I’m lucky. Out of all the times to be born, my cute little newborn butt shot through the mommy hyperloop and landed firmly in the 1960s. Granted, I was too young to get in on all the cool hippie shenanigans, but at least I got to enjoy the architectural wonder that was ’80s hair, and experience the thrill of obtaining an education in a pre-PC/Internet world (think typewriters, library card catalogs and microfiche, young’uns). But the best part of being born in the latter half of the 20th century is that I get to embrace aging very differently than just the generation or two of women before me.
Last night I was at my friend Wendy’s 60th birthday party, surrounded by fabulous women in their 40s, 50s and 60s. A slideshow of my friend’s photos from past and recent years played in the background, and as I watched the rich tapestry of her life unfold on the screen, I felt happy. Happy because 60 is no longer an age where I am required to give up seeking adventures to plant my ass in a rocking chair and take up knitting or needlepoint, (which I’m sure for me would involve lots of puncture wounds to both myself and others).Happy because if I want to dye my hair platinum blonde and rock a pompadour with shaved sides, instead of a short, sensible silver tinged bob, no one is going to tell me I can’t. Happy because I can get sassy, drink bourbon, and talk dirty if the mood strikes me and there will always be plenty of like-minded women my age to join in the fun.
Now I’m pretty sure some of you are rolling your eyes and thinking “I’m sure it wasn’t that bad for women of a certain age back in the day. After all, my grandma always seemed perfectly happy baking, and…well…baking,.and of course, baking.” And actually, Granny was the preferred choice for women over 40 – certainly better than choice number two, which was being designated a Spinster, or an Old Maid.
Just to prove my point,allow me to share some media portrayals of older dames that I grew up with, in the not too distant past.
Take Alice from the Brady Bunch. An unmarried woman of a certain age who – other than the all too infrequent excuse to visit Sam the butcher – really had no life of her own other than cleaning up after the Brady brats.
Here’s another one – Hannah Gruen from the Nancy Drew books. Also an unmarried older woman, also relegated to a life of quiet desperation cleaning and cooking for someone else’s family. I’m convinced she secretly lusted after that dashing DA, Carson Drew, and also despised Nancy, who got to traipse around town solving mysteries and shit.
Still don’t believe me? One of the top sitcoms when I was a young woman was “The Golden Girls.” It was about 3 widows, a divorcee (whose husband of course left her for a younger flight attendant) and her eighty year old mom, all living together in a house in Miami, Florida. In season one, it was stated that Betty White’s character Rose was 55 so I can only assume the younger character, Blanche – aka “the skanky one” – was supposed to be around 50. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t plan on donning flowing caftans, chunky jewelry and moving into a ranch home in an “active adult community” anytime soon.
Contrast the image of the older single woman with the older single male. Confirmed Bachelor. Silver Fox. And for God’s sake, somebody please tell me why Hugh Hefner – a guy who is now married, but to a woman 60 years his junior – is iconicized as the ultimate male stud? I’m pretty sure the only child reference in his dubious title as The Original Playboy, should be pedo, not boy. But I digress…
The cultural climate that I get to grow old in is thankfully better than it was a generation before me. Not perfect – but better. The path I travel now is full of forks in the road, detours, and yes, even an opportunity to get lost occasionally . Because continuing to travel a self-determined path is living your life to the fullest, and it shouldn’t end because you’ve reached a certain age. I hope that it continues to improve for my daughters, and my daughter’s daughters if I am so blessed.
In the meantime, society can stop dictating what we should and shouldn’t wear, based only on the number that precedes the second digit of our age. Fashion “experts” – how about encouraging women to wear whatever makes us feel good about ourselves? And – here’s a radical idea – how about the longer we’ve managed to survive in this world, the less – not more – ‘a fucks we ought to give? People can also lose the mindset that – at least for women – youth equates power, Sure being young of age, dewey of skin and firm of body is awesome, but so is being wise of mind, strong of character, and erratic of hormones (okay maybe not that last one). Not only that, we can still – “gasp” – be sexy too. Or “Sexty” as the age was deemed last night. The cultural climate that I get to grow old in is thankfully better than it was a generation before me. Not perfect – but better. The path I travel now is full of forks in the road, detours, and yes, even an opportunity to get lost occasionally . Because continuing to travel a self-determined path is living your life to the fullest, and it shouldn’t end because you’ve reached a certain age. I hope that it continues to improve for my daughters, and my daughter’s daughters if I am so blessed.
Happy Birthday Wendy – the woman who has survived breast cancer and a devastating car crash, raised two smart, beautiful young women, travels the world, volunteers tirelessly in her community, who has a husband that still thinks she’s the hottest thing on the planet, and friends who genuinely love her. I say, rock ON, Girlfriend.