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Aging Out Loud

Melissa+Etheridge+wxTr1btZX8umI look at other blogs on aging and read the comments made by women to gage how they are feeling about growing older. I like the blog Growing Bolder.  A quote by singer Melissa Ethridge caught my eye: “I would not trade in my 50’s for any other time I’ve lived. If you’re facing 50, don’t be afraid. It gets so much better and you get so much more stronger.”

The remarks that followed were varied…here are some samples:

“Loved turning 30, 40 but turning 50 has me on edge.”

“Best age so far.”

“Oh lordy, I’m pushing 60. I’m scared, real scared.

“Not enjoying mine at all.”

I’m curious to know what others think about their age. Yes, it’s scary because we are getting closer to death, but a lot of our negative feelings may be coming from what society says and feels about aging. And the point is not to be silent on the issue. The real power comes from women sharing our challenges, fears, joys and dread.   This is the time to speak up because we have more wisdom to spread. We have made mistakes and grown, learned what’s important and what’s not, retired our need to get everyone’s approval and our constant need to feel “important.”

Come on baby boomers we haven’t gone through all this only to become invisible. If a woman is alone watching yet another wrinkle cream commercial she will inevitably feel bad about her skin, looks and maybe even grow depressed. She might turn to Botox, fillers, surgery spending hundreds and thousands of dollars to keep up a youthful appearance. I’m not saying that is wrong or bad; it just sends a message to the younger generation that looking your age is not acceptable.

I admit I was one of those who feared 40 and was terrified at 50. I noticed that many women didn’t want to talk about the aging process — one of the reasons why I started this blog. But we don’t have to be rock stars, actors or models to make a statement about age. We can talk to one another in neighborhoods, communities and blogs that challenge the status quo.

Melissa Ethridge

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Rewrite your Script

 

After years of waiting for something amazing to happen to me, I realized the life I had was always happening but it seemed like it would never end. I can’t tell you the amount of years I wasted waiting for the perfect job, man, house, friend, acknowledgements, awards, money. Everything geared toward the outside to validate that I was part of the tribe. My mind was so tangled with the needs, wants and desires of others, I had no clue where to even find mine. It didn’t seem all that necessary as long as long as I looked good on the outside.

Then something funny happened — I turned middle aged, and guess what…ding, ding, ding. No more waiting. This is really it. Next came the question, do I continue living my life like something will suddenly barge into my life and say, ok, now (old) lady, it’s time?

It’s just more of the same except for experiencing more hormone flare-ups aches and pains and wrinkles. It suddenly occurred to me if I wanted anything to change, it would have to be an inside job.

It was despair and relief at once. Fear that I wouldn’t be the cutest girl in the room anymore (people may not even notice me, especially younger ones), many won’t want to know what amazing thing I’ve pulled off, who my new boyfriend is and what concert I just attended.

While I teeter on the boarder I’m about to cross I’m filled with excitement and curiosity.

Aging humbles us, it’s true, but it also awakens us to how precious life is and how very fragile.

I challenge you, should the middle years be a time to shut down or time to finally get started? Should it be time to hang out or to stop messing around? I mean I would like nothing better than to plop down with a bowl of popcorn and watch Family Feud and Judge Judy every night.   But my soul is truly craving more. Souls were encoded to accomplish.

In our hearts, many of us feel that we’re finally really ready to do something radical. Whatever it is we’re here for, we’re itching to do it now.

With what’s going on in the world, there’s more opportunity than ever to get active and creative. The pink pussy hat was probably knitted by a kick ass grandma. On no, no more nice girl, though if that’s in your nature fine, but be authentic at any price.

It’s your last chance to get it right. The generation now experiencing midlife cant stand the thought that this was all for nothing. While we may be depressed that we’re no longer young, were ecstatic that we’re no longer clueless. Remember those prolonged butt stares in the mirror and asking friends how your boobs looked in your low-cut blouse. Does he like me? What will they think of me? Those days are gone. And really, did you ever really like that catcall from a rangy, tobacco chewing construction man hanging from a line anyway?

Now is time to burst forth in your greatness without the encumbrances of wasting time wanting people to like you for being what’s expected, not what’s real.

You might call it the recovery from “youth-it-its”

You are not too old. You are right on time. And you are better than you know.

You can slip back and forth but you can snap out of it13567311_10153801677361376_7199853490098444068_n

Midlife is our second chance. If you want to spend the years you have left simply reenacting the dramas of your past, you can. The same scrip will indeed be coming around again for your review. It always does.

But if you choose, you can take the script and give it an awesome rewrite, totally get on top of your material and take a bow at the end that blows everyone away or maybe only yourself.

