Age Rage

It isn’t that I don’t worry about it. I do.

It isn’t that I won’t talk about it. I will.

But age isn’t a simple topic, and if you’re a woman, you already know that. At least, you’ll know it sooner or later, and more piercingly than your husband, your brother, your uncle who’s still playing the field, your male boss who continues to climb the corporate ladder, or your 50-something divorced and dating dad.

Aging is unavoidable – if you’re lucky.

Age rage? In this culture? Maybe that’s unavoidable, too.

No, I’m not taking to the highways in a pickup with a shotgun. I’m not planning on packing pistols and going postal over the AARP invites arriving weekly. But I will stand up and proclaim that age discrimination is alive and well – more subtle than we’re willing to admit, and increasingly pervasive.

The worst part?

It feels like we are the “haters.” Women. The ones who make snide remarks about others “showing their age.” The ones who fight tooth and nail at the first sign of laugh lines, gray hair, or traces of soft excess that no amount of dieting will eradicate, where we once carried babies in our bellies.

We aren’t doing ourselves any favors – not at 30, not at 40, not at 50 or any age – viewing the natural process of aging as the enemy.

Aging: It Creeps Up On Us

It isn’t that I don’t feel it – the proverbial march of time in my limbs, in the small of my back, in my shoulders and neck after a long day at the computer. It isn’t that I don’t see it in my face, when morning forces me to look – and I scrutinize – then reach for the moisturizer.

It isn’t that I don’t suffer from a sense of invisibility that comes from walking down a street like a ghost. This is midlife. A transition. But it’s more than that – a parade of days as potentially routine or vibrant as the thousands that have come before, and the thousands that I hope stretch ahead.

For now, I can paint the gray, gloss my lips, line my eyes and I’m done. I can crank up the bounce in my step – especially in hot heels – in order to maintain some visibility as a woman. But none of this changes the fact of my age. It doesn’t change the perception of who I am when someone knows my age, which may have little to do with the reality of who I am as a person, or the life I lead.

All of which is to say – it’s the assumptions and misconceptions that anger me. I find them absurd. I consider them dismissive. We are individuals. We age differently. And we ought to be allowed to approach the aging process accordingly.

And yes, there is a sense of loss – for some of us, it’s loss when we can no longer bear children, loss that we don’t appear or feel as “perky” as we once did, sorrow as we come to accept certain physical limitations or simply additional maintenance. Many women refuse to speak of the sadness, to grieve aspects of their younger selves, as though to do so is to admit some terrible truth.

I say – to hell with that!

Disapproving WomanAging is a mixed bag, but it’s also more of the same – the same joy and challenge in meeting life as it is, the same excitement and risk in chasing your dreams, the same sweetness in finding love, mischief, humor, beauty.

Why Women Lie About Their Age

Do I lie about my age?

You bet.

I do so when it suits me, but more often than not – when it’s a necessity.

And it is indeed a necessity for getting work, and likewise for for being perceived as “valuable” regardless of how I see myself.

Once you pass 45, it is certainly a necessity in the online dating world, unless you’re comfortable with dating men who are 10+ years older.

No, the above statements are not always true. Nothing is “always” true. And yes, eventually you may have to straighten out the fiction, particularly if you’re in a relationship.

Do I long for a culture in which age would be viewed as one more interesting fact – of no particular importance except perhaps to your physician?

Believe it.

So tell me. Do you lie about your age?

I bet you would – in the right circumstances. To get a job, and keep it. To have a shot at a few dates, and not be discarded as a viable potential “candidate” for a relationship.

Look Around. Age Estimates?

I’m an older mother, though this is no longer unusual. I gave birth in my mid-late thirties, and strangely, having kids older has kept me young in some ways, and aged me in others.

There are advantages in terms of experience and patience. There are disadvantages – not so much when dealing with babies and toddlers, but midlife motherhood when kids are fighting? Going through your own hormonal changes as teenagers are bouncing around inside their bodies?

Sound proof the walls!

Thinking back to my childhood, I recall family members of all ages at social gatherings – intermingling and joining in the discussion. When I’ve lived in Europe or visited friends, the parties I attended included 20-somethings through 80-somethings. To me, this seems normal.

Consider this. Watching old movies from the 1940s and 1950s, note the generational mix in scenes of night clubs, at concerts, around the dining table. You’ll observe everyone from 20-something through middle age to “older” people (sixties? seventies?) all socializing. In films that offer business settings, while the women generally play a Girl Friday or wife, do note that you see men who are young, and plenty who older.

