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The Popular Phrase I'm Just So Sick Of Hearing

Frankly, it's time to stop saying it.

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The Girlfriend Staff
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Nothing sets me off faster than articles that say, “Age is just a number” or “What’s your excuse?”

I am working my way through my 50s, and to be honest, most days, I feel like I’m falling apart.

Being positive is great. We should be thankful — often — for what we have. I try to find moments of daily gratitude even on my toughest days. But acting like everyone can age seamlessly if they have enough mental fortitude comes off as incredibly privileged from where I sit.

I got sick with ulcerative colitis in college and spent the next five years seeing dozens of medical professionals to try to get better. They said things like, “You’re too young to be this sick,” which is also a ridiculous, privileged statement considering the number of horrible and even fatal illnesses that can impact young people. Pain, sickness or disabilities can affect someone at any age. These daily barriers can make life tough. Some people deal with those challenges better than others.

I had my first major surgery at age 25 — removal of my entire large intestine and some of my small intestine. The list of procedures I’ve had is longer than Santa’s nice list: Gallbladder removal, C-section, injections into my back for pain from degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis, sinus surgery and three surgeries on my right ankle, which I shattered in 2019 due to early bone loss, just for starters. I also have early hearing loss and wear hearing aids.

I know it sounds like I have a lot wrong with me. I also know millions of people deal with much, much more than what I have on my plate. This isn’t about me. It’s about the fact that not everyone is playing from the same deck of cards.

Despite my obstacles, I have devoted myself to an active life. I participated in track and field as a kid and minored in dance in college. I performed in plays and musicals for decades before my hearing and back pain made it too difficult. I was a regular runner for many years, and though I never achieved long distances, I enjoyed participating in 5Ks every year. Now, on good days, I am lucky if I can slow-jog one mile without stopping.

Life has also been tough emotionally. Last summer, my mother had a bad reaction to medication that caused an extensive hospital stay, leaving her with permanent cognitive impairment. I am now her caregiver and run all the details of her life. I am also parenting a teenager, which, of course, brings its own set of challenges.

It’s a lot, okay? That’s my “excuse.”

It isn’t that I’m not grateful. I’m aware I’m lucky. I have food on my table, a roof over my head and people in my life who love me. I’m glad every day for what my body can do, but honestly, it feels pretty broken most days. Age is anything but “just a number” for me and countless others.

I have heard the same frustration with this phrasing from other women, particularly those journeying through menopause. The loss of estrogen has a decimating effect on the body, causing brain fog, poor sleep, irritability, loss of sex drive, hot flashes, and, in my case, a bladder prolapse card added onto an already stacked deck. I chose to start menopausal hormone therapy a year and a half ago. It stopped my hot flashes and brain fog, halted the weight gain and gave me back some energy, which has been great. Weighing the risks versus the benefits of hormone therapy is an individual choice.

Many comment that celebrities who have had plastic surgery should have “aged gracefully,” but when your upper eyelids have gotten so droopy you can’t see well, come talk to me. I don’t want to look “super awake,” but I would like to see adequately again. But as an aging woman, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Whether it’s Justine Bateman choosing to age naturally or Madonna unabashedly taking advantage of all kinds of cosmetic procedures, no matter how a woman ages, society has a problem with it and will attack you for how you look.

Acting like a guru with all the answers is short-sighted and can truly upset others who can’t do whatever you’re doing. I don’t think anyone should say that age is just a number or that we should “age gracefully,” whatever that means. I don’t feel graceful. My back hurts and my lady parts are sore, and menopause caused my boobs to grow like the Grinch’s heart after finding the joy of Christmas. If you’ve found something that works for you as you age, makes you feel better, look better, or both, I’m happy for you. But stop telling people age is just a number. For some of us, aging is a tough road to walk every day.

I’m grateful to be able to walk this road, back pain and all. I know that growing older is not something everyone gets to experience. But please, let’s stop shaming people who might be aging differently.

Do you get tired of people saying "age is just a number"? Or are you okay with it? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Lifestyle