I'm 60. And I'm not afraid to say that aloud or post it on the internet, which apparently is a Big Deal. We're women—we're supposed to lie about our age, right?
Fuck that shit.
I know very well that I'm getting older—you don't have to tell me. You know you are officially old if, when you hear someone has died at 71, you shake your head and sadly murmur, "That's so young!" You're getting older if you have to scroll lower and lower and lower still on an online form to find your birth year. You're getting older when you shout "Zuzu's petals!" and nobody gets the reference.
But I'm comfortable with my age. Why, then, do so many people want to tell me that I'm too old to wear certain things or behave certain ways?
I live on the West Coast, and I recently made a trip to New York City, a blend of business and pleasure. I stopped in the NY office of Company X.
"When did you get in?" asked Gary Y.
"Took the red-eye Thursday, got in Friday morning," I said.
"You're too old to take the red-eye," he said.
Later, plans changed and I was free Saturday night. Too late to rewind time to snare half-price tickets in Times Square. Too poor to simply buy a ticket at the box office. Rush tickets were sold out—but there were $34 standing room only tickets.
"You're too old to stand for an entire two-and-a-half-hour performance," said Usher Z.
"Is that a challenge?" I asked.
I stood for the entire performance—and sat during Intermission. (And, yes, I was tired by final curtain, but also invigorated. It was a great show.)
As I am far from unique, it makes me wonder instead if everybody else is ageist. Assumptions about our physical frailty and "inevitable" mental decline remain. Assumptions that need to be shattered.
Advice on the appearance of the "older woman" is a frequent internet topic. Don't wear powder, as it cakes in the lines of our faces; do wear lots of smoky eye shadow, as our eyes need all the definition they can get. In the pages of AARP, I learned what we "women of a certain age" should refrain from wearing:
1. Sweatpants or anything with writing on the backside.
2. Miniskirts, mini-shorts, anything that's been deliberately diminished.
5. Strappy gladiator sandals.
6. See-through anything.
In reality, nobody should wear strappy gladiator sandals, unless you're co-starring in a Russell Crowe movie. And I've never worn anything with writing or a designer label on my ass. If you want your name on me, you can pay for the privilege.
Now, I listen to only two things: my heart and my body.
I do own more than one pair of shoes, many with heels. One day, my body said: No more! Heels higher than one inch are no longer comfortable. Goodbye, uncomfortable but sparkly stilettos. Hello, comfy flats with barely there heels.
Conventional wisdom says that, as a woman ages, she should lighten her hair, as it better frames her face. I decided to give it a try; I lightened my hair from dark mud brown to medium mud brown. It looked OK—just OK—but everyone else raved about it.
- "You look fabulous!"
- "Lighter hair makes you look so much younger."
- "Is it true what they say? That blondes have more fun?"
Excuse me? I am not a blonde.
Or so I thought. Again and again, I was corrected. Dirty blonde, ash blonde—who knew these were euphemisms for brown?
My heart yelled: I am not a blonde! After six weeks of nonstop compliments, I dyed my hair dark mud brown. Not just dark, but darker.
And the compliments didn't stop:
- "You look fabulous!"
- "Darker hair makes you look so much younger."
- "Boys may like blondes, but men prefer brunettes."
Hence, this story has two morals:
- Listen to your heart.
- Friends lie.
Yale psychology professor and researcher Becca Levy has concluded that "longevity is increased by positive self-perceptions of aging." In everyday English, that translates into: If you have upbeat images of growing old, you're more likely to live longer.
My mother, in her 80s, is still feisty and living alone. My paternal grandmother buried three husbands, divorced one, and had several boyfriends before she died at 96. That's some hot blood I inherited from both sides of my family tree. Sounds upbeat to me. I might live till 100.
But you still won't catch me in strappy gladiator sandals.