Crying into Your Birthday Cake: A Female Paradox

Crying into Your Birthday Cake: A Female Paradox

As the winter months crawled along and my eighteenth birthday made its taunting approach, I found myself noticing things I never did before. The permanent lines dancing from my nose to my mouth. The extension of my neck, how it would inevitably grow less taut. The way my body felt each morning; did I always have this strain in my back and knees? I became haunted by my signs of aging, spending my days looking at collagen-rich skincare and searching my scalp for grays. 

Even writing it sounds ridiculous. Why, at eighteen, was I so fixated on the inevitable rotation around the sun, the raising of one number, the extinguishing of birthday candles? The only other time I was so hyper-aware of my body was when I was nearing the age of eleven, and I had just learned what the word insecurity meant and collected a handful of them from Tumblr. 

As I celebrated my best friends’ birthdays this past week, we talked about how scary aging was in the traditional sense: moving out, finding a job, falling in love. We also spoke about aging in the sect of womanhood: children, changing bodies, not making the same mistakes as our mothers. We found humor in the fact that every birthday we celebrated, no matter how perfect, was completed by crying into our pillows, mourning the young girl we had just lost. It seems as though this tradition is housed somewhere within all women, as if the rib we were made from held the fear of getting old, and Adam saved men for centuries by giving this fear away.  

Is it that women are born with this sadness engraved in them, or has society made villains of aged women? There is so much talk about “biological clocks” and “the right time to settle down” because God forbid you’re a 40 year-old-woman with a successful career and no children or husband to show for it. Men are forever bachelors, while women are shrews by age thirty. Men get to be “silver foxes,” and women get to be “not bad for 50.”

 Our society has criminalized women showing their age, and as a result, has made the younger generation of girls born with an awareness of said aging—as if we are made to fight the sun, delay the earth spinning, frolic upon a fountain of youth or botox. 

Your body is made to soften. You’re supposed to wrinkle and gray. You’re supposed to get vulnerable, to let the people you love care for you as you lose the ability to do so yourself. Holding on to youth so tightly will only crush it beneath your palms; by the time you let go, all that’s left will be dust.