Aging With Style

Not Gloria Steinem,
although she's
beautiful, too.
"Every place I go I tell my age because it's a form of coming out." Gloria Steinem, aged 80.

Saying 60 is the new 50 isn't accepting 60, it's saying younger is better. And lying about your age is a form of self-loathing. It's ageist and sexist, besides. I'm 62 and I can tell you that outside of my own health issues (which many women don't have), younger is not better, younger is just... younger. Growing old gracefully isn't about submitting to an accepted set of standards of what Madison Avenue purports an older woman should be, or by giving up who we are and who we want to become. We're evolving beyond that. It's about continuing the ride we began when we were young and just staring out...

Why is it that as soon as menopause comes and goes (it is only a transition, after all—puberty in reverse—not a permanent state) and we're no longer able to bear children, we accept becoming invisible, believing we're unattractive, undesirable, in essence non-viable and in-valid? No longer saddled with bearing and raising kids, we're again free to follow our dreams and carry on with the self-discovery we started before the biological clock began ticking away.

Do I really need to throw out my Levis and buy knits? Must I cut off my long hair and settle for a blue poodle cut? Hell, no! Why must I cover the grey, surgically remove the creases, and plump my lips, or shun it all, become dowdy and boring and begin "acting my age"? Is it really that once we can no longer bear young we have no purpose in society? And why must we feel pressured to appear sexy at sixty anyway? Personally, I feel a great sense of relief that I can at last cross a street without enduring cat-calls, honks, and screeching tires. Well, sometimes, when I'm out working in the yard, a college guy will do one of these, but they can't see that I'm old enough to be their grandmother. I usually just turn around and wag a finger. I admit I do it on purpose just to see how flustered and embarrassed they get.

If I've learned anything about aging, it's that midlife crisis is very real, but that it's a pathology that's imposed on us by our society's irrational fear of age, which is fueled by a denial of life itself. We're so hung up on death, it insidiously infuses everything from sex to our self-esteem. If my generation can do anything, I hope we can teach younger women how to age with style and not to closet who they are merely on the basis of their age. Seems saner and more affirming than what's been going on.