Today?

When’s the last time you socialized with people who were 20 years your senior? Look around your workplace. Is there anyone who appears to be over 50?

As I recall my last in-office contracting gig, there wasn’t a single manager or team member even close to 50 – out of a group of considerable size.

How Many Shades of Gray?

Everyone may be talking about the latest book to make waves – all those shades of gray in intimate relationships. My preoccupation with shades of gray?

There’s the expense of coloring my hair, which is an irritation. As my skin remains youthful, I paint the gray and pull off whatever age it is that I pull off… in person.

But the fact remains that a man with silver hair is perceived as distinguished, and a woman – with a few notable exceptions (Helen Mirren comes to mind) – is considered to be letting herself go, someone who has given up on dating, and consequently, a woman past a sex life. Wouldn’t you be offended at those assumptions?

Live Fully, Live Well

Am I taking to a bullhorn in my quiet neighborhood?

Hardly.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel infuriated when I’m dismissed without a second look, when professional experience is ignored in favor of quick, cheap, and disposable, or when men my own age won’t give me a second glance – even before they’ve met me.

But I long for a little common sense. Aging is inevitable, and anti-aging propaganda is just that – propaganda. That doesn’t mean we don’t have choices in products and services, but what about a healthy glow as a mature adult? Doesn’t that sound refreshingly good to some of us?

On that note, I’ll pop my Over-The-Counter calcium with my salad and yogurt. I’ll remind myself to stay focused on the basics – continuing to nourish my mind with constant learning, and my body with healthy food in moderation. I’ll attempt as much sleep as I can manage (tougher for me), and daily walking, which is all about discipline.

Senior Sex and Sensibility?

Jane Austen, move over. Sense and sensibility? Let’s go with sex and sensibility instead. Safe sex, of course.

I’m not quite at “senior sex” just yet – not that I would know where to make that distinction. But sensuality and sexuality don’t evaporate as we grow older. At least, they don’t have to.

Do our intimate lives change? Sure. But my personal Rx involves a steady dose of sizzling sex with a man I love – with or without his shades of gray, or my own. And let’s face it – that’s a hell of a cardio. What could be better to soothe the Age Rage?

  • Do you unknowingly discriminate against those over a certain age – before you’ve met them?
  • Has your impression of what is “old” changed as you’ve grown older?
  • When’s the last time you engaged in conversation with someone who is 70+ or 80+ years old?
  • Are you worried about getting older, and fighting it tooth and nail?




Inspired by the 5-day writing challenge at Momalom, Five for Five, subject: “age.”


© D. A. Wolf

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Comments

  1. Well well well… I adore that you tackled the sex relation aspect of age. Don’t women hit their peaks much later in life anyway? And if that is the answer to age-rage; then by all means I’m ready for it. I know it keeps me young as well.

    I worry that I will focus more on age with menopause that will claw at my defenses. Right now I’m happy with my age. I don’t lie about it, but I don’t see anything wrong (as a woman) in keeping age a mystery. I hope that I will proclaim my age with pride later in life, too. However if there was an occupation that required me to be younger – so be it. I already feel that I am.

    I just knew that you would have something fresh and relevant to reveal about age. I was certainly looking forward to this piece and it delivered!

    Alita

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      I’ve been a single (nearly solo) mom for a long time, Alita. To be frank, that left me scrambling in every aspect of my life – especially to make ends meet and be an engaged parent to two boys. Time for relationships? There wasn’t much. Combine being “older” with still raising kids, and it didn’t matter how much energy I had or how I looked… in an online woman-as-commodity Dating World, it’s a strain and a drain.

      We are a culture that glorifies youth – okay – but we also condemn age. Not okay. And the solution we seem to be taking is to slice and dice, nip and tuck, plump, inject, or starve… Our bodies change, it’s hard to accept, and it’s frightening precisely because the age discrimination is real. If we could begin to see aging as natural, and ourselves as valuable, it would go far in wasting less time worrying about how we look, and spending more time living fully, and contributing.

      (Okay. Off my soapbox, and planning my weekend… The red heels or the black patent?) ;)

  2. I have been the asshole who judges older people as inept or outdated. I couldn’t connect. As I’ve matured, I’ve seen my assholery for what it is and have carved out treasured, wonderful relationships, especially with older women. I still feel bad about my previous attitude. What connections did I miss then? In how many ways would my life be better if I’d had my revelation sooner?

