The substitutes we accept for love
I am going through an intense period of maturation and growth. Everyone always said it happens to women as we age out of ‘desirability’ and into something else. I always wanted to outsmart this process and get the goods of awakening while I was still young and desirable, but it turns out I had no idea what was in store for me. I couldn’t have rushed it and it came right on time.
I don’t want any comments about how 36 is still young or how I’m still hot. I know I’m still young and I know I’m still hot and I know those things aren’t connected and I know my worth has nothing to do with either. I am talking about desirability — the way women’s worth is defined under sexist heteronormativity through our proximity to youth and ‘beauty’ and other things like being yielding and unthreatening to men.
I can feel myself standing at a crossroads, with one chapter of my life immediately behind me, suddenly and starkly obvious for what it was, and another stretching before me, a future in which I can wield a type of assured, confident power that I always struggled to embody before. The lessons added up slowly and then they literally rushed down on me when I bolted awake at 5 in the morning and knew.
What I didn’t expect was the grief. I always valued youth above ageing, obviously. I always took to heart the messages that my value sharply declined as my age increased. I worried about it and wished it wasn’t so but it’s like the sunset, coming either way. I hoped I’d be a lucky one who could prolong my youth as long as possible — something something skincare, and I of course never mentioned any of this, because what’s more embarrassing than to talk about the clock running out. I expected to grieve my youth. But this grief is something else.
The grief is not for what I’m losing but for what I thought I had. For the desperate attempts I made to be loved by men who did not deserve the effort. For the contortions I twisted myself into in order to soothe, appease, accommodate, remain unthreatening. The way I assessed my body with a merciless eye and so readily handed over my most deeply held desires in exchange for the porn-made fantasies of the various men I loved because that’s what they wanted from me.