I reached this birthday milestone earlier this year and while I typically enjoy & celebrate birthdays in high fashion, I have admittedly been struggling with this year’s milestone of an age. I recall last December sitting in Starbucks on a winter day in Sacramento crying to my girlfriend on the other end the phone, not understanding why I was so upset until I blurted out in between my sobs, “I’m not 21 anymore!”
Trying to be sympathetic and in her attempts to stifle her laughter, she responds, “Honey, everyone is going to getting older, it’s not only happening to you.”
I sigh, “Yeah, but…I never imagined that I would be this old, not married and no kids.”
And therein lies the crux of my struggle with getting older. I still can’t say it, because I don’t feel my age, I don’t believe I look my actual age, and truth be told, I don’t want to be this age – it means I am getting old and I don’t feel old. Despite hearing the mantras that “age is but a number,” – I look at them and think, “Easy for you to say, you’re married and have kids OR you make a billion dollars year – Oprah (btw – I love Oprah and strive to learn from her and her Life Class). I know it’s a matter of reprogramming my brain, but it also doesn’t help when there are constant reminders about your age, from your doctor telling you “How old are you? What? Oh well you need to have babies soon, otherwise it will be too late,”; to friends that, while well intended, crack jokes from being a Cougar and pursuing younger men won’t land you a marriage, to ones who tell you, that you can be the best version of yourself, but in the end, you are still not in your 20’s anymore.
Typically, opinions like that don’t hurt me because often, I don’t care what people think. But when it comes to age, even if I listened to those opinions, I can’t change my age or the path that I took where I focused on my career, instead of intimate relationships. And I have been struggling with the this ideology of marriage since my parents separated when I was high school. For the most part, let’s face it, as little girls, most of us have been dreaming about our dream wedding, without even thinking about what marriage means. I question now, the reasons why I want to get married. Is it because everyone else is doing it? Is it because it’s the next best thing after accomplishing your career goals? Am I wanting to get married because I want to get married; or because my parents want me to get married (which is ironic because they didn’t succeed in marriage – so why do they want me to go down that route?); or because my grandfather wants me to get married (there was a time, when each conversation I had with him, the conversation started with, “What’s the status?” Meaning what’s the status to my finding me a husband?); or do I want to get married because society has programmed me to want to get married because of all the movies, reality tv shows, magazines, etc. that talk about here comes the bride, or dream weddings, or bridezillas?
In the last year or two, I have self-reflected…I mean there has to be a reason why I am not married yet, right? Okay – maybe I have had some childhood issues that manifested in my adulthood today, but when I think about my lifestyle and the choices I have made, I have to think, do I really want to get married? My choice when my parents separated was to focus on my career, I did not what to end up like my mom – who spent her life taking care of my sister and I, which we are better people because of this – but ended up having nothing to fall back on when she separated from my dad. She didn’t finish her degree, she didn’t have a job – she had to start over in her 40s. At the same time, I definitely know that I want the companionship, I want to have a date night every time I feel like I want to go on a date, I want to be able to RSVP +1. So, yes, I think I do want to get married, to have a life partner. But as many women my age can attest to, it is more difficult as you get older to find a man that will love you unconditionally and in return, be loved unconditionally. I just don’t need the reminders about my age, especially hypocritical ones like:
At a bar with a few friends (names have been changed to protect the innocent assholes that I call friends – at least in these moments, they mean well…but…):
George: What do you think of Ken?
Me: He’s really not my type, but his friend Mike…he’s really more my type…so cute!
George: Mike? Are you serious? He’s like in his 20’s…no wonder you’re not married.
I immediately rolled my eyes and did the “Oh no you didn’t,” turn and said, “How dare you! Says the 40 year old man who only dates model looking girls in their 20s! It’s okay for you to date someone in their 20s, but God forbid a woman can’t date someone in their 20s as well? You are an ass!”
He obviously quickly regretted it and started back pedaling sharing stories of good friends where the woman was 10 years older than her husband…blah, blah, blah. ‘Til this day, he is very apologetic…but the wound still stings.
To another situation where a friend of mine wrote off a girl he was dating because of her age – and she was younger than him! He explained to me when I told him he was an ass for writing her off, “I’m not trying to be mean, she’s a great girl. But it’s about what you want in life and I want to eventually have kids, so therefore I need to be with someone that can have kids.”
I couldn’t even speak. While he was honest and spoke his truth, it hurt like a ton of bricks. Even though he didn’t say this directly to me, I couldn’t help but feel less than. I am at an age where having kids might be difficult, not impossible, but challenging. But again, I don’t know that I even want kids – it’s the fact that someone is telling me that the possibility of having kids is close to impossible, is more what is getting me – someone telling me no. I don’t like to be told, “no” or “you can’t” I realize trying to prove someone wrong, is not a reason to have kids, or because someone tells me I should have kids, or because I have been socialized to believe that a woman’s life is not complete unless I am married or have kids.
But that has been my truth that I have learned over the years from may family and my culture, that no matter how much I have accomplished, how much I have seen the world, I have learned that my life is not complete until I am married and have kids. I know that this is so untrue. Trust, I realize that I have nothing to complain about, I have a blessed life. I have been an educator for years because that is all that I know. Just like it is all I know to be Filipina, is to perpetuate the family name, by getting married and having kids. And when you don’t have either, what do you have? While I continue to struggle with my age, marriage – I had an opportunity to get married once, but I could not see myself being a housewife in Hilo – and the possibility of having kids, I know that in doing so, I am finding my own truth.
The truth is, I want to be able to love someone and give them all that I have in a marriage and will know that it won’t be perfect. The marriage won’t define me because it will be a partnership. I don’t know that I want kids. I was relieved to hear one of my girlfriends just tell me the other day – who is a wonderful mom and has beautiful kids – “I don’t know that motherhood needs to be experienced by everyone. As much as I love my kids – they are a lot of work.”
Thank you dear friend for that. I think they are adorable, but I have become too independent to carry a separate luggage just for kids while traveling – where would I put my shoes? I know that if God does blesses me with a family, I will be the best mom that I could be, but will have a nanny to help me out and a loving husband to support me. Single mom is not a job I can do, this I know – kudos to all the single moms – but I won’t be taking the advice of my mentor to get artificially inseminated (though I do have a donor if I change my mind – he doesn’t want kids either) because I can’t raise kids alone.
And though hurtful as my friends’ words were, I AM no longer 21. The honest truth CAN hurt. But it can also help motivate you to think about what you want to do with the rest of your life…setting milestones, making that bucket list. In my 20’s I could never imagine having announced for a college baseball team, to travel the world, to live in Hawaii, to have an agent (everyone who’s trying to be an actor in Hawaii has an agent – so it’s not as glamorous as it sounds), to have your picture taken for a small ad campaign as a model & get paid to do it, to be acting, to run a marathon (yeah, I did it without training and came in 30 minutes behind my friend who is 10 years younger than me – in this case age did not matter how successful you can be) , to earn my doctorate & be called, Dr. Aala. My life does not suck, I know this and constantly remind myself of all that I have accomplished as I continue to progress forward in my life. So while I may not be getting any younger, there is still a lot of life in me left, I have so much to offer and so much to accomplish – I still have my bucket list. Despite the nay sayers, I believe you CAN be the best version of yourself when you open yourself to possibility and change the channel in your head of all the negative talk. Perhaps age is NOT but number, it’s actually wake up call to do the things that your heart desires before it’s too late. I am older and kicking ass! This is my truth.
My 30 Shades of Gray Birthday Celebration….