interesting about it is that we are close. We are already there. Many people are going to be excited about the metaverse.
One of the perks of it is that we can enter into spaces and shape our appearance the way that resonates with who we are that has nothing to do with what we look like so you could go into a metaverse and create an avatar. That is either a human, animal or another being. You can exist there knowing that everybody is representing themselves in a way that is not necessarily what they look like. I find freedom in that. As humans now, we are yearning to be perceived without judgments. I do not know if that is ever possible. In the context of this conversation, you could go into the metaverse and be a completely different age, older or younger.
I used to do this when I was growing up. One of the things I experienced in my Millennial age range was AOL instant messenger and chat rooms. I remember that you would go into these rooms and it was very common to lie about your age. It is innocent but also a little disturbing because there were these chat rooms. You were interacting with strangers for maybe when the first time. These were the early days. This is what they considered Web1. We are in Web2 now. Another way of understanding Web3 is it is a different phase. That was Web1, as the internet was developing. AOL is a huge part of it.
The chat rooms were this fascinating realm to step into because you were talking with people anywhere in the world and you could not see them. We did not have profiles. It was your username. I do not think you could even click on it and read about people. You would have some username. I do not think that you had a picture attached to it. That all is Web2 from my understanding.
Web1, you were some anonymous person online and you would go into these chat rooms. It would say ASL, which stands for Age, Sex and Location. That is the context in which you would meet these other strangers, which is also bizarre. I would make up my age. It would always be older than I was because I wanted to be mature. I would usually say I was female but I am sure I sometimes said it was male. I probably made up my location. That was me being safe but my age was the cool thing.Accepting our age paves the way to acknowledging it with ease and even pride. Click To Tweet
I remember being wise enough to know at that point that most people were lying. I have not thought about how the metaverse now is shaped, where you could easily lie about who you are in the metaverse, which might be dangerous but it also might be freeing because you could be anything you want to be versus, in real life, you are stuck with yourself.
You could change your body through surgery. You can absolutely manipulate your hair, your makeup and your clothes to be perceived a little bit differently. For the most part, we can’t change ourselves that drastically. We certainly can’t change our actual age but on the web, we can pretend to be what we want to be. That helps us feel freer, a little side note there.
In the book, This Chair Rocks, another section is about discrimination and stereotyping and much of that happens with our age. We are ageist when we feel or behave differently towards a person or a group on the basis of how old we think they are. Like racism and sexism, ageism is not about how we look. It is about what people in power want our appearance to mean.
This is where some of the capitalism comes into play, which to me, the issues I have with capitalism tend to be around not treating each other as humanists, making it all about money. It is about the transactional side of things. I do not have an issue with making money but I do not want to be either held back from making more money because of my appearance. I do not want to be making more money than somebody else because of who they are. That does not feel right.
I do not want it to be in manipulation. I want it to feel fair. I want it to feel like everybody’s basic needs and some of their desires at least are being met. Ageism comes into play a lot with money. Bounce it comes into play with power. Many people feel more powerful because they are older or younger. It is uncomfortable. It is something many of us go through and it is disturbing to me.
This Chair Rocks says, “We experience ageism anytime someone assumes we are too old for something, a task, a relationship, a haircut instead of finding out who we are and what we are capable of.” Wouldn’t that be amazing? Can you think of a time when somebody was not able to see you? It reminds me of The Voice. Have you watched that? I am sure you at least know the concept if you have not seen it, where all of the judges have their backs turned to the singer. They have no idea what the singer looks like. They can not make judgments based on their race, their gender, their sex, their appearance, their body size on and on.
They are listening to their voices and what their voices are capable of. That is why that show is powerful and successful. The show is also based on all those judgments because the judges turned around and they make faces like, “I can’t believe that voice came out of that body.” It is rude. As the audience, a lot of us feel the same thing.
