How many myths? As Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, “Let me count the ways.” It’s incredible the things I believed when I was young about my future middle and old age, and it’s even more incredible what younger women believe about it today. Myths come in generalities and in specifics; myths come and go. The one thing to believe is that no two women are alike, no one statement is ever typical of every woman, or even most.
The women who are candidates for inclusion in the online gallery of pictures called “The People of Walmart” are exceptions to the norm, but most women in their everyday state of mind do care how they look. If you catch them at home, they may not be as you usually see them out and about, but most are up, dressed, and getting on with their day. Not all of us can look like some of the well-maintained celebrities like Halle Berry at 52, Jamie Lee Curtis at 60, or Glenn Close who at age 71, who just won a Golden Globe and looks spectacular. We do care to keep our persons and our clothing looking presentable. It’s what we do.
This may once have been true, and it was true depending on a woman’s role or status in society in general and her own sphere in particular. Where women once dressed according to custom, even fad, today we can dress according to our personal style. Today, what is “done” is frequently “anything goes.” It is still true that we are judged on our attire, however unconsciously and silently, by others. We still want to spruce up to go out to dinner, but the dress code is casual. Now we dine out much more casually and frequently than our parents did.
Outside of an executive office environment, and sometimes even there, personal styles vary from au courant chic to slightly slutty, from vintage to rocker, from sporty to girlie. Some styles defy description. We seniors may think standards of dress are slipping miserably, but seniors in any era probably thought the same thing. It’s what we do.
For the many of us it’s true that we often talk about it, but we really don’t spend much time fretting about the shape of our bodies. We are what we are, we’ve all made it this far, and we have other things to worry about. There are the “A” Types who work out and work at keeping their wedding gown figures. And there are the “B” Types who are much more blasé about it all. The pursuit of a shapely body, or the lack of pursuit, is part of an individual’s unconscious makeup.
We think about but we don’t dwell on our ailments, and we don’t dwell on dying. We do care about our health and want to feel our best. As much as we hate making and keeping all the many regular medical appointments for all the tests and checkups we need, we see to it. It’s what we do.
Ah, not so! For many women in their prime, sex is still very much part of their beings and lives. Where “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” or where there is little opportunity, as it may be with many of us even older women, our brains are very much aware of sexuality. We’re not dead yet. We can still appreciate and cast an approving eye on someone with whom we’d like to be able to be involved in that way. It’s what we do.
Au contraire. We are very conscious of the world situation. We have to be. Unless a woman has her head in the sand, and, to paraphrase the Simon and Garfunkel song, gets all the news she needs on the weather report, she is bombarded with news of the world. Prime women are tech savvy and use social media and the internet to keep them informed. Our opinions matter. Older women are conscious of what the world’s economy and ecology will be like for their children and grandchildren. They are in the labor force or volunteer ranks to keep active in their communities and the larger world. It’s what we do.
Today’s social standards and mores have evolved and developed along with technology and the availability of goods and services. Are we any worse, or any better for the changes that are helping to dispel the myths about women over fifty? No, we are probably status quo. There will be myths to come, we just haven’t heard them yet. We just keep on keepin’ on.
Gradually, with the help of easily accessed media outlets, women like me can blog or publish online magazines. With many older women writing articles and books, both fiction and non-fiction, aimed at us, we women over fifty have recognized that there is no truth to the myth that we are over the hill. We are very much still on the way to the summit. We’ll hike along happily, with healthy minds and fairly healthy bodies. It’s what we do.
Article by Laura Lee Johnston
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