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      You know Kelly – we’ve all done it – discounted the older person as not “getting it” or being invisible. The difference is, some of us may have been exposed to environments in which the generations were more intermixed – and the “older” people enjoyed interacting fully with the “younger” ones.

      I recall a business trip I took in my twenties – a long flight cross-country. I happened to be sitting next to a woman in her 70s, and chatting, we found out we’d gone to the same college. Her life was extraordinary. We talked for hours on that flight. You would never have known that we were separated by 50 years in time, because in fact, we were connected by so much more.

  3. I love that we have older neighbors. I love that my kids meet people of different generations. I am enriched by the old, reminded to slow down (or speed up) by the young. My parents are enlivened by interacting with younger people.

    I hope to wear my grey/silver with pride. But, dye is fun too. The wrinkles? They’re all mine, hard won.

  4. I love this – everything that you wrote and asked. I turned 40 a few years ago, and grew up in a household that feared and abhorred aging more than disease and war. I’ve really had to do a lot of work to rewire the way I think about aging, because it was killing me to waste my energy dreading the inevitable. That was the reason I started exercising and trying to change the way I perceive myself (thanks for stopping by my blog yesterday!) – I want to spend this second half of my life becoming the person I’ve always meant to be; it’ll give me something to look forward to. And for the first time in my life I’m taking the time to ask my parents their stories. It used to be that the elderly held a special place in families and in society, but no longer…there is so much that we could learn from them.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      So glad you stopped by! If only we could stop wasting so much time being afraid of something that is natural. Do enjoy listening to those stories – and I would encourage you to record or write them down if you can. They’re treasure. Perhaps it takes us reaching a certain age to realize just how much.

  5. I never really had an issue about growing older until recently, and it wasn’t so much about my own aging. It was my mom’s. I remember her in my youth – she walked fast, she was quick in many other things too, especially in wit, and in many ways, I remember her as someone I could barely keep up with as a young girl.

    Now I see someone who needs help remembering, who can’t keep up with my own girls and who is afraid of not dying her hair jet black because she has been doing it for so long and if she stopped, she would be completely grey. Her frailty jarred me because I realized that the woman I remembered when I was a girl was the same age I am now. That also means I will be her as she is right now someday, and watching me grow old through her was a sobering exercise.

    But you said we don’t all age the same way so maybe I will be different at her age. Who knows?

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      I understand what you’re saying, Justine. Better than you know. But did you read Kelly’s post today? If we’re fortunate, we lead full, reasonably healthy lives. And at a certain point, we do wind down, we do grow more frail, and whether or not our memories fail (or simply slow in usual ways) – imagine a culture (certainly not this one) in which we continue to respect those who cared for us – and treat them with kindness and dignity and remembering who they are – even as they grow older.

      What if aging weren’t some dreaded thing – the result of which is being banished from the fast-talking, fast-thinking, fast-moving “younger set?”

      That’s part of what I meant by saying that we need to acknowledge the sadness (and also the aches and pains and legitimate fears). They’re real. Pretending otherwise seems foolish to me. But that isn’t all that aging is. It’s also perspective, experience, a willingness to speak honestly and directly.

      I also worry about aging the same way my mother did – so I do some things differently. Who knows. We don’t know. But I’m glad that you’re not afraid to acknowledge the fear – and the difficult feelings.

  6. I’ve always looked younger than I am, and I feel a little odd about it. On the one hand, I am sensitive to being taken less seriously because I look young; but on the other hand I feel a sense of being protected from getting older, because I don’t show it quickly.

    I also grew up far away from my grandparents, and felt the loss of that generation–more and more we are cut off from our elders, and do not have them involved in our daily lives. I think that doesn’t help the trend towards fetishizing youth.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      You raise a good point, Heather. When we’re so geographically dispersed, and families are separated by hundreds or thousands of miles, we don’t grow up around grandparents or even uncles and aunts, great-uncles and aunts. Everything in the American psyche also encourages independence (a strange contradiction, given the trends in helicopter parenting). What we seem to end up with here are rushed, stressed families, often focused on just making it through the day – a far cry from what I recall growing up, and still a far cry from the European cultures I’m familiar with – that I’m still fortunate enough to dip in and out of from time to time. It does add to fetishing youth – out of ignorance and lack of exposure – as much as anything else. Great comment.

  7. I’ve started to get to the point in my life when I’ve toyed with the idea of lying about my age. I used to criticize the women who did. But now that I’m getting up there, I’m less judgmental. But what about being happy where were are and with who we are? And consider the alternative. I’d rather be aging than not.

