This business of "you don't look your age" ... What does it mean exactly? And mind you, I'm guilty of saying it too! I intend it as a compliment of course, and I know that when people tell me I don't look 50-something they are saying I look younger. But, is that a good thing? Looking younger when you're older, I mean. The compliment I enjoy the most at this stage is: "you wear your age well." It seems more fitting to how I see mature women: as capable, sassy, creative, hopeful and joyful human beings.
When I was 15, teaching English to adults at a language school, they often thought I was 18 or 20. Of course back then I loved that. I wanted to be "grown up." But the comments weren't entirely about my looks ... I was mature for my age. Life made me so.
On the other hand, now when someone tells me I don't look 50-plus, I also know it's not about looks. It has a lot more to do with my attitude. There's something about overcoming an eating disorder, depression, panic attacks, a terrible self-image, extreme shyness, dysfunctional relationships, divorce, unemployment and poverty that either tears you down or builds you up. I guess I -- perhaps inadvertently -- choose the latter.
So going back to my first thought, what is 50 or 50-plus supposed to look like? What is 60 supposed to look like? Seventy? Eighty? Well, I think it's really up to us!
I suppose what makes our 50s rather special is that -- especially for women -- it's a time of many changes. The onset of menopause looms or is behind you. That alone -- as we know from our monthly mood swings brought on by our periods, or the emotional rollercoaster that is pregnancy and postpartum -- is enough to throw anyone off kilter. Our skin, our hair, our energy levels, even our sexual drive ... all change. I'm not saying they change for the worse, mind you ... But still, it's a change. And what you're facing is, hopefully (as in, I hope we still have another 40 to 50 years left) the second half of your life. And, if your health holds up, you are finally headed towards old age, no kidding.
But some things relating to midlife are changing over time.
Not all of us are empty nesters at this stage. Some of us have babies, toddlers, tweens or teens at 50. Many of us won't meet our grandkids until we're well into our 70s, because we became first-time mothers at a later age. Others chose not to have kids, and if that was their choice, more power to them! Even though we get the AARP membership card in the mail as soon as we turn 50, some of us cannot even begin to think about retiring.
There isn't much we can do about our age, but we can face it with a kick-ass, take-no-prisoners attitude. At 50+ I have goals, dreams and a vision. I don't see that changing much at 60, 70 and beyond ... I look at my elders, both alive and gone, and they were dreamers until their last breath.
When people tell me I wear my age well, I choose to think they mean I don't look or come across as bitter and defeated, which is a waste of time and energy. Bitterness and defeat suck out your life force and erase any trace of inner or outer beauty.
So, no matter what you've gone through in life, or where you stand now, dare to wear your age well -- no matter whether you're 25 or 70, with pride, joy and especially gratitude! That alone will give you the strength to carry on, with a smile ...
[This post originally ran on Viva Fifty!]