Friday, July 25, 2014

Don't You Dare Say You're OLD

Someone please tell me when it became the norm for women in their twenties to go around saying they are old.  I've been in the presence of two lovely, super competent twenty-somethings this week, and they have both made comments about their age around me.  

I got to feeling a little stabby.

Dance-wise, when I was 25, I was on top of the world.  I was in New York, dancing in a fantastic company, where we were all about the same age and were immersed in our art.  Although I wasn't as thrilled with myself as I should have been, my body felt and looked great, both as a dancer and as a regular person.  In class, I never had the chance to feel old because just about everyone in class was my age, give or take a few years.  

Even when I was around teenage dancers, whether they were taking class with me or were my students, I didn't feel old. Sure, I had several years on them, but what was wrong with that? I was happy to be older, because that meant I was a professional adult, instead of a kid at the threshold of her career.  

When my body felt tight or was injured, I didn’t think it was because I was ready to collect my Social Security.  It was because I was either teaching too much, had been working improperly, or that my body had been the victim of punishing choreography.  

Never did I think I was ancient.

Until now. Seventeen years later.

Save most of the people I take class from, I am now nearly the oldest person in any class I take.  I get my ass to class with the regularity of Halley's Comet, even though my teaching forces me to demonstrate some challenging movement. Plus I've delivered two babies via C-section.  You could put a cowboy hat through the hole in my abs, which also means my pelvic placement is worth a barrel of Monopoly money.  

I’m the Notorious O.L.D. (Oldest Leaping Dancer).

I’m not ashamed of it -- I’ve earned the right to think of myself as old, or at least older. I brazenly tell my students that “I’m O.L.D.” when I mark something or feel like I've been on a forced march after doing a combination full out.  Deep down, however, I’m 99% sure that if I started going to class more often or got back into a Pilates regimen, I'd be killing it, especially because my dance mind is light years smarter than it was when I was 25.  

Is this age thing because our culture is so obsessed with youth that 20 is the new 40?

Maybe, but I think it's more than that.

Saying you are old is an easy breezy excuse.  Getting old is inevitable -- who can blame you for that?  The alternative is acknowledging that you have other priorities or are just plain lazy (Dude, I could NOT stop binge-watching Scandal!); you aren't working properly ("It’s like my technique is a bus and I keep missing it!”); or maybe that your body isn't really that suited for dance ("I've seen steel girders with more flexibility!").

Ouch!  You'll settle for old, won't you?

Dance is one of those professions where it is easy to feel long in the tooth.  With the Internet’s love affair with extreme training, we are constantly treated to ten year olds who perform like prima ballerinas.  Flashy tricks abound, while artistry and the clean technique of the mature dancer often seem like undervalued relics of a bygone era.  Feeling past one’s prime is relative, with everyone staring enviously down the line at the younger bodies.

Still, no matter how genuine the feeling is, saying you feel old in front of someone older than you is like going to an Overeater's Anonymous meeting in tears because you pigged out on wine and Skinny Pop every night and can't button your size 2 skinny jeans.  

It's just obnoxious.

Please, people. Go commiserate with folks your own age. They’ll give you the understanding you need, instead of a nasty comment.

Or a punch in the mouth.


  1. Wait, these 20-somethings are complaining that they're old...already? What are they going to think when they're 30? I guess maybe that's the "funny" thing to say, but it seems hella insensitive. Hell, I think I was dancing the strongest of my career when I was in my mid-30's. There's something to be said for maturity that you can't access when you're fresh out of college.

    1. I think it does sound funny with a grain of truth, but only among your fellow twenty-something year olds. I said this in front of my 70ish ballet teacher and I thought she was going to tackle me. I guess the only way to learn is to be called out.

  2. Doesn't it piss you off how we women don't appreciate our bodies like we should (probably b/c we are always being told we aren't skinny enough or tall enough or whatever enough). It isn't until we've lost that body & look back on pictures that we can say, "Damn, I looked good." Too bad we didn't appreciate it at the time. But people in their 20's should NEVER complain about feeling old - esp in front of someone older - unless they want to get punched. I remember fearing 30, but even that wasn't bad. But, man, if I could go back to my 20's - what I wouldn't give.

    1. You should only be saying you're old at 25 if it's the year 380 A.D. Your twenties are pretty amazing years, but sadly, the only way to know that is to be out of them.


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