Youth is Overrated

This New Wrinkle project has been a journey for me. Like a news reporter, I started with a clear angle of how I wanted it to go, specifically focusing on the fear of aging. But after talking to a friend of mine, Barbara, who is about to turn 60, I started to get a new perspective. She told me that she’s actually happier at this age than any other. Ok, you hear that stuff from time to time, but listening to her pour out her thoughts and feelings, I knew it was truly how she felt.

Youth is overrated,” she said. “You take so much for granted and spend so much time and energy on meaningless things.” I took an inventory of my life and realized all the endless time I spent obsessing over what someone said or what I was going to wear, or if he liked me.

At a certain age men and women take a look at their own mortality. While this can be intensely painful and scary, it’s also a chance to get serious about what really matters.

“Now I want to do things that make a difference in the world, to truly love people for who they are, enjoy the things that make me happy,” Barbara said, “like birding and photography.” She went on to say, “Fear of getting older was weighing me down until I realized that I had the power to release it.”

At the same time I was writing this blog I took a quick break to browse Facebook (admit I am a bit addicted) and the first thing that popped up where these words from author Brene’ Brown:

“I think midlife is when the universe places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close and whispers in your ear:

I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanism that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.”

These two wise women inspired me to spread their views on the joy of aging instead of the fear of aging.

Newwrinklethemovie.com is really about my coming to terms with growing older. It gives me an opportunity to help create a dialogue that is sorely missing in our youth obsessed culture. I hope you will contribute and talk to other women and men about your feelings as we all take this journey together.

 

Clips and Tips on Aging

In this video blog I take a look in the mirror.

Age Equality

I had a dream last night that I was watching the TV news and instead of seeing only young, flawless fresh-faced women, included in the dialogue were older women with lined, experienced, mature faces.

At first it seemed odd as it’s something you rarely see in mainstream media – except for maybe the token “old lady” with $100,000 worth of plastic surgery. You know who I’m talking about. Mysteriously these people disappear from the screen, like yesterday’s news.

But watching the images and hearing the voices of these brilliant older ladies, I began to feel more comfortable in my own skin, not a sense of fear but a sense of hope. Perhaps I too had more to say despite my collegin-challenged skin.

You might call it age equality.

In this dream, the audience wanted to listen to these women who had been in the trenches, who had covered multiple political campaigns, wars, disasters and had the mental and physical scars to prove it. In other words, they had substance and it meant something, something more than a soft face.

This is not to take anything away from those young, ambitious reporters. I too started out as a TV journalist when I was 22. But that unspoken line drawn in the sand once you’ve reached a certain age – now that you really have something to say – you’re no longer relevant? WTF?

I think of a courageous anchorwoman, Dana King, of KPIX-TV in San Francisco, who had been to Kosovo, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Honduras, Iraq, and too many other places to mention.   But, perhaps her biggest battle since being a journalist of 24 years was to tell her boss she no longer wanted to color her hair.

King serves as an inspiration for women in all industries. By taking one simple act, she chipped away at the current paradigm. It’s something all of us can do in our own way to stand up for age equality.

 

Strength in Authenticity

I love strong, authentic women who are no longer trying to prove how perfect and well put together they are – no signs of stretched, wrinkle-free faces with large, puckered lips. Somehow it makes me feel more free and courageous enough to withstand what the media bombards us with on a daily basis.

As a television news reporter for most of my adult life, I always tried hard to present myself as the perky, cute blonde. I knew that was what was expected of me and I played the game. So it came as no surprise, when I turned 40, I began to panic. Everything I had known had been based on my youth and looks and to be fair, some smarts were involved.

Then I found myself single in my forties and began dating. That led to this blog and the journey to make a documentary based on the stories of older women, their concerns, fears and inspirations. This is not something talked about in our culture and it’s time to change the paradigm:

San Francisco media critic Jan Wahl sums it up this way:

 

Old Lady on Board

What is it about calling someone an old lady that is so insulting?  I found myself pondering that question after a man, in one of those monster trucks, attempted to pull into my parking space.  The red-faced, bearded gentlemen then yelled out, “Fuck you old lady.”  Now I didn’t mind the cursing, lord knows I use the “F” word on occasion.  It was the “old lady” part that hit hard.  Keep in mind this man was probably a Donald Trump supporter and had a small wee wee, but nonetheless, I couldn’t shake that remark.

Those two words are designed to be offensive and derogatory.  It brought back the memories of when I was on a date with a guy who told me, at the age of 42, “Women in their 20’s hold the most power.”  He went on to say, “The older a woman gets, the more power she loses.”  I also thought of all the other remarks about older ladies in books (she was on the downhill side of 40), advertisements (you’re only as young as your neck), and the comments actresses get as they age.  Even sweet Star Wars princess Leia had to defend herself against the barrage of hateful tweets from critics who felt the need to tell her she’s aged badly.  The 59-year-old actor replied, “Please stop debating about whether or not I aged well.  Unfortunately it hurts my feelings.” Some comments might be intended as a compliment, such as “you look good for your age,” yet it still sends a message that growing older is an undesirable and frowned upon part of life. 

