The Audacity to Age

Is it ageism? Is it sexism? Is it both?

Who gets to decide?

With the release of Madonna's latest album, Madame X, there have been a lot of people writing about her in ageist, sexist ways while claiming it's neither ageist nor sexist. If "She's too old to be making pop music. Grandma needs to shut up." isn't sexist and ageist, then what is? She really is a person people love to hate... What exactly is the problem? Is it what she said when she said "I think the most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around."?

I've been thinking about this because like Madonna I'm getting older; we all are. I've blogged about Madonna and her music enough for it to be fairly obvious I'm a long time fan.. I've often thought her best work was the work she didn't release as singles. It's those more thoughtful, reflective songs buried under the flash. I've often lamented some of her choices for singles because I thought they didn't show either her talent or her insight quite as well as some of her other songs, but they did sell records which got people to listen to the songs not released. So I suppose it makes sense.

As I read article after article I was also struck by the vitriol lobbed at Rebel Heart, even by her fans. But then again, the same kind of ageist, sexist remarks were made about her upon its release as well. I love the Rebel Heart album. she hits some fun vibes while still looking at the world with an introspection that only she can bring to her music. I could go through it song by song, but I won't because that's not the point.

The point is... expectations. When we don't get what we expect, we feel cheated. When people don't behave like we expect, we find fault with them. "Act your age, not your shoe size." "Act like a lady (or a gentleman, as the case may be)." - How many of us have heard that? How many times has that been lobbed at us when we are just enjoying life but doing something unexpected?

We have expectations about how people are supposed to behave, and we struggle to figure out how to reconcile the fact that people often don't meet our expectations. What happens when we allow other people to be who they are and stop assigning our expectations to them?

What if we looked at each offering without applying our expectations to them? What if we listened to each album, read each book, watched each movie, etc., without the need to say, but this isn't ______ - fill in the blank. You're right, it isn't ______ because _____ already exists. That's the way it works. This is a new something even if it is wildly similar to something that came earlier.

I read so many comments and statements that seem to think Madonna should just retire and shut up. Why? Because she had the audacity to age? I don't understand this. Guess what? You and I also have the audacity to age! We're older today than we were yesterday, and if we're lucky, someday we'll even reach the ripe old age of 60 or maybe even 80 or 90... Because that's what happens when you live. You age. You get older. The only cure for aging is death. So take your pick, age or die. Those are your only two choices. I choose aging. 

I wonder if all these people who think Madonna should disappear because she has had the audacity to age, plan to just go quietly into the night, stop doing what they love, and curl and wait for death when they reach her age - whether that was her age twenty years ago or today. If not, then maybe it's time to rethink that attitude.

I for one have no intention of shutting up. In fact, I intend to keep getting louder and more outspoken as I age in life and, especially, in my work. I really don't care whether or not that meets anyone's expectations. 

I take inspiration from those who are older than me and still speaking, leading, and doing what they love because maybe, just maybe, when I reach their age, I'll still be that active and vocal, too! 

Oh, and I intend to age for a very long time to come!


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