The media perpetuates this. We are simultaneously finding joy and seeing what somebody is capable of regardless of their appearance but we are also judging them for their appearance because then we say things like, “I knew they were going to sound like that because they looked like they would sound like that. I had no idea they would sound like that because it does not look like they would sound like that.” That is judgemental but that is how our society has been set up.
Why Older Women Are Invisible
I am sure it comes back to our roots as human beings, constantly judging things as a form of survival but we are at the point where we do not need survival in the way that we used to need as human beings. It would be nice if it could shift. This is also interesting. The book says that one of the reasons older women are invisible is because so many dyes their hair to cover their gray.
The way I interpret it is that we do not even realize that there are older women around because many of them are masking their age to look younger, primarily through their hair. It feels like older people in general start to feel invisible because society has shunned them so much. Let’s put them in a home. We may not have set up a structure for them to be able to get around, enough for us to see them like we do not even see a lot of old people anymore unless their family members.
As an older woman, that is what this piece says. We see a lot of older men. If you take note of our government and in the United States and many governments, in general, are run by older men. There are not a lot of women there but there are a lot of men and a lot of them are old, whatever old means. I even hesitate to say old because who even determines what old is.
When you think about the gender side of it too, the book says that the status of older Americans is rooted not only in historic and economic circumstances but also in deeply human fears about the inherent vulnerability is of old age, the loss of mobility, visibility and autonomy. Concealing or disavowing our age gives the number of power over us that it does not deserve. Accepting our age, on the other hand, paves the way to acknowledging it with ease and even pride. That is how I would like to be.
I, unfortunately, had an example of my mother, who for most of my life has been afraid to tell people her age that my sister and I don’t even know how old our mom is. A lot of people are shocked when I share that. I am pausing for the shock effect. I do not know offhand how old my mother is. I do not know what year she was born.
My sister had to sneak around and keep the secret of our mother’s age. I barely even know my dad’s age. My dad does not care as much. I know how old he is but my mom, I am not quite sure. I could only have a guess. My mom seemed to have so much shame around her age. I did not understand it until I started to get gray hair, started to feel more aware of my age and dig into some of the ageism through my reading. It makes sense that she is afraid. My mom dyes her hair and loves using beauty products. It feels like my mom has hidden it because she is afraid of being judged and she works hard to look young.
It makes me sad because I root so much rather her feel proud of her age and go through life with more ease but it feels like it causes her stress. I grew up taking that in. I did not understand it but I was being given this message over again by her and many women around. As women, we are molded by the way that our mothers go about life. It sends this message to us over and over again.
For me, the message was I should not be proud of my age. I should be afraid to age and conceal it. As I have found myself hesitating to share my age with people, I often think of my mother. I am like, “I do not want to become somebody who is afraid to share my age.” I also simultaneously do not want to talk about my age because I do not want to be put into a box and be labeled.
Technically, knowing that I am a Millennial puts me into a box. Part of me feels like I do not even want to talk about my generation because I would rather not. Not for my generation but it does not matter. I start to cringe when I hear people categorize themselves in relation to me based on their age. I want to completely shout to them, “It does not matter. I do not want to care how old you are.”
Feel Proud Of Living A Long Life
The book says, “There is no old/young divide. We are always older than some people and younger than others. Since no one on the planet is getting any younger, let’s stop using aging as a pejorative.” There is also a quote from Laura Carstensen. She is the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, who says, “Let’s flip it around from one about growing older to one about living long.” The perspective is the word it stands for. That is how I feel too.Do not take for granted the fact that you’re alive right now, especially going through a pandemic. Click To Tweet
I want to feel proud of living a long life. I already do. I feel grateful. I do not take for granted the fact that I am alive right now, especially going through a pandemic. Many people have died in the past few years. Also, right now, with everything going on in Ukraine. People are dying. There is a war. I do not even know if war is the right word. I am trying to be very mindful with my language but there is certainly a lot of discussion around war now. There is an invasion happening that is leading to the end of lives. We should take for granted any breath that we take and what we do. We feel shame around our age and so much comparison around it. It breaks my heart. I want to see the humanity in myself and others.
