Open Letter to Marc Maron (Day 15)
I should add that one of my brilliant things is making lists. But that one’s fairly obvious, isn’t it? As is, perhaps, that my heart isn’t quite in this right now. But you have to push through. We’re all phoenixing through our lives more times than we want to admit.
I mentioned earlier that I’m newly 45. For the most part, I wear my age lightly, though I perhaps work too hard to work it into the conversation when I first meet someone. I’m grateful to look young, but I do want to be taken seriously for the decades of life experience I have. I know being a wunderkind is all the rage these days, but perhaps it’s the Gen Xer in me, but I still think experience and battle scars count for a lot. The reason my age is on my mind is because today, as I was hoisting myself off the blue couch after a particularly lovely afternoon nap, I felt my age. I actually felt the weight of every single day of the last 45 years (16, 425 days to be exact) pooling in my lap as I tried to stand. It’s not that anything particularly hurt—though I seem to have already developed arthritis in my back—I just felt old.
I did a performance this morning–a reprise of a #blacklivesmatter piece comprising four poems woven together with a song—for a university audience, to kick-off a teach-in with students and some faculty on race and social justice. There were three performance poets on the bill—young, dynamic, strong writers. And there was me, and an acclaimed playwright who I’d once studied with and who’s in her 60s, I’d guess. Like most page poets, I didn’t memorize my poems, and the cadence was much slower and not quite as ferocious as the younger performers. As I performed, I became keenly aware that, given the average age in the room, some of the students might not have recognized the song I was singing (Wade in the Water) or known any of the references in my poems. And while I’m sure they’d all studied poetry in their English classes, I wondered how many of them had been to a traditional poetry reading. And I realized that they just might not be moved by my work not because of the quality of my writing or because they don’t like poetry but simply because I’m decades older than them and they can’t relate.
I freely confess that I, like many middle-aged people, gripe about twenty-somethings all the time and how we couldn’t possibly have anything in common and they can’t possibly understand and blah blah blah. But it’s one thing for me to think they’re too young for me to bother with, quite another for them to think I’m a dinosaur. This is all conjecture, of course, and there could have been kids in that room that were deeply moved by my work or got something out of it. I think maybe what I’m really thinking about is that deep ego blow when you realize that despite the fact that you feel young, and you look young, you really aren’t. It’s not that I’m old, but, still I’m not young. And while I agree that youth is a state of mind, it’s not actually a state of mind that anyone else has to share with me (and about me) if they don’t want to.
Why does it feel more disheartening to be thought of as old (or “not young” than it is to be thought of as fat or not very intelligent?
To be continued…