What if we took this “old lady” thing and turned it around?  Yes, I’m old, so what?  I like who I’ve become and what I’ve accomplished, and I will not be cut down because of our culture’s obsession with youth.  It’s a paradigm shift, that will require women and men, young and old, to pay attention to the words they use.  Also for women not to take offense when a burly man blurts out, “Old Lady,” kindly say, “Thank you.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old is the New Young

As younger women we are taught to fear growing older and we conjure up what we don’t want instead of what we can accomplish later in life. The influence of the media and advertisements are a main reason why we feel this way.

For example, I just opened O Magazine and for the first 12 pages this is what I saw: Infuse Youth; younger looking skin in a flash; erase the look of lines, pores and wrinkles in seconds; age youthfully; time in a bottle – and my personal favorite – you’re only as young as your neck.

Theresa McGuire, a hairdresser in Marin County exemplifies what many women are experiencing. As she is cutting hair, she is peering at herself in the mirror. McGuire says she feels ugly and old as she continuously analyzes her face. Because of her fear of aging, she has had a number of cosmetic procedures done, costing thousands of dollars. She is one of the 15 million Americans that spent $11 billion on cosmetic surgery procedures last year.

So why do we try so hard? It is built securely in our culture that women are never supposed to feel good about their appearance, young or old. And it’s time to change the conversation…that’s why I am in the process of putting a film together called New Wrinkle.

It’s up to us to develop a new game plan. We are at a distinct moment in history when our sheer numbers give us unheard of power in which to change the conversation about aging.

Ruth’s Spirit

The movie Harold and Maude came to mind when I was recently standing in a line at a Pharmacy.

There was an elderly woman who never stopped smiling, joking and sharing her spirit193308 with those around her.  I was instantly taken by her as she exhibited all the life-affirming qualities as Ruth Gordon in the 1971 cult classic Harold and Maude.

When we began talking I looked into her lucid and wide eyes full of curiosity and wonder about the world.  We started laughing together, and she said she liked to be silly…me too…both of us began acting like goof-balls.  It’s like we became kindred spirits in that moment and the age barrier had disappeared.  The 81 year old had the same soul and sprit as she did when she was a child.

I gave her a hug and we laughed all the way to our cars.  I wanted to take her home, but instead, I decided to write about her essence so that it can live on beyond my own limited experience.

As a culture we are apt to ignore those that have saggy, frail bodies…our eyes engage with those who have soft skin, flawless features, pretty teeth, full lips and a toned body.  But if we can train ourselves to look beyond the deep furrows and droopy skin, we see a whole inner array of beauty that extends time.

On a side note my grandmother’s name Is Ruth and she too was full of life and wonder until the end. This woman in the store was a reminder of her spirit and kindness.

A True Inspiration

imagesYou may have missed this article in the New York Times. I was so inspired when I read it that it propelled me to jump-start New Wrinkle. Here is an excerpt from actress Frances McDormand on becoming an older woman in our society:

I have not mutated myself in any way,” she said. “Joel (her husband) and I have this conversation a lot. He literally has to stop me physically from saying something to people — to friends who’ve had work. I’m so full of fear and rage about what they’ve done.”

Looking old, she said, should be a boast about experiences accrued and insights acquired, a triumphant signal “that you are someone who, beneath that white hair, has a card catalog of valuable information.” The words tumbled out of her rapidly and bluntly. She had points she wanted to make and made them in an open, down-to-earth manner with an occasional edge to it, a bit of a prickle.

The actress learned at the start of her career not to care too much about appearances. “I was often told that I wasn’t a thing,” she said. “ ‘She’s not pretty enough, she’s not tall enough, she’s not thin enough, she’s not fat enough.’ I thought, ‘O.K., someday you’re going to be looking for someone not, not, not, not, and there I’ll be.”

How many girls and women have undergone the same kind of treatment? I know I did: too chubby, too thin, too short. These days it’s: Have you lost weight? You look young for your age. Unfortunately many women cling to these remarks and want to try even harder to resist the signs of aging. That’s because we feel we will no longer be valued by our culture.

But, like McDormand, we don’t have to take it – she is a testament to the fact that you can be a mature woman, thriving in a career, yet still be authentic and productive. It takes courage, and I for one thank this woman for speaking out about this issue as it impacts all girls and women in our society.

 

 

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