This morning I stumbled across an article on reclaiming your womanly body and attractiveness after 50. Yeah, I’m 26, but I figure there’s no harm in hoarding advice for the future. This article was surprisingly personal and came to only one simple conclusion: Aging and wrinkles are our battlescars of a life well lived, and they are beautiful.
To me, this reclamation of aging seems rather common-sense, and follows the same formula as many similar “taking-backs” of traits or circumstances that were and are frowned on by society. The article said, in many more words, “if you are put down for a part of who you are, find a way to reclaim that part, and be proud of it. You hold that head up high, you.”
As I read, I nodded in agreement as I pictured the woman writing the blog pulling at her skin and her wrinkles and thinking how great she is, in light of her age lines. But, like always, my mind soon started making parallels between how we view age and how we view disability. Of course, they’re many similarities between the two, namely that both are seen by our cultures as sad realities.
But disability and aging differ in the narratives we offer for reclamation. It’s tough to say that disability is a result of a life wel-lived, of trials overcome, especially if that disability is life-long (as opposed to acquired). As a society, we’ve tried to award disabled people for simply living, (that link is totally worth clicking, btw) and often refer to them as an inspirational, but this perspective is highly problematic too, as it erases the person and forces them into some awkwardly fitting frame of who they are.
You’ve heard me talk about it a zillion times, but, in case you’ve forgotten, I once was in a really shitty relationship. I remember one night, after a particularly brutal fight, (like, more brutal than the other brutal ones) I sat in front of my mirror, staring at my puffy face and tiny body. I decided to take my nightgown off to remember what I look like. It took twenty minutes to get free of the damn thing, but I was glad I did. I saw all of myself, and remembered, for a wonderful fleeting moment, that I’m really fucking awesome.
Everyone has that angsty period in highschool where they hate their looks and their body, but aside from those 4 or 5 years, I’ve mostly always liked the way I look. I never took issue with it, until the person being intimate with me did.For the most part, I’ve always been pretty grateful of having a body that “passes” most societal standards, and weirdly, have largely disassociated my disability with how I view my body.
But I often wonder how we make disability empowered, if at all. I don’t think it’s a simple as declaring our deviations from the norm as “battlescars” as we often do when fighting ageist ways of viewing the body. My disability is not a signifier of anything, it just has always been and will always be my circumstance. So should we try to positively back disability, the way some have done with wrinkles and aging? Or does doing so lose the person in the narrative?Feel free to leave your thoughts or suggestions below.