  8. Thank you for writing this!!!! Love it! This country is youth obsessed.

    On a side note: Men with silver hair love me. Just love me. I always joke that maybe I remind them if the good ol’ days back in Nam or Korea… If they are not creepy, I’d engage in harmless flirtation with them. I love seeing the Sparks in their eyes. Everyone enjoys being flirted with, in a harmless way.

  9. At this point in my life (early 40s) I am not worried about getting older. I can’t prevent it. I can’t control it. It is such a shame that men with gray are viewed so positively when women are not. I don’t understand it. I’m not yet at a point where I have to choose to color or not. I’ll just cross that bridge when I get to it. Never say never, but I’m leaning towards not.

  10. I used to think it wouldn’t be any problem to grow old gracefully. That was in my 20s. Now that I’m at that age, I’m more inclined to fight it tooth and nail. Highlights in my blonde hair to hide some gray? You bet! Lie about my age? I’m more inclined to ask them how old they think I am (and brace for the worst). Do I think about having a little nip and tuck done? I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but, yes. Diet and exercise more than before? Yes, because it does make a huge mental/emotional/physical difference! Am I deceiving myself? Perhaps. I do realize this body is going to give out eventually. And someday I won’t care how “old” I look. But that day is not today! Age Rage? Hell, yes! ;-D

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Just laughing, Lisa. Yeah, it’s easy to say I wouldn’t do this, I wouldn’t do that, I’m going to age gracefully (etc etc etc) when you’re in your 20s, even 30s. Funny how that shifts a little, when you become “une femme d’un certain age,” and you’re competing in a youth obsessed culture, not to mention, trying to recognize yourself in the mirror.

      I admit, sheepishly, like you I care about my appearance. It isn’t so much how old I look – but it is how I look. And I want that to reflect who I am, inside. Vibrant, curious, and still very much kicking! ;)

  11. On a romantic weekend (yay for romance in your 40s!) recently, we happened upon a restaurant with a Reggae band striking up in the back room. The place was crowded with moms and dads and kids and older couples and young singles. And I thought–how refreshing is this? Great article on all points. And, yes, even though I am feeling more confident about aging, would not stop coloring my hair!

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Isn’t it great when the generations intermix? Energizing!

      (And let’s hear it for sizzling romance in any decade…)

  12. Oh my goodness. This post has about a zillion marvelous points on age, written beautifully, of course.

    I grew up in a matriarchal family. My grandmother is revered. And now, my mother. The disappointment of not having a daughter is based on this family history of strong, beautiful women taking age on full force and living vivaciously despite sagging this and greying that.

    I hope that my sons learn something about strong women from this line of marvelous women I’ve been surrounded by my entire life.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      You do indeed have a remarkable group of women in your family, Sarah. (And a belated happy birthday to GG.)

  13. Many articulate points BLW.

    My viewpoint of age is heightened because of my Mom. I remember her being active and interested and now as she understands her new identity (without my Dad), she stumbles and is too afraid to take any risks. Her cane and my daughter’s bicycle in the garage serve as a constant reminder. We all age. Acceptance is a different story.

  14. Dear BLW,
    I have been searching, rather desperately, for anything about the sadness and contradictory feelings of aging. Most web articles gloss over the issue altogether and get busy with putting a good, happy face on it. I am in deep distress and I barrel towards 50 in some months. All that I identify myself to be, or shall I say, most of how I identify myself to be, is made real with the realization that I am becoming invisible. I am pretty attractive and yet I recently posted a profile on an online dating site and got a few bites. I am used to many men paying attention. It’s like they see my waning 40s and say “no”. I am worried about what I will not be allowed to do, about loneliness in my older years. I have no children (my choice). So know what balm that your post provided my tattered, scared soul when I came upon it. Thank you for not staying away from the subject like so many do. But rather diving in and admitting the fear and reality that is aging for women. I will read with anticipation your thoughts.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      I’m so glad you stopped by, Marie. I agree – too many gloss over the genuine sadness as we age, particularly painful for women in a culture where so much is associated with our appearance of youthfulness.

      You might take a peek at this: Midlife Mix-Master and also at this (on Anti Anti-Aging).

      And more of us need to speak candidly about what it feels like to be a midlife woman – changes that sadden us, even as very real opportunities may open up. But both should be discussed. Putting on a “happy face” for public consumption does little to join us together in community, much less to help us feel good (and sane) when it comes to what we’re experiencing.

      As to online dating at midlife – or dating at midlife in general – I have a few suggestions. Perhaps more on that tomorrow?

