68. And a half. That’s my age number, and I’m proud of it.
Or at least I’m working on it. Constantly.
My little grandkids will announce my age number loud and proud to anyone in line at Stop and Shop – so why does part of me cringe when they do?
In my best self, I, too, announce the number loud and proud. But…that little inner voice…the one fueled by years of “don’t admit you’re a grandma”, and “but you don’t look your age” , Zoom image enhancers, Insta photos of Christie Brinkley in a swimsuit (rockin’ it, as she always has, now at age 67), and countless ads for products that invite us to DEFY age, to DENY age, and to FIGHT age…that inner voice sometimes struggles.
And then, there’s plastic surgery for vanity’s sake. Don’t even get me started — and yes, of course it’s sometimes tempting – not the slicing of my face, just the supposed results.
I once voiced a documentary that mentioned a myth where a young man was advised to “seek out someone with grey hair, for they will be wise.” When did that wisdom become something to be feared, hidden – something shameful?
I’m frickin; wise, dammit!
My biggest teachers here are my granddaughters, ages 5 and 3 1/2 – and (of course) their mom, my daughter. If I were to act all coy about my age, blush with embarrassment when someone says the number (gasp!) out loud, or stare into the mirror obsessing about my wrinkles – what does that say to them about getting older?
Getting older. Is it something to desire (seems to be, until about age 21…), or to bemoan? In this world, where Gen Z is poking fun at Millennials on TikTok (yes -insert eyeroll here – I know what TikTok is. Also Clubhouse.), when do we express respect – and admiration – for the wisdom that comes with age?
Women (especially) are trained to pick apart their appearance, to focus on specific parts that they’d like to “fix.”. Other people – especially those who love us – see the whole, not the parts. My grandkids look at me and only see pure, mutual love.
Five ways to rethink Age-Defying:
1 – Notice what you are telling yourself about your age. Catch yourself judging yourself – or others – when a number is mentioned. Is it the number, or what you are telling yourself it represents?
2 – Question where any negative “stories” come from. Is it that magazine ad you just saw for Botox? Is it the sitcom where the older person (parent, grandparent, senior manager) is portrayed as an idiot? Is it something that was modeled for you by your own family or friends? (“oh, my god, I look so old in that picture! Rip it up!!”)
3 – Replace the words with another message. Not so easy. Models are hard to find. Compile a list of go-to phrases that work for you. I often remind myself that women (especially) are trained to pick apart their appearance, to focus on specific parts that they’d like to “fix.”. Other people – especially those who love us – see the whole, not the parts. My grandkids look at me and only see pure, mutual love.
4 – Seek out role models for age-proudness – and be one. Look for celebrities who haven’t had plastic surgery. Which ones own their age without apology? Who has a sense of humor about it? Think Bette Midler, Sigourney Weaver, Sally Field, Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Justine Bateman. Jeez, we all get older! We are LUCKY to get older. Hollywood, and advertising creators, just don’t often agree.
5 – Limit Social Media Overuse. Come on, seriously? Filters, photo editing, selfies that were the best out of 15. Instead: Learn something new. Take a class. Read a book. Draw a picture. Toss a ball. Take a walk somewhere where the trees are way oldewr than you are. Expand horizons, that kinda thing. It’s what we’re here to do.
Make a list of Proud-Age Statements.
And the emotion you feel – or choose to feel – when you state them is a vital part of it. Notice “shame”, and replace it with pride.
I have survived a LOT. So – I have wisdom to share – but wisdom enough not to tell you unless you ask.
Examples, loud and proud:
- I am a grandma.
- I am in my late 60’s.
- I was raised in the 60’s (and remember being a semi-hippie: no to drugs, but yes to “make love not war” protests, flowers in my hair, and singing folk music in coffee houses)
- I have wrinkles. They are laugh lines. I’ll keep laughing.
- I have grey hair – somewhere under the Olio hair dye. (hey, I’m human. $8 every six weeks, and no slicing of skin)
- I have survived a LOT. So – I have wisdom to share – but wisdom enough not to tell you unless you ask.
- I still wear overalls whenever possible. But clean up pretty good when necessary.
- I have a really cool job (radio, stage, voiceovers) – but even if I didn’t, I’d still be cool to those I love.
So – stop judging, and we’ll stop hiding. With any luck, you, younger person, will be where I am someday. And I hope you get to see examples of how wonderful it is to get older.
I plan on being a model for that by aging proudly, not secretly.
But may still keep dying the grey hair. Maybe. We’ll see.
I plan to stay here as long as I can, with as much health as I can, to keep doing three things: doing good work, continuing to learn and teach, and loving well. It all boils down to that.
As I said, child of the 60’s. But no apologies for believing that we are here to love each other. And I’ll take as many years of that as I can get. Proudly.