i first moved to los angeles when i was 25, and as an actress, soon found myself on my first "real" film set. one day a bunch of us were sitting around talking, and inevitably the topic of age came up. I proudly volunteered mine. "I'm twenty-five!" A look of horror and astonishment passed across the other actress' face. She looked about my age. She quickly pulled me aside and whispered some words of advice: "in this industry, you should never ever ever tell somebody your age..." I remember listening to her, and from somewhere deep in my heart, i felt sorry for her. sorry that she would feel the need to deny some inherent truth about herself. "I will never succumb to that sort of thinking. I'm proud of who I am," I vowed.
Within 3 months, I was no longer 25. I was 19. 20. 21. 17 (!). I had become a professional age-lier. The town, the industry, something had gotten to me and i'd succumbed to the idea that my age was something to be ashamed of.
Of course, the first age-lie seemed innocent enough, just a li'l white lie. something i only did "professionally" because of my work. but little upon little, the effect built upon itself, was insidious, until i found myself lying to every one i met, whether they were 'in the industry' or not. i'd mastered the art of "the charming laugh-off" in order to avoid the how-old-are-you question. but avoiding the question was no better than outright lying-- either way, the message to myself was the same. and although outwardly this all seemed innocent enough, inwardly, something destructive and insidious had begun to take hold of me: a residual build up of shame, an erosion of self-respect and self-esteem. it was like every time i lied about my age, i was teaching myself that it was shameful to get older. that i had to hide part of myself. and the next lie only reinforced that idea. in essence, i was inflicting a verbal abuse upon myself, telling myself that, "as is," I wasn't good enough, that i was inferior to my previous (younger) self, and anyone else younger than me.
Now consciously, i would deny this to the death. i would claim that i was mentally/emotionally strong, proud, and full of self-esteem. i could talk circles around anyone challenging my emotional or spiritual strength and groundedness and blah blah blah. but after almost 10 years of this, i'd seen myself change from age not being an issue, to becoming embarrassed about it, even angry when my husband "outed" me for being my true age. i'd seen myself become embarrassed that i was "getting older." and around this time, a whispering began to stir in my soul. a gentle urging that i began to know as an undeniable truth: LYING ABOUT YOUR AGE BREEDS SHAME. and it was time to stop.
so for my 35th birthday, i gave myself the present of self-acceptance. i began, uncomfortably--very uncomfortably--at first, to tell the truth about my age. i wanted to test my theory. would the truth 'set me free' of all this shame and embarrassment? i wondered what mysteries, joys, possibilities i had denied myself by not honoring the truth of where i was for all those years.
i have a daugther now, and i think of her.... would i ever in a million years look at her and think she was somehow "better" at 2 months than now at 9 mos? as a 4 yr old than a 2 year old? Of course not. But at what age does this start? 12? 15? 23? at what age does society start inflicting its erroneous age-ism upon us, upon our children? most teenagers wear their age as a badge of honor. superiority, even. but at some point, some nebulous age, the messages from society begin to creep in and do their damage. at what age do young girls (and maybe boys?) start learning from society that their worth dwindles as their age progresses? i can think of no women more radiant, admirable, beautiful, than my mother and my grandmothers. and yet, i'd been unable to apply this same vision to myself for so many years.
yesterday i was at the park with my daughter, and was literally stopped in my tracks by the beautiful woman i saw leaning upon the fence: she was no "beauty" by traditional standards -- i'm guessing in her 60s, stooped, pouchy stomach, her face flat and nose long like a monkey's-- and yet, she was beautiful. her weathered, brown face held the grace of all ages, her eyes like quiet mountains. she seemed a radiant poem, standing there.
how do i instill in my daughter that each age, each stage in life, brings its own unique gifts? and to honor herself and others through each stage? that there is beauty in diversity? to expand her vision, her perception, to see the beauty in all its myriad facets?
for starters, i point out the beautiful, stooped woman at the park. i teach through example, learning to accept myself, joyfully, for my age and whatever stage of living i am in.
so now, two years into "age-rehab", i stand and state to you the truth: my name is megan, and i am 37 years old.