Age cannot wither her

Age cannot wither her, and boxes cannot define her!

Michelangelo's Cleopatra

Michelangelo’s Cleopatra

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety

From Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra

I will not tick the age box because I refuse to be defined by number! I am fabulous just as I am so take me as you find me and don’t insist on slotting me into an age-related stereotype.

Digits will not characterise me and although evidence of the years I have lived may be etching itself gently across my face, and more forcibly across my neck and the back of my hands, allow me the dignity of being ageless!

I never tell anyone my age and just recently, a friend commented that she wishes she had followed my lead. She is nearing a significant birthday and has a horror of it being heralded. She is not ashamed of her advancing years, not at all; it’s more that she cowers away from the expectation that comes with her zero birthdays.

As a society, we have an obsession with age, particularly where women are concerned. It is far more common to see a woman’s age attached to her name when reading a newspaper report than for it to be omitted. Why, I wonder, does age matter so much? The achievements of a woman are rarely more important because of the number of years she has lived.

I want to blur the decades and allow every woman to be the person she chooses to be. It is my view that if we classify ourselves by age, we are encouraging others to pass judgement on us. Surely we should all make life choices based on what is right for us as individuals, not on what others perceive as age appropriate.

Without doubt, our lifetimes are an extended period of learning. Mistakes are made, successes are celebrated and our personal databases of knowledge grow each and every day. A woman of 80 has inevitably had life experiences that a woman of 20 is unlikely to have had but this shouldn’t diminish either of these women. I don’t believe in segregating women into narrow pigeonholes. Ask all the women you know how they feel inside and most will tell you they feel the same now as they always have.

birthday cakeI admit that number landmarks mattered to me once. I remember when I reached the magical moment of double digits, then sweet 16 and eventually the golden ticket of adulthood at 18. We had a family celebration for my 21st but since then, I have shunned the milestone birthdays preferring to mark every year as special and not just the ones that proclaim the commencement of a new decade.

Within my circle of acquaintance, I have shouldered the sadness of losing two significant people over the past few months. My Grandmother remained ageless all her life. She was a wonderful role model: resilient, independent, kind, elegant and infused with grace. Her smile would light a room and it is from her that I learned that age means nothing.

Imogen's Granny

Imogen’s Grandmother

More recently, I was shocked when Carolyn Lazarus, the founder of t4w, died after a short illness. She was only in her fifties. I hadn’t known her for long but I know that she died too soon. She was intelligent and quietly ambitious, thoughtful and generous-hearted. Brave to the last. From her I learned that our greatest blessing is good health.

This year I will have a party on my birthday. I shall invite those I love to join me and we will dance and raise a glass to absent friends. Life is not about ticking boxes and attaching labels, it is about listening, learning, loving and looking for the good.