By Barbara and Marilee
Let’s embrace the term “old lady.” Our generation is reinventing what it means to be an older woman. Let’s take pride in our demographic revolution.
Today, there are more women over 50 in this country than at any other point in history. We oldies are not dowdy, out-of-date, or irrelevant. We are healthier, more vibrant, socially engaged, working longer, and have more income than previous generations. We will not be marginalized.
Women are the majority of Americans, the majority of grassroots donors, the majority of volunteers, and the majority of voters. We matter financially, culturally, and politically.
Yes, “old lady” can be slang for a girlfriend or wife…someone about whom men care. But, other than “cougar,” try to conjure up a single appreciative or respectful word to describe an older woman. Some are really dated, like hag, crone, and harridan, which, like the term “old lady,” were first noted in 1599. That’s really ironic since the average lifespan at that time was around 40.
Think Hollywood. Okay, women heroes tend to be young. However, actress Glenn Close, 72, was nominated for her seventh Oscar this year for her role in The Wife. Last summer’s movie, Book Club, which starred four older women, was a cotton candy of a movie, but a full-blown success. The Netflix television series Grace and Frankie, featuring Jane Fonda, 81, and Lily Tomlin, 79, will return for season six in 2020 and has legions of devoted fans. Bette Midler at 71 was a smash in Hello Dolly. Love the recent article headlined: 50 Actresses Over 50 Who Still Rule Hollywood.
Just smile and roll your eyes at the old, or just older, ladies often cast as witches or evil stepmothers. And, savor the sweet, but deadly, old ladies in the 1944 movie Arsenic and Old Lace.
Last year, the clothing brand Twisted Twee released t-shirts featuring a number of the demeaning terms commonly used to describe us. The young, British founder Suzi Warren explained, “I reckon the time has come to reclaim the rude and unkind words used to describe older women.” Yes! That’s the spirit! Wear those t-shirts proudly!
As for the fashion industry in general, it needs a wake-up call. Fashions on runways, television, and social media are trendy, vibrant, exciting. And, totally aimed at young people. Just look at Project Runway. A recent episode irritated numbers of people by constantly warning contestants not to go full “old lady.” Or too “mother-of-the-bride.” Or too “mumsy.”
Okay, they are throwing more models over 50 on the runways. But, the fashion industry would be wise to remember that we old ladies have quite a bit of purchasing power. And, we aren’t interested in much of the clothing in stores today, which is poorly made using impractical materials that are almost disposable; and, entertainingly, reminiscent of the 60s ,70s, and 80s. Been there, done that.
Hey, we still wear the well-made clothes with classic lines that have been hanging in our closets for years, even decades, because they don’t age. We just cut out the shoulder pads from our 80s’ purchases. We also like leggings and yoga pants, but we are mindful of body type and the occasion.
We have no desire to enter the Notre Dame leggings’ fray instigated by a Catholic mom of four sons. Her letter, published in the college’s student newspaper, implored female students to start an anti-leggings trend after seeing young women wearing them to Mass. We were impressed kids even go to Mass. Lust, you will recall, is one of the seven deadly sins whether at Mass or the gym!
So our winkled wisdom for today? Give whomever dares to call you an old lady to your face a high five! Take pride knowing we are not fearful or invisible—although invisibility has many advantages. Don’t fall prey to trends that are not our friends! Continue to believe in quality not quantity. Embrace your gray hair! And don’t be embarrassed to wear attractive, yet sensible shoes. We older women can teach kids a thing or two about style.
Oh, and P.S. Take solace in knowing we old ladies can nap whenever we feel like it. Our eyes won’t get much worse; our secrets are safe because our friends’ memories are no better than our own; almost all the difficult, major decisions in life are behind us; and we can stop trying to keep up with technology. That’s what the grandkids are for!