It is one week until the Broad Street Run. Instead of thinking about that, I have been thinking a lot about a deep conversation around women and aging. This all ties into the value of a woman in society based on her ability to bear children and her ability to arouse a man. And for some reason running ten miles has everything and nothing to do with that.
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I constantly struggle to evaluate my progress based on how far and fast I can go, as opposed to what I look like, what the scale or the measuring tape says. Although I try to refrain from the mirror being my gauge, I fall into the trap again and again of worrying about becoming fat, and therefore unattractive. Of aging poorly. I am much closer to fifty than to forty. Everything I read warns of the troubles ahead. And whether I am reading about becoming a better runner or simply what to expect in the upcoming years, there is a constant warning label against getting old. Ease up, eat less, go slower, take more rest days, blah, blah, blah. Recovering from an injury has only made these warnings seem all the more terrible. It gives them a ring of truth, that I constantly push back from.
So I sit here thinking about disappearing. How women are allowed to be erased from the conscience of society once they reach a certain age. And if they have the audacity to be a presence that doesn’t rely on beauty or male arousal, their very femininity is called into question. As though being a female is based on beauty and on sex. And before you say this isn’t true, open your eyes and look around. Watch commercials, watch movies, open magazines, look at billboards, listen to the radio. As far as we would like to say we have come, women are often portrayed as objects, as commodities.
If I were honest with myself, I would have to admit that starting this whole fitness, workout thing was an effort to stop the disappearing process. An effort to return to a lower weight, to become more attractive. To age well. To be older but still pretty. Because then, I would still have value. Somehow during this process I have shifted into what I can do, as opposed to what I look like. However, I have not been able to fully eradicate the shadow of insecurity about my own worth as a middle aged woman in a world that devalues women as they age.
This is so hard to write, because it is not as though I walk around with this constant conscience prevalent thought. It is more like a tinge to the world, as opposed to the center. And it is hard to write because I know it will make some people angry, or uncomfortable or just plain annoyed. It may be perceived as whining. But I am not whining because I don’t feel sorry for myself. On the contrary, I feel a little tired, but somewhat empowered.
I am disappearing. The gray in my hair, the constant bulge in my middle (regardless of how much I run) the lines on my face, are all going to continue to erase me from a society that is trained to view women in terms of how they look and their size. And feels entitled to pass a loud judgement. But as I disappear I am also appearing. Running has given me a confidence in my self that is completely and totally separate of what I look like. (Okay, sometimes I like to think I have good running form, but that is different). I feel as though I can do things, and have a worth that I don’t remember ever feeling before. I feel entitled to spaces in this world that I had previously felt were not mine. The me, the all of me, that is relevant regardless of the package is coming into sharper view.
Running ten miles, for me, is a triumph. It doesn’t matter if I am thin, if I am pretty. And it really doesn’t matter to anyone else but me. And because of this, I am disappearing. But I am also appearing. And the people that can see me, I realize, are the ones that matter. Starting with me.