A Certain Age

Like most women of a certain age, I detest the phrase, a certain age. It’s yet another way we have of holding on to our insecurities and doing all women a disservice. I have been proudly proclaiming my age since I was a child and my father tried to get a deal on a bus ticket by saying I was five and I loudly protested, “But I’m six, Daddy! Don’t you know how old I am?”

The other day, my mother, who is seventy, or will be in July (she hates having to say she is 69) actually said, “Our age” when referring to the two of us. I don’t remember what that phrase was in reference to because all I can recall is her saying OUR AGE and lumping me in with her generation. When I called her on it, she told me that it makes her feel younger to say ‘our age’ to younger women. What nobody tells you is that, though your body ages, your brain stops soon after you enter adulthood. If there were no such thing as a reflective surface to remind you that you are, indeed getting older, the only sign your brain would have is that your body is now incapable of doing the same things it used to do.

I have no issue telling people how old I am… I’m 47 this year and proud to say it. Most people are shocked to hear it and tell me that I don’t look 47. To which I respond, “What does 47 look like?”

For decades women have been lying about their age. In my grandmother’s era it was a sin to be over the age of 39, so she just started counting backwards once she hit 39 and pretty soon I was older than the age she claimed to be.

In movies and television, actresses have been playing younger parts for years. Doris Day was still playing virginal roles well into her 40′s. As a matter of fact, her age was lied about so much, that to this day, it’s not known what her actual year of birth was. More recently, actress Gabrielle Carteris, who played a 16 year old student in Beverly Hills 90210, was actually 29 the first season of the series. With examples like this, how are we supposed to know what 50 really looks like?

Doris Day

Gabrielle Carteris

Just last year, an aspiring actress sued http://www.imdb.com for posting her age. Her suit contended that, “If one is perceived to be ‘over-the-hill,’ i.e. approaching 40, it is nearly impossible for an up-and-coming actress, such as the Plaintiff, to get work as she is thought to have less of an ‘upside’ therefore casting directors, producers, directors, agents/managers, etc. do not give her the same opportunities, regardless of her appearance and talent.”

This kind of ageism is what leads women to be insecure about their age and their appearance even as they are gaining the wisdom that comes with aging. It’s yet another way we continue to be controlled. Instead of being lauded for our accomplishments through the years, we are being sold anti-aging creams and hormone supplements.

Women talk a big game when it comes to self esteem, but when are we actually going to walk the walk?

11 responses to “A Certain Age

  1. Right with you, sista! I never hide my age. I’ll be 43 this summer and I am proud of it. Each year is proof that I was able to bob and weave, duck, endure, whatever. The strong survive. Besides, each year brings with it such wonderful experiences and memories, fresh things I’ve learned- who’d want to cover up all that richness?

    As I explain to my kids, getting older, the age number getting bigger- THAT’s what we all aspire to, at least me. I mean, what’s the point in dieing young??? I have things to do!

  2. I love my age and it is a good thing, because in a year or two my mother will be younger than I! She cannot tell the truth about her age and is always embarrassed when I willingly say mine. That was a great write up, I really got a good days worth of grins from reading it.

  3. This is a great post. I have a had a difficult time with the numbers rolling past 30. It’s nice to see other women providing a healthy model for embracing it and telling the media and other nay-sayers to go to hell. Men are often depicted as growing more distinguished as they age while women are depicted as becoming less so. I find that to be really frustrating. I guess it’s time we take it (our right to age gracefully?) back.

    • Absolutely! There are some terrific role models out there. Just look at women like Lauren Hutton, Meryl Streep, Christine LaGarde, Hillary Clinton, Catherine Deneuve, Cecily Tyson, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Angela Merkel (and many more) all accomplished, successful women who are better with age… not in spite of it.

  4. I think this is a practice that cuts across a broader swath of feminist concerns. Broadly, the question is the extent to which one bows to patriarchal demands–because of career advancement, to attract a mate, or just make life a little goddam easier–versus putting up one’s back. The actress who sued IMDB is different in kind from women (people?) who are simply and reflexively ashamed of how old they, which is the same as being ashamed of who you are … relating back to your post on slut shaming. The most insidious part of totalitarian ideologies is the way they manipulate those they would control to oppress themselves.

  5. Thank you for sharing this with me — and for visiting my place today. I have to confess that was NOT my finest piece of writing. But I’ll not look the birthday gift horse in the mouth. I am enjoying everyone’s response to aging. Who would have thought so much ado about my turning 45. ;) Your piece is sooooo much better. Sometimes I wonder what the folks are doing over at WordPress! Nice to meet you!

    xoxoRenée aka: RASJ

  6. I’ll be 65 in a few months. My mom passed away when she was 41 and my dad at 51, so, you see, I will not let anyone shame me about my age and what I do and do not look like. Thanks for your post.

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