In Response to Kirsty Logan’s “Youth Is All” Who Wrote In Response to Amber Sparks’ “Writing Under the Influence of Anxiety.”[admin / January 31st, 2011 / This Modern Writer ]
Today is Monday. I transmit from a cottage in Republican country.Â I’m tiredÂ because I worked all day andÂ now listen to aÂ soft rock mix on I-TunesÂ because I’mÂ forty-four but sometimes forget and have to ask my son, “How old am I?”
If you’re my son’s age, I’m ancient. If you’re twenty-one, I’m old. If you’re thirty, I’m olderish. If you’re fifty, I’m younger than you. If you’re sixty-five, I’m still young. And if you’re over seventy you don’t give a shit how old I am.
When I was eighteen the worst fucking thing in the world was aging. I thought middle-aged women were the fucking pits.
I believe my perspective changed around thirty.
When I was twenty-seven I got in my car and fastened my seat beltÂ the first time in my life. I’d suddenly become aware of my own mortality. Someone I knew had been killed by a drunk driver. I was still doing the same old thing. Still fucking around with the college thing, still fucking around and writing once-in-a-while. Just fucking around mostly.
That’s when I got depressed and notÂ normal depressed either. I ended up in the ER suffering anxiety attacks and a doctor put meÂ on Paxil.Â Later, another doctor prescribed Zoloft. Â The anxiety and depression continued until I was thirty-four.Â
Remember the movie Logan’s Run? They killed you when you turnedÂ thirty. I had not yet accomplished several of my most shining accomplishments by the time I hitÂ thirty. And I still have moreÂ cool stuff to do. Like a fine wine, I get better with age.
My granny says I’m a late bloomer. And I can’t be any other way. I am who I am and have developed exactly as I should have. Anything else is impossible. If it takes me three, four, howeverÂ many years to finish my novel then that’s how long it takes me. I’d rather write the best novel I’m capable of writing than jerk something off just to get it done.Â I’llÂ take quality over quantity any day, but that’sÂ my standardÂ not yours, andÂ maybe I say thatÂ because I’m so goddamn slow and meticulous and paranoid.Â
I understand the mentality “more is better.”
LikeÂ Amber Sparks, I’ve spent time onÂ FacebookÂ noting how well other writers are doing, how much they’re writing and publishing, and of courseÂ compared myself to them and then come upÂ aÂ sad sack of unaccomplished, unproductive shit.Â
SureÂ I panic. I twist myself in knotsÂ and can’t sleep at night and cry. Our culture is designed to make sure we feel inadequate. But also, I’m friends with some of the most prolific writers on the planet. I know some veryÂ talented people. It sucks.
But here’s another thing:Â writers lie. They exaggerate. TheyÂ brag all the time.Â We’re human. Writers areÂ chronicallyÂ desperate for attention.Â We have fantastic-sized egos.Â Otherwise, we couldn’tÂ endure the thankless solitary drudgery of what we actually do, which is sit in front of a computer for hours a dayÂ writing a lot of stuff nobody will ever read or care about.
ForÂ the record, I’ll never be on the cover of Poets &Â Writers no matterÂ what my age;Â I’m not going to win aÂ huge award or write a best selling anything. Writing will not make me famous or rich. ItÂ will keep me sane.Â It makesÂ me happy. But maybe I say that because my time is up.Â I don’t know. If “youth is all” then I may as well kill myself now.Â I’m past my prime. I will not be the young, gorgeousÂ ElizabethÂ Wurtzl posing topless on the cover of my memoir. How will I ever market myself?Â
When I was in my twenties I made a lot ofÂ cash off my looks. But I wasn’t writing. I was making cash off my looks.
When I look in the mirror now I don’t see aÂ babe anymore.Â I see a woman who’s given birth to a child. I see a middle-aged woman. This could be the death of me. Well, there’s this. When I was twenty-one my stepmother told me other women didn’t like me.Â I’d been in competition with other women all my life, starting with her when I was nine and fighting her for my father. She won.
When I was seventeen a female boss fired me as a busgirl at a Mexican restaurant because her husband came in the placeÂ and flirted with me. Few years later,Â another woman told me she couldn’t hire me because I was too beautiful and her male employees would never get anything done. AndÂ yet another female supervisor pulled me aside once and said, “You need to wear a bra. You’re flopping.”Â I wore a bra; in fact, aÂ bra with those thick miserable cups and fat unbearable straps.
I hate bras. Anyway,Â my tits aren’t huge.Â I’m not Pamela Anderson. Maybe I was to that woman. Sexual competition between women is nasty and fierce. Consider what Athena did to Medusa. Some women will do anything to ruin or at least narrow your chances with men.Â Â It’s called shaking you up. It’s called undermining your confidence. It’s called bursting yourÂ bubble.
You’re not as hot as you think you are, bitch. Slut. Whore. Fatass.Â Skank. Cunt.
I wasÂ in a ladies room once. Guess I wasÂ thirty-two,Â and anÂ older woman approached me then met my eyes in the mirror. She said, “Enjoy it while it lasts” thenÂ gestured at her own face. Â ”This is what you have to look forward to.” She meant her wrinkles.
AndÂ meant toÂ scare me of course.Â Â
If you’re a woman, aging is Medusa’s head. Nobody wants to date/fuck/marry an old woman, right? Suddenly, you don’t exist. You’re invisible. If you’re my age and single you’re not George Clooney. You’re an Old Maid. Something is wrong with you. You’re dysfunctional therefore undesirable; you’re a lesbian. Whatever.
The older I get, women like me more and men like me less.Â I find solace in this.Â
Back when I dated my son’s father, or fucked him, however you want to look at it,Â he took me to his bedroom and there on the wall was a poster of me, some ad I’d done in a bikini.Â
I looked exactly how you’d think I’d look in something like that and that’s all I ever was to him.
I also think his mother disliked me.
One thingÂ I appreciate about agingÂ is my prioritiesÂ change. IÂ look in the mirror some days and think, “Jesus, you lookÂ old.”Â I keep getting better and better as a writer. I’ll never accomplish everything I want.Â GoalsÂ keep us going, that desire. Imagine something worse than getting older, likeÂ giving up.