Age Only Matters to Cheese


March 9 , 2019 . By Tsion Fisseha


Tsion Fisseha is a writer and head of foreign languages in the news department at a local TV station. She has been a part of a pan African poetry slam competition representing Ethiopia and is a member of a rock band entitled the Green Manalishi. She can be reached at tsion.f.terefe@gmail.com.


Birthdays are special. They highlight the miracle - despite the seven billion plus humans in the world, life is still a miracle that science cannot explain - that a baby born has beaten the odds and joined the real world.

It is the day that a baby comes into this world, bringing with it hopes and dreams that could possibly change it. In rural areas of Ethiopia, babies are even considered to be a sign of wealth. The more the merrier, many believe, mostly to their financial ruin.

But somehow this joyous occasion gets gloomier each year. It stops being a day of celebration and starts being an evaluation of accomplishments and failures.

Society makes growing old significantly painful. It dictates what should happen to an individual’s life every passing year, with whoever fails to conform to these principles and aspirations risking severe punishments, such as ostracism.

In the countryside, for instance, girls of a certain age are expected to be married and bear children. Thus, for a girl that is just young enough to be allowed to go to school, birthdays would be dreaded occasions that bring her closer to the day when she will lose what little freedom she has.

But society does not impose status expectations only in the countrysides; being an urban single female over the age of 25 is not a walk in the park either. It starts from the home, with parents sending their little codes here and there to their daughters that time is ticking and that they better tie the knot.

Women are told to be married to prove their worth. They are told that beauty fades away with age and that everything is better when they are young. Character and financial stability are considered secondary to marriage.

Biology does not make it easy for women either. Every birthday is a year closer to never being able to bear a child, a fact that society never fails to rub in one’s face.

Society, though it makes birthdays exponentially painful for women, does not let men off the hook either.

It bombards them with endless questions like: “What are you doing with your life?” and “How do you plan to support your family with this kind of financial instability?”

If only men could get a penny for every time they are told, “you are not getting any younger.”

Society tells us that our age is an implication of every single aspect of our lives. And, sure, that might have been the case in past times, but it clearly is not now. Nor should it be the way of the modern world.

“Age is something that doesn’t matter unless you are a cheese,” Luis Bunuel, the great surrealist filmmaker, once put it beautifully.

We are only as old as we think or feel. Having goals, dreams and ambitions is commendable. Believing that these should be itemised in terms of age though is a flawed way of going about it.

It is correct that there are laws enacted to prevent young people from making major decisions or consuming alcoholic substances. It is also true that the body is built to carry us only to a certain time, after which health tends to deteriorate and no amount of medical attention can make one immortal - not yet anyways. It is also true that experience can lead to wisdom.

But this does not make age a matrix, according to which maturity, knowledge or success is measured against. It also does not mean it is a gatekeeper of what should be done and when. It is at best a suggestion or an incredibly rough blueprint but not a box or a barrier.



PUBLISHED ON Mar 09,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 984]



Tsion Fisseha is a writer and head of foreign languages in the news department at a local TV station. She has been a part of a pan African poetry slam competition representing Ethiopia and is a member of a rock band entitled the Green Manalishi. She can be reached at tsion.f.terefe@gmail.com.






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