A few months ago, I was mentioning to a hiring manager – a CLIENT – over the phone that I would be out of the office for several days because we were celebrating my husband’s 50th birthday. He then actually had the nerve to “joke” with me that my husband was “robbing the cradle”, and when I calmly mentioned that I was 43, his first response was to say “well you’d never know!”, in one of those creepy backhanded compliments.
It’s always annoyed the fuck out of me when people create some kind of hierarchy based on how you should supposedly look at a certain age, and how so many – and all the marketers around us (even the faux-feminist magazines like Glamour) inundate us with messaging that to age is, well, a mortal sin. Even the articles claiming to PROMOTE self-acceptance have tips on “feeling younger” and telling you things like “if you smile more you’ll “stop looking old”. Hell, I just googled “embrace aging” and came upon an article that I thought, okay, this might actually be a good one because it talks about “science-backed reasons to embrace aging” and starts out with a focus on Happiness…then by the end of the infographic? It tells you ways to stay “forever young”. What the fuck.
Live longer tips? Fine. Embracing who you are? Awesome. But implying that the more wrinkles we have is a genuine tragedy or that because we are different at 40 or 60 or 80 implies that we must do whatever we can to try to look like we are 20 or that to do X, Y or Z means we are “youthful”? Again, I call bullshit.
I am 43 and turning 44 next week. While I wouldn’t mind the waistline I had at 19 or the abs I had at 24, I also wouldn’t trade where I am in my life – even with all the shit I’ve dealt with over the past few years – to be that age again. That insecure? That ignorant? That inexperienced? That poor? Awww HELL no. I have worked my ass off for everything I’ve learned and to get where I am today, and I am sick and tired of the world telling me that because I supposedly look to some like I’m in my 30s that I’ve got some kind of advantage. I don’t want to be carded at the grocery store or have a teenage boy hit on me.
Feelings are not age-exclusive. To feel “energetic” does not equate to “youth”. To “look your age” should not be deemed a compliment.
So with that, here are 5 things men and women need to fucking stop doing – NOW:
1) Stop the surprised congratulations of women for how they look after finding out their age. “You don’t look it” is not a compliment, it’s a shitty way of telling women that if they DID look whatever 32, 46, 63, 81 or whatever is ‘supposed’ to look, that they’ve picked the short straw in life. “When we behave like someone is the exception for being attractive and older, we contribute to ageist stereotypes of unattractive old people. Equating beauty with youth perpetuates a superficial definition of beauty. Also, it’s ageist, and that’s not cool.” (source)
2) Stop telling women they don’t look their age. I hear it on shows like ET and Extra! all the time as these assholes continue the negative reinforcement that for a woman to look one’s age is a very, very bad thing. The amount of makeup plastered on celebrities to make them what they call “camera ready” is quite frankly, repulsive. I was sickened to hear about all of the online trollers who railed against the women of The Talk this week for all of them going without makeup for a day and talking about it. It shows how twisted our communities and families have been in teaching girls and women that it is NOT acceptable to go out – in their words – “without putting your face on”. I thought it was tragic when 65 year old Sharon Osbourne, without her full makeup on, joked that seeing herself this way made her want more plastic surgery. So much self-hatred in our society as a result of the incredible disrespect to women that – gasp, just like men! – have the NERVE to get older. “Instead of telling a woman she doesn’t look her age, just tell her she looks good. Really good. “Wow, you’re beautiful,” is something every single person on the planet recognizes as sincere currency, and we can live off that bank of positive energy for days.” (source)
3) Stop promoting the “rule” that women should never reveal their age and stop taking offense when people ask you yours. What the hell is up with shaming women in this way, and being so ashamed of how many years you’ve survived being on this crazy planet?! Why is how old you are a private question if not because the world has told us we might be looked down upon or treated in a negative fashion if we ‘admit’ our years? “Imagine a scene: at lunch, a co-worker casually asks, ‘How long have you and your spouse been married?’ and is gently and coyly rebuked with ‘Oh, a lady never reveals that sort of information.’ The co-worker, after a baffled pause, decides to eat at the OTHER table from now on. It’s not as if asking somebody’s age is the same as, for example, asking how many sexual partners they’ve had (now THAT is an interesting question to toss out around a lunch table at work).” (source)
4) Stop telling women that wearing makeup helps them “look like themselves, only better”. I shit you not, makeup artist and faux feminist Bobbie Brown told girls in O Magazine article that makeup will “enhance” their beauty, making it clear that they are NOT okay just as they are. This bitch also tells girls that if they don’t like their noses to talk to their parents about plastic surgery and to curvier girls that they have very few role models! She goes on to say that “Makeup is a way for a woman to look and feel like herself, only prettier and more confident”. Exactly what’s wrong with our world. If you are dependent on MAKEUP to feel confident? You are not truly confident. Oh yeah, and fuck you, Bobbie Brown.
5) Stop using the term “ageless”. This is one of those backhanded compliments that’s actually an insult to women as a whole. This article in Elite Daily articulated this problem perfectly when referring to how people gush over actor Helen Mirren:
“Although breathy media photo captions are quick to call the star “ageless,” that’s certainly far from true. Just because she’s lovely and vivacious doesn’t mean she hasn’t aged. With added years come wisdom, intelligence and a thought-provoking body confidence that women in their thirties would give anything to possess. So why are we so quick to make aging a negative concept? Feminists proudly proclaim that women are worth more than just sex appeal, with complex brains and emotions that deserve equal treatment. When we call a woman “ageless,” the adjective implies she’s still relevant because she maintains a sexuality comparable to that of a younger woman.”