Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
Today is my fifty-seventh birthday. My hair is polished silver. Though I am no longer sleek, I’m sexy and adore my Victoria’s Secret lingerie. I’m not an intellectual, but intelligent and love conversations that engage my brain. My greatest lessons have been learned from experience, and I’ve earned my wisdom the hard way. Last year, my first book was published, and I am living my life’s dream at last as a passionate, full-time author. And my culture considers me insignificant because I’m no longer twenty or thirty-something, nor on the brink of disaster as forty-something. What the hell do they know, and why don’t they know it? Not just because young adults say so, but many middle-aged and senior women believe it.
Seven years ago, I wrote this poem for my fiftieth birthday:
My experience is hanging
out of drawers,
growing under the bed
in effusive excess,
twirling from ceiling fans,
dripping from my tears.
I’ve stored it up for years
until my birthday
devalued all I know,
any truth and wisdom
gained only through error
and trial-sized experiments
by cultural consensus
that counts me up to forty-nine
I began coloring my hair in my early twenties, not because I didn’t like what I had, but for fun. After thirty years of this, I gave myself an early present six months before my fiftieth birthday: I decided to grow my hair color out, because I hadn’t a clue what was hidden underneath. I figured that if my natural color sucked, I would disguise it again. What I discovered was delightful. Granted, this lovely silver shade came gradually, and the transition might have been dreadful. But the bottom line was I love how my hair looks today, and will never change it again.
Compliments abounded. You know who hated it? Only women. This one fortyish woman with rabies chewed me out, degrading me for “letting myself go” and being unnecessarily unattractive. I was appalled, not because I was embarrassed or hurt, but because of how effectively the anti-aging lie had stolen part of her self-esteem. That slam wasn’t about me; it was her self-evaluation.
Any product labeled “anti-aging” or “age-defying” aren’t for men. A men’s skin-care product that claimed to make them “look ten years younger” would have a very limited market. Guys don’t wear make-up. Why do women? Do I really have to tell you the answer?
Who buys that stuff? Who tends to lie about their age? Who keeps plastic surgeons in business? If you’re a fifty-plus woman, think about it. Getting older isn’t a disease; it’s a natural aspect of life. Have you unconsciously decided birthdays determine your worth? The current life-expectancy for women in the United States is eighty-one years. That’s a long time to live as a second-class citizen, increasingly without value or a voice in our society. It’s our choice.
Yes, everyone has better-looking bodies when we’re young. But if my beauty is based on not having wrinkles, I’m screwed. If I have to look like a Victoria’s Secret model to buy their lingerie, the company better tell the sales clerks, because I tend to buy what I try on and they always take my money. So why don’t some of their models look like me? Those girls are going to have to change careers in a few years unless the company changes. Who has to power to change that? Us. All at once? No. “Us” means one person at a time. You have to decide what you want, how you want to live. Are you really living authentically?
I’m a child of the 60’s, a genuine hippie (still am). I didn’t wear make-up until I graduated from college and got a job for which I had to wear a suit, pantyhose, and make-up. Been there/did that for a lot of years, got burned out, and found a job at a ridiculously low wage so I could dump the make-up, etc. and look like myself again.
Now I work at home as a full-time author and can wear a swimsuit and fuzzy bunny slippers to work if I want. Yet I wore a tiny bit of make-up for my professional photos to look….well, professional, but still 95% like the authentic me. When I’m asked to speak at a traditional church or conference, I wear slacks instead of jeans, or a dress (albeit bohemian).
But do you know why I wear no make-up, have silver hair, and dress like I do? Because that’s the inner me expressed on the outside. Do you know why I wear slinky lingerie? Not for Bud, even though he likes it, but because I like how it makes me feel. I buy really good skin care products, but NEVER anything that degrades who I am, because I’m already beautiful, for that’s how God made me. My age doesn’t determine my significance. My abilities don’t define my worth. And any marketing company, person, or institution who tells me differently, to hell with them. But not to hell with me.