      Again, thank you for reading and commenting.

  15. Thanks for the links and words. Yeah it’s strange I am a date coach and have a lot to say on the subject of love in general. But it’s funny how someone seems to have inserted some software into my brain that buys into the very thing that horrifies me. Things like “men only want youth”. That can’t be true given the numbers of men who stay with their wives, or how many wives are the ones leaving – not the men. In fact my psuedo-boyfriend, 5 years my junior, doesn’t seem to care a lick about the age difference of my waning beauty of perceptive waning beauty. So yes, bring it on, more comments, good words or machinations about all that is a huge grieving process of our youth with not a lot in popular culture to put together to make up for it. I feel soothed just admitting my fear and loss of my beauty and youth. And you are right we don’t have the conversations that we need to have about it. I subscribe to MORE and it’s mostly about those who have re-defined themselves. Though that is encouraging in and of itself, it’d be nice if they were more raw and real. But I suspect that wouldn’t sell magazines. It’s too bad Gloria Steinheim’s MS Magazine doesn’t broach this subject enough. Your blog is like water in the desert. Thank you.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Incredibly kind words, Marie. Thank you. These are important (and far-reaching) conversations. We need to open them up – not hush them up.

  16. I’m 42. Really. And though I am definitely noticing signs of aging – a streak of gray, and changes in my skin – I am stubbornly proud of my age, and my aging.

    At 35, I nearly died. I fought hard to stay alive, to get to keep having birthdays. I didn’t know if I’d see my daughter enter kindergarten. I love that I’m aging now, because every day is a victory. I hit surgical menopause at 36, and therefore feel older than my years, and I do mourn that….but overall, I am just so aware of the alternative to aging that the rest doesn’t matter.

    My grandmother, who lives nearby, is in her late 80s. And I’m friends with a couple in their 80s; they are dear to me, and they mentor me, and adore my daughter. There is one woman at my UU church who is in her 90s and just started dating again (she’s amazing). I feel blessed to have a wide range – from newborn up – in my life, but I don’t think that this is necessarily typical.

    There is grief about the loss of youth – I’ve been in menopause since 36 due to surgery, and I feel it. But I am determined to celebrate aging, and to be the “Phenomenal Woman” of the Maya Angelou poem. I wear a smidge more makeup, and I’ve noticed my heels getting a little taller, and for now, that is enough. I’m hoping that confidence and joy make up for the rest.

  17. Great article, DA. I am so glad that I am finally finding other women, like you, who are talking about this aging in powerful ways. Suddenly I am not so alone.

    Talking about my feelings of aging has been a mixed bag. Some women say, “Oh, age is only a number.” No, it isn’t. Age is one day closer to death. Age is eventual disability. Age is loss. Loss of jobs, careers, children growing up and moving on, loss of physical abilities, mental abilities, loss of the ability to rock those heels. Age is many things, but it is not just a number.

    I have begun to realize that it is women doing this stuff to ourselves.

    I’ve been attacked for being vain and shallow. Like those are bad things. Chloe can’t you just age gracefully? What does that even mean? Sheesh.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Thanks for reading, Chloe.

      To those who say we’re vain or shallow, I say this: How is it vain or shallow to want to hang on to your power, especially when that power is less than that of our male counterparts, when it’s so much more dependent on our appearance? Oh, we don’t have to be great beauties (and most of us aren’t). We don’t really have to be tits-on-a-stick either, though we might get farther if we were. But we can’t be of a certain age on paper (before anyone has met us), and we surely cannot “look” anything other than youthful and energetic – with notable exceptions and those exceptions are generally financially secure. Truly financially secure, or, truly secure in a relationship that at least equates to a somewhat more significant degree of security.

      Any woman in this country – in my opinion – who claims otherwise, has the financial where-with-all to feel “safe,” a large enough family to feel “safe,” or hasn’t hit an age yet when she sees and feels the reality.

      It’s outrageous.

      Worse, it’s a dreadful waste.

  18. Yes, I can see why people lie in their online dating profiles. Though, so far, I would rather tell someone how old I am and hope that they say, “No way!” (in a good way!). The double standard with men really stinks.
    Carpool Goddess recently posted…What The Heck Was I Thinking: A FauxmoirMy Profile

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Your response makes me smile, Carpool Goddess. The double standard does stink, yes. Online dating exacerbates the problem of course. When we meet people in person, spontaneously, we would never dream of asking their age. We spark, we mesh, we find commonalities and go from there… Or not.

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