This Chair Rocks mentioned something I had not heard of called the U Curve of Happiness. I looked it up and I want to dig into it a lot deeper. I found this article as a starting point at Inc.com. It is titled Research Shows People Become Increasingly Unhappy Until Age 47.2. Here’s How to minimize the Negative Effect of the “Happiness Curve”.
There was some research done at Dartmouth that found that hundreds of thousands of people in 132 countries experience this inverted U shape happiness curve starting at age eighteen. In general, our happiness levels begin to decrease and we reach peak unhappiness at 47.2 in developed countries and 48.2 in developing countries.
People in their 20s, 30s and early 40s are more likely to compare themselves to others and find themselves wanting. No matter how successful, well-traveled social, educated or whatever your FOMO measures might be, there will always be someone who seems more successful, better, smarter, wealthier or seemingly happier.
We gradually accept that failing to achieve every dream we once held dear is not the end of the world and slowly start to focus more on enjoying what we do have than what we do not. The article does say that the good news is that happiness levels gradually increase after 47. The bad news is you are unlikely to feel as happy as you did when you were eighteen until you are in your mid-60s.
It seems to me, especially as a woman, we placed much emphasis on women who are 18 or early 20s. The truth is, on average, people start to feel less happy and it does feel like there is so much stress, especially on TikTok, where I am observing. I feel like it is my favorite body of research because you see many people expressing themselves.
If I were to summarize the feelings that I get on TikTok, which is seemingly driven by Millennials and Gen Z, it is a lot of unhappiness, people trying to prove themselves, people trying to change, sharing their suffering, feeling hopeless and doing things to cope does not feel happy. I do not see a lot of people under age eighteen that I know of.
Being 14 to 18 felt miserable. I would not want to go back to those ages where my body is changing, where I have got hormones raging, where I am in school, unhappy and dealing with awkward social situations. I do not have a lot of very positive memories. The positive was having fun. I do reflect back on the fact that our society accepts young girls running around, yelling, screaming and dancing. That is the stuff I did in that age range. I was not into drinking or drugs. It was me and my friends doing goofy things.
I was also trying to find my way. I had major crushes on boys who never seemed to like me back. I was trying to figure out how to wear makeup because I felt like I needed to and what clothes I needed to buy. I felt uncomfortable and awkward. I was trying to figure out who I was and where I was going to college. I spent all these years leading up to eighteen, generally feeling like I needed to change and be different, better, not feeling comfortable, wanting to be older and mature.
When I get to eighteen, according to this study is where my unhappiness begins. The article in Inc.com did end with something positive that I wanted to share, which was the difference between what we can control versus what we can’t. We can’t control aging. A lot of us have all these concerns around goals and dreams but this gradual acceptance we start to have and focus on enjoying what we do have versus what we do not is part of our control.
Scientifically Proven Steps To Feel Happier
This happiness curve is apparently a natural phenomenon. Although I want to go do a little bit more research to see people. I found one that shared a different perspective than this research that I have not read yet. We can reduce the impact of this natural phenomenon on our life by taking a few steps that science proves will make us feel happier.
This is good core advice. It is always worth sharing for any time we feel stressed and unhappy. Number one is having a few close friends and they even emphasize the word close. I share a study that was done not far from where I grew up in Massachusetts, that geographically close friends have the greatest effect on our happiness, which is interesting given what I was talking about virtual. Virtual friends can be great. Distant friends are great but apparently, the closer your friends are to where you live, the better. Finding at least one near you is key.
Number two is to start comparing yourself to yourself. If we look hard enough, we can always find someone who seems happier, especially for looking on social media. We can find someone that always seems more successful, more fulfilled, more something but if we compare ourselves to ourselves through our goals, that is the only comparison that matters. I will say, “I wish they put the caveat that comparing ourselves to our younger selves is probably not great for our happiness.” Even comparison to ourselves is hard. I do not know if that brings me happiness. I disagree with that but I have to think more about it.
