wrinkles in time

Aging Is Feminizing Me and I Hate It

A series investigating the effects of gravity on the female form.

I can’t help it; I think the invitation to write about aging as a female writer is inherently sexist. I don’t know any male writers who are offered this same golden opportunity. When my books came out in the UK the Guardian wondered if I would like to write something about aging. I had never been published in the UK before. So how about it. You know and I mean how about the effects of gravity on the male form. Can you imagine. What’s inherently masculine is to not acknowledge your form at all. Look at Prump as I like to call our president elected. I recall being at an artist colony years ago and listening to a gay man going off on what pigs straight men were and how gross and out of shape they could get and still expect to get hot women as their due. He resented their smug slovenliness. So I mean possibly gay men might be willing to talk about the effects of gravity on the male form but I still think most gay men I know would be too proud unless the situation was presented to them like a high-status gym where other gay men of some renown also presented their experience of say getting man tits in middle age.

I guess part of my problem with this invitation is that I don’t think of myself as having “a female form.” I am female, I’m masculine, I’m gender queer however you want to call it. It’s possible someone else might say oh Eileen’s kind of feminine — but that’s their stuff, I’m talking about how I see myself. I get pissed off when someone says and what would you like ma’am. I’m not a woman. Go to hell. I just don’t entirely identify that way. However… I do look at my body quite a lot and I go to the gym largely because I want to like what I see. And I don’t entirely. What I got when I went to the gym at 38 was a lot more than what I can get from it now. No matter what I do. I’ll tell you the difference between my body now and my body then is that now I have to do a whole lot to make things stay still. I largely don’t have tits. Never did. But like the guys if I don’t work out I do. A month away from the gym is a minor disaster and any longer and I feel like I’m watching time release photography. I remember reading a million years ago that Cary Grant was unwilling to be naked except in the dark because of “chicken skin.” I have tattoos on my arms that I think are looking pretty lacy. Like there’s kind of horizontal stripes going through them and that’s my skin. Aging is feminizing me and I hate it. I remember years ago making some kind of little film and I was sitting in my hotel room in Berlin after I went running and my knees seemed to ripple in the camera in this entirely surreal way like they had ceased to be my knees and they were like some monster’s. I mean any time you see your body doing something for the first time you have never seen before I think the response can only be horror. It is not my body anymore and then it is. And yet I am a little off the hook because I am “butch.” But honestly I am not butch to myself, but I am Eileen who lives forever and is in remarkable shape.

The way I understand gravity is that it is the problem with everything in the universe. Because of gravity even the tiniest most infintestimal particles in the universe can not be in more than one place at the same time. Ones even tinier than that actually can be but gravity messes up the rest of us — male and female and even little protozoans I think immediately. The weight and the time takes us down. I am only here, female, 67 years old. Eventually I won’t even have that so this I think is good. I think of my favorite shirts and leather jackets which I don’t wear and jeans which I do. All of these things get sweeter and softer and cooler and more valuable the closer they are to the edge of total destruction. I even feel this way about coherence in poetry. When it is so thin of meaning just a tad and yet you can push that forward in a kind of almost hapless fleeting form I think that’s the best beauty and meaning and poetry of all, that which has lived hard but isn’t trying hard at all to be great. So look at an aging face all sagging and strange. You know like any face I made when I was young was adorable and now if I’m worried there’s this pathetic gleam of how do I look and yet we love an old dog or an old leather couch so why not an old female arm or an ass all its own, speaking powerfully shabbily in time. What’s so great about twenty-five except how it looks. I remember how it felt. And how does it sound. This feels good an awful lot, sounds okay and I’d like to confer some accepting masculine female beauty on it.

Aging Is Feminizing Me and I Hate It