My 60-year-old aunt said, as she took my teenage hands in hers, “Look at her hands.” I looked down at my hands, then at hers. Her hands were covered in age spots. They were dry, and dehydrated-looking and the skin looked thin, like it was stretched too tightly over her veins. I had the young, firm, dewy hands of youth and it never dawned on me that someday, I too, would have age spots and dry, crepey skin.
Aging creeps up on us all. At 35 I remember hearing my doctor refer to my skin as “aging” and it was quite a shock to me. I had one or two very fine lines under my eyes, but other than that, I didn’t think my skin looked much different than it did the 5 years previous. Fast-forward a few years and I really notice a difference and not just in my skin.
After a certain age, Hollywood stops casting, their A-list, actresses for leading roles, based on their perceived desirability quotient and demotes them to rolls such as mother, auntie, scientist or boss. Yet, at 55 and 56, Tom Cruise and George Clooney are still rocking the silver screen as heart throbs, alongside their romantic interests, who are in their 20’s or early 30’s. Hell, people were still talking about Sean Connery’s sex appeal well into his 70’s.
Although we feel more self-assured as we age, more financially independent, more knowledgeable and certainly wiser, there is a definite perception, in our society, that our value is on the decline. Our culture bases a woman’s worth primarily on her beauty and sexuality.
I remember reading an interview that was done with aboriginal tribes in Brazil, who had little to no contact with the outside world. When they were told that we ship our elderly off to nursing homes to live out the rest of their days, apart from family, they were shocked and indicated that they thought our society was backwards. They revere their elders. They hold them in the highest regard and their importance to the tribe is immeasurable.
It should be the goal of all progressive societies that we become more tolerant and more accepting of each other’s differences. That goes for race, gender, socio-economic status, sexual preference, culture, religion and age.
It really is time for a culture shift on getting older. Humans are living, on average, about 30-40 years longer than their not so distant relatives. With advances in science, nutrition and medicine, the average woman is living until the age of 81 and the average man until 76. So why is it that we live in a society that dictates that your value as a person is greatly diminished after 40?
What that means is that for only the first half of her life, a woman is considered desirable and worthy of attention. But with 50% of marriages ending in divorce in North America, that’s leaving a lot of women single during the middle and end parts of their lives.
To compound the issue, our culture teaches us that a middle-aged man is in his prime and that his experience and financial stability makes him an ideal catch to much younger women. When we see couples like Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart, we think nothing of the 22-year age difference, but when you have a May-December marriage with an older woman and much younger man, there is a part of us that believes, deep down, that it isn’t going to last, hence Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore and we feel justified thinking that, like it’s against the laws of nature.
So what are we to do, then, if we find ourselves alone in middle age?
Do we give up, stay at home and eat chocolate, while watching other people live life on TV? Do we live solely for our children? Do we shrivel up and die? Do we allow ourselves to become invisible? Do we give up on love, sex and romance?
A large portion of my clientele believe that if they leave their abusive partners their lives will be reduced to just that. They think that no one else will want them, that their looks are declining rapidly, so their options are either: Stay where they are and be miserable with someone, or be alone and be more miserable by themselves. One of the toughest parts of my job is changing that perception and that being alone is a lot better than being in a toxic relationship.
Many of us who come from abusive homes don’t figure our stuff out until our 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, or 60’s…. and when we find ourselves finally ready to experience a healthy relationship, we are limited by cultural standards and stereotypes surrounding our age.
Combating Cultural Ageism and Dating in Mid Life.
The first step in changing a culture is to walk the walk of your belief. Own your gifts, your beauty and your power. Reclaim your sexuality and stand defiantly opposed to those who try to pass judgement. Here’s a few other suggestions to consider on your road to finding love again:
- Define what happy means to you and do what makes you happy.
- Look at this part of your life as a new chapter and this new chapter is all about you.
- As we get older we need to take extra care of ourselves. That means eating healthy and exercising more, making sure we get enough sleep and keeping our lives as drama/stress free as possible.
- Take pride in your appearance. Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you have to look like someone’s grandmother. Go to the hairdresser, get that facial, buy that new outfit. If it feels good to you, do it.
- Accept yourself warts and all and know that perfection doesn’t exist. Beauty is a state of mind. If you want to grow old gracefully that’s awesome, if you want a little assistance that’s ok too. Go ahead and get that chemical peel, eye lift or laser resurfacing. You don’t have to please anyone but yourself and if this pleases you, then that’s your business.
- You have lived 40+ years and have acquired 40+ years of wisdom, experience and know-how. There is so much more value in that than in a 17 year old’s bold, new, blue hair color choice. We need to start seeing the truth in that.
- Get out there and live. Stay healthy. Keep your lungs and muscles in good working order, go hiking, skiing, surfing, zip-lining. Who says that’s just for young people – if it’s fun and you want to do it – that’s your prerogative. Don’t you dare let your age stop you from doing something you’ve always wanted to do.
- Enjoy the fruits of your labor – travel, see the world, experience new cultures, cuisine and scenery.
- Go out on dates. There are lots of online dating sites that cater to older people. Get out there and meet people and have fun. You don’t have to give up on the idea of romance. Be your charming, witty self, flirt if you want to. Who says you can’t enjoy your sexuality?
- Don’t act your age. Who decides that a 50 year old can or can’t do something? If you want to do it and you can, then do it. A bonus to being older is that the opinions of other people mean a whole lot less. Please yourself first and be an inspiration to others who fear being age shamed.
Life is about breaking down stereotypes, battling cultural beliefs and pushing the envelope. Movements and shifts in perception don’t just happen by themselves. Be a warrior for change and start by shifting your perception on who you should be and how you should live your life. The model in this cover shot is 60 year old Yazmina Rossi. She caused a stir this year when she was hired by The Dreslyn and the lingerie brand Land of Women. I guess someone forgot to tell her at 60 that she shouldn’t be this sexy.