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I’m writing this post for you. For every woman over 40 who’s sick of the lack of coverage we receive.

Who rarely, if ever, is featured in an over 40 female travel blog list. Yet, the younger, female versions of us are repeatedly focused on in these lists.

What makes me angriest about these disparities is that men in my age group DO receive accolades or are celebrated for their travel escapades. Where are our voices? We are also out here, traveling and making emboldened life choices.

The worst by far are the assumptions. Everyone tells me I should be grateful for the compliments I receive (honestly every single time I utter my age, it’s the same exact response), for appearing so youthful and fresh, yet to embrace that notion is uncomfortable.

I recently re-read Susan Sontag’s 1978 essay, The Double Standard of Aging. After I finished devouring the last word, it left me reeling with two distinct, yet opposite emotions: depression and hope.

Depression, because after 37 years, NOTHING has changed.

“Although a woman on her fortieth birthday is hardly different from what she was when she was still thirty-nine, the day seems like a turning point. But long before actually becoming a woman of forty, she has been steeling herself against the depression she will feel. One of the greatest tragedies of each woman’s life is simply getting older. . . “

Sontag’s scathing summary is what aging women still fight today.

“The single standard of beauty for women dictates that they must go on having clear skin. Every wrinkle, every line, every gray hair, is a defeat.  No wonder that no boy minds becoming a man, while even the passage from girlhood to early womanhood is experienced by many women as their downfall, for all women are trained to continue wanting to look like girls.”

Women over forty are invisible, sometimes even thought of as disgusting. Our bodies start to gain some weight because of pre-menopause, our skin is no longer blemish or freckle free.

I have nicks on my legs from hiking the Batad Rice terraces in the Phillipines or bashing them against some coral while snorkelling in Mexico. Any standard of perfection I once upheld is long gone. It never actually existed.

The ugly irony is that the thirties and forties is when we basically lose our sexual inhibitions, but nobody wants to have sex with us any longer.

“In women this perfectly natural process [aging] is regarded as a humiliating defeat, while nobody finds anything remarkably unattractive in the equivalent physical changes in men. Men are “allowed” to look older without sexual penalty.”

Though revisiting Sontag’s piece stung at every brilliantly crafted sentence, a wave of hope overcame that depression. Sontag’s wise advice is to not avoid our age, or try to conquer a race we can’t possibly win, but to seek real victory.

“Women should allow their faces to show the lives they have lived. Women should tell the truth.”

So, I give you my truth.

Since humanity discovered literacy, we’ve practiced this urge to categorize EVERYTHING.

People younger meet me and in order to make themselves feel comfortable, have to use their sharpie and label me as “young enough to bang”, and then slide me into that manilla folder. In being younger looking, it legitimizes my lifestyle for them.  If I were a man, I doubt this process would be necessary. But if I had a full head of grey hair and a pronounced paunch, I wonder how they’d categorize me then?

Peers that I encounter are either very supportive or downright suspicious of why I’d be so bold as to be away this long, AND do it solo.

Men at about age 50 really don’t know what to do with me, period. They either desire me (because of my youthful appearance) or get all fucked in the head with my independence because inevitably in the recesses of their souls, they are misogynists and can’t handle that I don’t need them.

Let’s refocus, cause this post is about ploughing through the bullshit.

I’m a women in her forties, who dresses like she’s 30, listens to music created by 22 year olds, remembers the eighties but knows what Tinder is, and probably has the wisdom level of an 85 year old grandmother. THAT cannot be categorized, called gross, or deemed wrong. In the end, I’m JUST me. At least that’s how I feel 100% of the time.

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Does this look like a category to you?

Before I end this post, one I hope gives you much to ponder, let me shatter some myths quickly.

Myth #1 / We Don’t Have Sex On the Road

Let me reassure you, everything is still fiery in the nether regions and women over forty do have sex when traveling. (Hint: my upcoming book reveals more of this!)

Myth #2 / We Aren’t Adventurous

This assumption really annoys me. I’ll give two examples. I was over forty when one summer I ran with the bulls and skydived. Annnnd, as an old fart I did something radical and stayed at a youth hostel. I was gettin’ into all kinds of uncharacteristic antics.  I might engage in adventure at slower spurts than before, but leaping in and doing something slightly crazy is still alive, will be until I’m dead.

Myth #3 / Parties Make Us Cranky

I still love electronica music and will dance until 2 am at a nightclub even though I’m the oldest person in that hot, sweaty room. Do I do this every night? Hell, no. But I’m a music lover, who remains open to all kinds of genres, which I don’t see ending.

Myth #4 / We’re “Out Here” Alone For a Reason Aka, We’re Crazy

I’m cool with being a little crazy, deep down, we’re all a bit cuckoo at times. And viewing life askew is what fuels my creativity, so yup — I welcome it. In regards to being alone, I’m at this point where compromising romantically is not an option. Why I did those dozens of times before, puzzles me. Hanging with my own company is damn good, by the way. I make myself laugh, I take myself out to dinner, and treat myself to a massage every so often. What I practice is living bravely, with freedom and passion. If that scares away the douchebags, all the better!

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To my over forties readers, sisters, friends, now it’s your turn to live bravely. Let’s all tell the truth and have our voices heard. Most of all, let’s end shame.

Nobody should ever feel wrong to be their natural selves. No matter what your age.