I intended to write a really provocative and envelope-pushing blog today about intersectional feminism and how it pertains to social and political activism. I’ve been planning it all weekend.
But, I just can’t.
It’s 12:30 and, although this is usually the time of day when I’m winding down my work obligations and getting ready to pick my kids up from school, this is the first I’m sitting down at my desk today. I have less than an hour before I have to leave for car line. And although I could definitely squeeze in at least some earnest work in that time frame, I just can’t get myself motivated.
I’m so goddamn tired.
This weekend was a little busier than usual. It was my daughter’s sixth birthday. We invited her entire class, as well as a few of our son’s friends, to the party. It was held at Chuck E. Cheese which, in many ways, lightened my workload when it came to organizing and hosting. But it also came with its own stress: the self-imposed need to stay hyper-vigilant over all the children who I decided were my responsibility (even though their parents were there), being social and always fun, making sure the staff was providing all the services we paid for, etc. The day after my daughter’s party, we attended a birthday party for one of her classmates. This one was nice because I got to just attend and enjoy the festivities, being incredibly well taken care of by the hosts of the party, who went above and beyond for the guests.
Other than that, the weekend wasn’t that much different than most other weekends.
I did have to spend most of this morning resetting my house from the absolute disaster that was left behind from my daughter opening all of her gifts from family and friends. But it’s not like that was back-breaking work.
So, why do I feel like this?
I turned thirty-nine last month. In many ways, I feel better than I’ve felt in my entire life. I am more confident, more self-assured. I’m happy with how I look, how I feel, and who I represent in the world. I’ve never felt more authentically me than I feel right now.
And yet, it’s hard not to notice how age is starting to slow me down.
Don’t get me wrong—I know I’m not old by any means. But I’m not twenty-six anymore, either. Things have a way of wearing me out faster than they used to. Recovering from a heavy workout or even a big social event can take days instead of hours. And even fun things like date nights with my husband can wear me out in a way they didn’t use to.
There is a part of me who mourns this.
I don’t mind my age—in fact, I love my age! I just happen to dislike the way my body can feel these days. It doesn’t help that each day I notice a new wrinkle, a new grey hair (sometimes of the chin variety), or a new inexplicably sore joint or muscle. It just seems like I’m watching my body age while my mind and spirit remain ageless.
And that’s kind of a weird feeling. It’s a feeling I don’t know what to do with.
How am I supposed to relate to a body that is changing? I know that in 2024 we are challenging the sexist and consumeristic ideas about aging that are led by a ninety-billion dollar anti-aging industry. We are embracing our wrinkles, our hair, those goddamn neck wrinkles.
But, like…are we enjoying it, or just doing it?
I have been a loud advocate for aging defiantly, rather than defying aging. In fact, my current project is a book I’m working on called Brave Beyond Thirty, which encourages women to embrace the changes that aging brings. But sometimes, I feel like a charlatan. I feel like someone who doesn’t practice what she preaches.
I guess I just needed to say that out loud—to tell women that they aren’t alone. That there are many outspoken advocates who want to push back against the loud and oppressive voices who tell us we lose our value as we age, while silently wondering if perhaps those voices are right.
It can be lonely to feel like you’re the only one grappling with your age while everyone around you is proclaiming the freedom of accepting themselves exactly as they are. I think there are probably far more of us grappling with those feelings than we know. It’s taboo to talk about those feelings. It’s considered anti-progressive. Oppressive. Backwards.
But there is room for multiple things to be true at once.
We can be fiercely devoted to ending the stigma of women’s aging, while still working to untether ourselves from those very beliefs.
We can love our bodies just as they are, while also mourning what they used to be.
We can acknowledge that we are slowing down in some ways, while taking time to appreciate the ways we are becoming wiser, stronger, smarter, and happier.
There is power in that.
I’m still as tired as I was when I sat down to write this, but I feel less heavy. It’s a relief to unburden ourselves of the hard feelings we’ve tried to tamp down to be “inspirational” or “non-conformist.” Sometimes, we just have to acknowledge, with honesty, how we really feel so that we can feel less alone, and others can feel less alone, too.
I feel less alone now.
If I did this right, maybe you do, too.
I hope so.
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.
Check out her blog called Compassionate Feminism on Psychology Today to join a feminist conversation centered in openness, empathy, and equity.