Turning 28 this past November was the first time I ever considered my age. It all sounds very absurd to me really…“my age.” Aren’t I young, vivacious, healthy and able? And only just beginning this life that lays before me? Well, it all started a few weeks before my birthday when I was chatting with the produce kid in my local grocery store and my age came up. I was reminiscing about my trip to Central America at age 18… “Ten years ago now, Wow!” I said, feeling quite proud of the milage I’d put on my grown-ass self. The produce guy echoed in a surprised way, “28! You look good for your age!” In something like shock, I laughed awkwardly, pushed my cart to the avocados and then quickly out of the produce section.
Letting those words tumble around in the hopper for the rest of my ride through the store, I was waffling between disregarding cackles and complete contempt. “My age?! Haha! My age.” As I came to the check out line, my favorite checker was there, and behind her I could see a magazine with the words “The Look Younger Issue” scrolled in big black letters next to a thin blond model in her early twenties. “Can you believe this shit? Our youth obsessed culture!” “Yeah, It’s disgusting really,” she said. As I proceed to tell her about my experience with her co-worker she tells me how people tell her that all the time. They think she’s about 10 years younger than she is. Maybe this could seem flattering, but she said it brings up the question for her “what are we supposed to look like, other than ourselves? What does a person ‘my age’ look like?”
Flash a few months forward, and I was having a conversation with a friend on the phone who is, like me, a creative, always working on 3 different projects simultaneously. Similarly to me as well, she is white, female identified in her late 20’s, early 30’s asking herself multiple huge life questions. Simultaneously, all our co-workers and extended family members want to ask us the same questions. Maybe the questions are scrolled across our faces, or maybe it is again, “my age.” These questions range from, “Do you have babies? And if not, when do you plan on having them?” And if not that, “When are you and your boyfriend planning on getting married?” Now, not that these questions are bad or even inappropriate, I find them more refreshing than talking about the weather, but they do point to ways in which our culture expects things from women, and find it appropriate to check in on these topics. Are men being asked these questions on the weekly? And it begs the question, what questions would I like to be asked? (What are you passionate about? What do you believe in?)
As a women of “my age” (I am aware that I am still very young, yes) it brings up so many things. Firstly…do I even want to birth any babies personally? Do I want to add to the overpopulation of the planet? Also, can I see myself raising children with this person I’m with? If I don’t have babies, will I regret it when it’s too late? If I do have children will I feel stuck and depressed, wanting to escape from a helpless perfect child that I love more than anything? When is the latest age I can have babies safely, and how much time does that give me before I need to make a choice? (Counts questionably on fingers) If I don’t have babies, then do I have to become a successful entrepreneur?! I’m pretty sure men my age aren’t thinking about this…or are they? I am only able to speak from what I know, which is my own experience. The men I’ve spoken with in my community are definitely not seriously considering most of these questions currently. A woman friend who is about ten years older than myself is helping raise her partner’s teen, and has decided not to birth any children herself. She said that for her there was no real lightning bolt moment. “People will tell you that you will just know when you know. It wasn’t like that for me. It never came to some clean pointed decision.” She said that for her there is grief on both sides: the decision of having babies and not having babies.
Now that I’ve officially just left our cultures favorite age for the female identified (late teens to mid twenties)… I imagine I will look back at this time as the end of my maiden-hood. As a woman in touch with and aware of the cycles of a woman’s life: maiden, mother and crone, I honor these cycles and each part of the journey. I revere all three stages, and yet find myself asking the question, where do I fit into this cycle? I play an auntie role in my friends children’s childhoods. So am I a mother? A maiden? Left somewhere awkwardly between? How do I know when I reach motherhood if I decide never to bear children or even adopt!? Can it be completely okay for me to not want any of it, the babies, and/or the successful business along with beautifully branded website and huge instagram following? And most important, can I accept myself where ever I end up in ten years, twenty years, fifty years from now? Babies or not, a hefty savings or not?
And aside from these deeply personal, deeply emotional and sometimes frightening inquiries, there come the other questions. At what point did I begin to believe that my life might not have meaning if I don’t have babies? Is this cultural, evolutionary, hormonal, familial, or ancestral? All of the above? And then, the most poignant and piercing one; What pieces can I uncover and heal inside myself in connection to these embedded expectations of what my duties are as a woman in this world, including babies, including career stuff, including how I am supposed to age? The asking of these questions has always felt inevitable, I just didn’t realize they would all come up in a real way within a matter of months. And, of course I want these conversations to be alive in my life (and oh they are). But, just for now, can I be comfortable in the not knowing? Can I sit in the unfolding process, and practice being present? When I feel into my intuition, drop below the waterline of the monkey mind, I truly believe that there are no right or wrong answers. Only lessons. (Oh goddess, I sound like my mother.) But it feels right to let others in to see the monkeys on the jungle gym. It somehow makes this crazy human experience more real.
Gwenivere Weiss is a California native. She is a writer and musician, and is currently building a home in a bus. She got tired of waiting for her dreams to find her, and is creating a life that she loves. Join her on the journey. She likes to keep it real.