This is 44: Nichole Perkins Responds to The Oldster Magazine Questionnaire

"I love being able to say no firmly, without self-doubt. "

From the time I was 10, I’ve been obsessed with what it means to grow older. I’m curious about what it means to others, of all ages, and so I’ve started “The Oldster Questionnaire.”
Here, author Nichole Perkins responds to The Oldster Questionnaire. - Sari Botton

How old are you? 

I’m 44.

Is there another age you associate with yourself in your mind? If so, what is it? And why, do you think?  

I feel 36. It’s a good, sturdy age. At that point, I’d had my “Jesus year,” which is when you create a self-prophesy of major life transition, right? That rebirth. At 35, you realize oh this is mid-30s. And then 36 is like… “This isn’t so bad. Where are we going? What’s next?” I guess I feel like I’m still settling in for a new adventure of both comfort and surprise. 

Do you feel old for your age? Young for your age? Just right? Are you in step with your peers?

I guess I feel just right. I have those moments of shaking my head at the Youth Today and feeling kind of sad for them because, even though they are incredibly talented when it comes to navigating tech and social media, their world seems so limited to what is trending or what the algorithm spits at them. 

And sometimes I still feel young for my age and forget how old I am, mostly because I’m very silly and have always been a late-bloomer. 

Sometimes I feel young for my age and forget how old I am, mostly because I’m very silly and have always been a late-bloomer.  

What do you like about being your age?

I love being able to say no firmly, without self-doubt. I love not having to worry about being nice any more. Whew. 

When I was younger, I’d try to establish boundaries about who received my time and attention, and I’d get scolded for not being nice or not being warm enough. Nowadays, everyone is shouting about boundaries and self-care, and it’s like YES. MY TIME IS NOW. 

And as cliche as it sounds, I’m also grateful for the life lessons, and for being a late bloomer. I think if my life had gone the way I’d planned it, I would’ve felt entitled and smug, and I probably would’ve taken advantage of some things. I thought I would’ve been married and published by age 25, with a produced screenplay by 30. I’d planned to be finished having children by 36 so I could enjoy being a professional writer while remaining at home to take care of my family. Any and all accolades would have been a natural part of my plan. Things did not work out that way at all. Now I can appreciate my accomplishments better and more fully because they are unexpected and unlike what I ever imagined.  

What is difficult about being your age?

Saying goodbye to the possibility of giving birth. Dating fucking sucks. I was told men get better and learn to act right as they get older, but they don’t. They don’t. 

What is surprising about being your age, or different from what you expected, based on what you were told?

I thought I’d be more financially secure at this point. I switched careers in my mid-to late 30s, from education administrator to culture writer/critic, so I guess that’s starting over. I freelance full-time, which can be challenging. 

What has aging given you? Taken away from you?

I’ve really learned to pick my battles and what to walk away from. Aging has given me this strange mix of feeling both more and less confident in my body, especially regarding intimacy. I know what I want and how to ask for it, but I also don’t want anyone looking at my naked body right now. And because women’s aging bodies are considered by some people to be so gross and undesirable, there is little public, accessible discussion of how our bodies change as we get older, so I don’t know if the changes I’m experiencing are age-related, or if something is actually wrong. 

How has getting older affected your sense of yourself, or your identity?

I’m much more okay with not fitting into neat boxes. 

What are some age-related milestones you are looking forward to? Or ones you “missed,” and might try to reach later, off-schedule, according to our culture and its expectations? 

I’m looking forward to an incredible 50th birthday celebration. This morning in the shower, I was thinking that I’d love to be in an Italian villa, surrounded by friends, dancing under a bright moon, hopefully also with the love of my life. I just looked up the moon schedule for 2027, which is when I’ll be 50, and on my birthday there will be a new moon. I’m taking that as a good sign. 

What has been your favorite age so far, and why? Would you go back to this age if you could?

I’ve really enjoyed my 40s so far, but I don’t have any age I’d return to, although I miss the body I had at 24. 

Dating fucking sucks. I was told men get better and learn to act right as they get older, but they don’t. They don’t. 

Is there someone who is older than you, who makes growing older inspiring to you? Who is your aging idol and why?

Hm. I don’t necessarily think I have an aging idol. Maybe the actor Regina Hall, who looks amazing and has an incredible career, and she also seems to have maintained her sense of humor.   

What aging-related adjustments have you recently made, style-wise, beauty-wise, health-wise?

My skin-care routine has so many steps now! I see the results, but wow. I take more medicines—for my mental and physical health—plus vitamins. I monitor my digestive system far more now than I did in my youth. That really makes me feel old. 

What’s an aging-related adjustment you refuse to make, and why?

For a while, I thought I’d go gray gracefully, but I started getting gray hairs early, or at least earlier than I would’ve liked. Probably stress-related. Regardless, I hate it. I dye my hair. I trim and/or wax my pubic hair to get rid of any grays there. I don’t think I’ll let any grey come in fully until my 60s. 

What’s your philosophy on celebrating birthdays as an adult? How do you celebrate yours?

I love my birthday but planning parties always gives me a lot of anxiety. I worry no one will show up! So, as an adult, I usually just ask folks to gather at a bar to relieve some of that pressure. Sometimes I plan a trip with some friends. That’s what I’d like to do next year when I turn 45—get another passport stamp and bring in my birthday with laughter and love. 

Nichole Perkins is a writer and podcast host from Nashville, Tennessee. She hosts This Is Good For You, a podcast about finding pleasure in life, and previously was a co-host of Thirst Aid Kit, a podcast about pop culture and desire. Nichole is the author of Sometimes I Trip on How Happy We Could Be, a memoir, and Lilith, But Dark, a poetry collection.