Not Aging Gracefully

I’m going to rant today. You’ve been warned.

The past couple of weeks have presented me with reminders that I’m a square peg in a round-hole world.

Most of the time, I take pride in being an oddball. But even though I’m proud that I don’t fit neatly into the world’s categories, that doesn’t always mean I carry my differences effortlessly. Sometimes, the reminders that I am an outsider sting. Other times, they cut deeply.

Let me give you an example from today at work. Mother’s Day is this Sunday in the U.S., and one of my colleagues wished the women who came into the library a Happy Mother’s Day.

In most cases, I think she’s likely known those patrons for a while and had more insights into whether or not they’re parents than I do. But I noticed a couple of people looked a little uncomfortable with the comment. (I’m not sure if she noticed it at all.)

I’m not a parent, and I don’t live near any of my or Jen’s relatives. That means we won’t be making Mother’s Day trips, nor will we have children visiting us.

Years ago, I had a colleague tell me that it was a good thing Jen and I didn’t want kids because we were too selfish to be good parents. She said we were too set in our ways and concerned with our own ambitions to properly focus on raising children.

I’m not sure if she was right about that. However, I often think about her comments when various holidays that revolve around family get-togethers come up.

Jen and I don’t usually travel to visit family for the big holidays. That’s partly because of the stress of traveling during those times. But because we don’t have children, spending Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, or Christmas with our families doesn’t feel as urgent to us.

Sometimes, I think our parents consider us very selfish because we don’t visit them more often. I think they’d prefer it if we lived closer or vacationed every year to see them.

And yet, none of my relatives ever traveled to Seattle to visit us during the twelve years we lived there. Nor have any of them come to NYC or NJ to visit us in the thirteen years we’ve been on this coast.

One reason for the lack of visits could be funding. I know we’ve had several years when we couldn’t afford trips because home repairs, car repairs, or vet bills kept us home. I’m sure that’s been an issue for our relatives too.

But I also think they have avoided visiting because they aren’t comfortable around us.

A lot of people talk about having LGBTQ relatives and friends. They boast about being allies and pride themselves on being open-minded and welcoming. But I’ve watched those same people quail when they see a same-sex couple holding hands.

It’s one of the reasons Jen and I are installing a taller fence around our backyard. We’re not 100% sure the neighbors are happy to have a lesbian couple on the block. Neither Jen nor I would ever get into a make-out session in the yard. But I don’t want to worry about some homophobe coming after us if I decide to hold her hand while we’re watching the birds some Saturday morning.

If we “flaunted our lifestyle” (I HATE that phrase!) on our own property, we might have some irate parent knocking on our door. We’d be called selfish or rude because our activities forced them to answer uncomfortable questions from their kids. If kids are around, queer people should either “act straight” or vanish into the wallpaper.

(Don’t get me started on all the straight people who kiss and fondle one another in public. We’d be physically assaulted if we did a fraction of that shit. Double standards piss me off.)

Maybe it’s because we’re middle-aged women. Our society expects women to bend and contort themselves into pretzel shapes. We’re socialized that our job is to make other people feel happy, comfortable, and taken care of. Our wishes and needs should be set aside until everyone else is satisfied. And if we won’t comply with those expectations, then we’re the selfish, entitled, spoiled ones.

Maybe it’s because we are both overweight. American society can make fat people feel like we’re invisible. But at the same time, we’re also shamed for taking up too much space and using too many of the world’s precious resources. Everything about our existence is wrong, and we simply should stop going out into public and making others have to deal with our presence.

I’m not sure how I can be an invisible burden, but I’ve met plenty of people who make me feel that I’m both every moment I’m in their presence.

And it fucking sucks.

Anyway, that’s my rant for today. It’s a reminder that none of us know precisely what anyone else is dealing with at any given moment.

For those celebrating Mother’s Day this weekend, I hope you have a nice celebration.

For the rest of us, have a good weekend.

(Photo by Mat Reding on Unsplash)

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