I belong to several official and unofficial groups of women. Some groups exist online, while others gather in person. One group is enormous, another quite small. Some are private, with strict policies about confidentiality; others seem to operate just fine without the rules. Each of these groups is uniquely structured. But they all have one thing in common: whenever we get together, however we do that, we spend a lot of time grappling with how we are changing as we age.
Together, we worry about how we look, what’s changed about our sex lives, how to manage surprising new health challenges, and even how we might smell as we grow older. During one recent and delightful celebration of a friend’s milestone birthday, seven of us spent nearly four hours laughing about being in our sixties—probably the best way to handle things over the next twenty to thirty years.
Unfortunately, most of my female friends who are over fifty still believe that the longer we can maintain the illusion of youth, the longer we’ll be valued. We’re afraid of what will happen after that. Who—and where—are our role models for the next stage of life?
I am lucky, because my own mother has never felt bad about getting older. She’s not crazy about the ways her body and abilities have changed, but she never expected anything different, and she’s grateful to be almost ninety. So maybe I have a choice. Maybe, if I can shut out the noise around me—like advertising that relies on shame associated with aging to sell products—I can revel in the fun I have with my partner and my daughter and my grandchildren . . . with my parents and my siblings and my friends.
Maybe—just maybe—it’s time to listen to my mother.