It’s almost easier to see the negatives in most situations – to pick at the things that are wrong instead of celebrating things that are right and appreciating that progress that has happened. Open any social media platform or any centre-to-left-leaning news source and you’ll be mercilessly bombarded by armies of self-righteous social justice warriors raging against whatever is the cause du jour. Which is not to say that we as a society don’t have a lot of ground to make up in most cases, but we have come a long way in terms of becoming a tolerant and inclusive people. On social media in particular the pendulum has swung so far that the people on the left are the ones labeling their fellow humans and putting them into little boxes. It makes me long for a simpler time – like when you could open up a browser window and be pelted with nothing more acerbic than Pokemon Go.
Anyway, I had planned on bitching and complaining today; the flu has knocked me on my ass so hard that I have missed everything I was going to do for the last two days and the only thing keeping me awake is whininess and righteous indignation. But, I can’t help but think that there’s a silver lining to be appreciated here as well – pun intended for the silver lining thing. Yeah, I know that joke is bad and makes no sense now, but it will – hear me out.
So. I work full time in the fitness industry, a microcosm unto itself that would claim to be making people better – healthier, stronger, longer-lived, happier…and it’s getting better at that. What is infinitely more pervasive though, is its tendency to worship youth, beauty, physical perfection (whatever that means; it’s dictated by fashion most of the time) and sexiness. And as such, it can be an unforgiving place to be female. It’s even more unforgiving if you’re susceptible to this stupid thing that happens to most people who don’t have an endless medi-spa fund: aging.
I’m over forty now and one thing I notice more and more is that on days that I don’t put makeup on or put extra effort into my appearance to go to work – which is, let’s face it, most of the time (hey, I get up way too early for that nonsense) I get treated differently. There are comments – you know, little expressions of concern, sometimes disdain, always with a pointy little stabby part – about looking tired or looking drained or drawn. What to do about these? Where do I put them? Because on one hand, yes, they’re true: I start work early in the morning, I don’t usually get enough sleep, and by the middle of the week my face is showing signs of hard mileage. On the other hand, I’m a middle-aged woman – if and when I do wear makeup and put extra effort into my appearance I feel like I’m trying too hard and anyway, why should I give a shit what people think?
But. When I do put the effort in I feel better. More awake, more confident, more professional. More worthy of respect. And then I think, fuck you and you and you and everyone else because why should I have to wear makeup and invest all kinds of extra time and labor(and let’s not forget the colossal expense of beauty products, nails, eyelashes, tanning etc) to garner professional respect? To look desirable in some way? To lead by example as a fit, healthy, person? The answer is pretty simple: because women are expected to look a certain way.
And it’s not the same for men. None of it is. Some of you guys may be arguing in your heads here that the guys are expected to be buff, lean, hairless (except for a big-ass beard lately) and yes, there definitely are those pressures for men but it’s nowhere near as pervasive.
There’s this niggling fear in the background, that as a forty-year-old woman who has been doing this personal training gig for many years now and I have never been better at my job, I can feel my ability to make an impact slipping away because I’m getting old. But here’s the silver lining you’ve all been waiting with baited breath for: there has never been a better time to be a professional middle-aged woman in the fitness industry. Or any industry, for that matter. Us older gals who do our jobs with passion, enthusiasm, and respect for our stations have a unique opportunity right now to smash down some of those barriers that may have held people back as little as five or ten years ago. Things are changing, and we can put our energy into building that momentum, or we can sit on our butts and pick at how far there is to go. I know which side I want to be on. So tomorrow I’m gonna slap some makeup on and keep fighting the fight.