Number three is to help other people. While giving helps other people, it also helps you. Research shows that providing social support may be more beneficial than receiving that. It is not only for fulfilling. It reminds us of how comparatively fortunate we are. I like that but it is also the comparison like, “I am helping you. I must be more fortunate than you because you need help and I do not.” You got to dig in and think about that one more. I would not want to help someone so I can feel better about myself because I do not need help.
The fourth and final advice is to express gratitude every day, which I am sure you have heard of before but it seems to be one of the top pieces of advice. It is often about saying grateful things to yourself and to others, write things down that you are thankful for at least once a week and focusing on what you do have.
That is a good note to end on. What if I reflected in this next week about everything that I am grateful for? Not from a comparison but to be in a place of gratitude. That sounds like a nice way to spend my birthday too. That is also a nice way to receive a happy birthday message. What if instead of saying happy birthday to somebody, we wrote down a specific thing that we are grateful about them? If you ever want to write a good birthday card, a post online, getting very specific, how has that person benefited your life? What do you love most about them? We can do the same for ourselves too.
I also love that point in This Chair Rocks about what people are capable of. We can focus on that and get away from these statements about getting older, even the jokes around it. I feel like they are usually innocent but many birthday cards center around the age. Even celebrating a birthday gives me pause too. It is an interesting tradition.
It is the one time a year when we feel like we are special but what is interesting is one of my friend’s daughters was born on my birthday several years ago. She is turning two on my birthday in 2022. Here I am stating her age for some context. I do not even know why. I started to feel weird about that because my friends forgot it was my birthday the last several years. I remember the day she was born. I had to remind them it was my birthday too. Not to compete with the birth of her daughter. They lost all awareness of a day that they probably more easily remembered in the past.Start to focus more on enjoying what we have than what we don't. Click To Tweet
I am supposed to go to her birthday party. I found myself feeling annoyed that we would be celebrating. It is silly but it was like, “That is my birthday.” It does not feel special anymore. That is about them, their dynamic and being new parents, I suppose. It was a funny thing that came up for me. I thought, “That is silly.” My birthday is not that big of a deal but for a child, the birthday is such a big celebration. I can quietly celebrate my birthday but loudly celebrate hers. What if I celebrate internally? Does it have to be extroverted? I do not need to remind people it is my birthday.
The only reason I might need to do that is that my birthday falls on a Monday. I blocked the day off from meetings. I may say to some of my clients, “I am taking the day off to celebrate my birthday.” Even then some people do not even do that. I have the privilege of doing that because I make my own schedule with freelance clients.
In the past, when I used to go into an office, I did not get to skip out of work because it was my birthday unless I had planned vacation. Birthdays are interesting and I will end this there. They have given me a lot of opportunities to think about ageism and I am very curious about what you think. If you would like to share, you are welcome to wish me a happy birthday.
It depends where it comes from. One thing I like about Instagram messages is it is easy to heart things. I always feel a sense of guilt because it feels it is such a superficial way to acknowledge someone but on my birthday, I want to do the minimal effort. I mainly would love to hear from you. How do you feel about birthdays? How do you feel about yourself and other people? Do you like to celebrate? What is this episode brought up for you in terms of ages? Have you experienced it and thought about it? How does it appear in your life, even with other people? Do you have any other resources? I would love to read them too.
Thank you so much for reading. I got a wonderful guest lined up. This one is especially great. I am looking at the schedule and seeing who is coming up for you. I am excited about every guest on the show but whenever I see who the next guest is, I am like, “I can’t wait for you to read.” I hope you enjoy it. I love hearing from you. I love to connect and I am wishing you all the very best with your life. If your birthday has happened anytime soon or is coming up, happy birthday to you. I hope you are full of gratitude and I will be back again soon. Bye.
- Clint Emerson
- This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism
- Web3 with Whitney – Past Episode
- Stanford Center on Longevity
- Research Shows People Become Increasingly Unhappy Until Age 47.2. Here’s How to minimize the Negative Effect of the “Happiness Curve”
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