Are you the epitome of the sizzling ageless boomer babe that women envy or try to emulate? Do you work hard to stay in shape, look hot in your skinny jeans and project an “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar” image in your leather biker jacket? When you walk into a room of your peers, do they glare at your hotness with obvious resentment that clearly says “Who do YOU think YOU are?” Yeah, it’s tough being a gorgeous older woman, isn’t it? Because you work so hard to keep the heat turned up, you think the sizzle is going to last forever, don’t you?
I have a few hot flashes for you.
Right now you may consider yourself “hot” and undoubtedly you are, but be aware that once you get to retirement age, through no fault of your own, your hotness will slowly dissipate and you will become “retirement cute” especially if you do, say, or believe something different than what’s expected of you “at your age.”
Once you become “retirement cute” you are good for giggles. For example, if you are single and make it known you’d like to have a guy in your life, that is soooo unbelievably cute. (Aren’t the cute old gals looking for romance a riot? Those over the hill libidinous lizzies (wink wink) are too cute for words.)
If by a stroke of good fortune you already have a hunky guy (giggle giggle) and he’s significantly younger than you, OMG! A boy toy! That is really cute! (Let’s drink to that! Aren’t we thrilled for that cute old gal?)
What’s super cute is if you are seen walking hand-in-hand with a lucky duck who obviously thinks you are hotter than a 10-alarm fire. That is so adorable and so doggone cute. Especially if you are wearing your skinny jeans and leather biker jacket (snicker, snicker).
Alas, there is something just as annoying as being “cute”: It’s being called “wonderful” for your age.
I can’t count the number of times I have been told, “You are soooo wonderful for your age.” I admit to being “wonderful” but my age has nothing to do with my wonderful-ness. And no, I am not “cute”; I am drop dead gorgeous in my skinny jeans and leather biker jacket. Well, okay, maybe I’m not really drop dead gorgeous but listen — you are what you say you are, and because I’m so wonderful for my age, I say any damn thing I want. And besides, it’s so cute.
How does it happen that it’s okay to demean mature women with backhanded compliments that, even though well intended, are offensive? It happens for many reasons; the most obvious being acceptance of entrenched stereotypical cultural attitudes reflected, for example, in Betty White’s (cancelled, thankfully) abominable “Off Their Rockers” TV show that celebrated old pranksters engaged in supposedly funny but demeaning activities to demonstrate how wonderful (and cute) they were for their age.
Regarding the “Off Their Rockers” fiasco, my friend Mary Lloyd has cogently pointed out, “No one would dream of making a series based on racist jokes or even “dumb blonde” or other sexist jokes. Why is this ageist garbage deemed acceptable?”
The ageist garbage is deemed acceptable because our base culture doesn’t care how objectionable it is, and not only ignorantly accepts it but celebrates and promotes it.
Unfortunately, most older women timidly recoil from confronting it. The feminist movement has done little to combat it. There is no organized rebellion and frankly, I don’t see a rebellion happening because stereotypes and entrenched outdated traditions die hard and truth be told, old people themselves too often invite and propagate disrespect by engaging in traditional debasing stereotypical behaviors and thinking. I’m referring specifically to demeaning “old people jokes” that old people (and not-so-old people) tell each other. Then there is acceptance by old people that it’s cute to call themselves “Old Geezers” “Old Farts” or worse. It’s not cute; it’s disgusting and perpetuates myths about the competence and value of old people.
We have been brainwashed to accept “realities” about advanced age that are as out of date as the horse and buggy as the preferred mode of transportation.
Every older woman in her own way deals with cultural norms that call the shots about what is and is not acceptable thinking and behavior for “old” people. My way of dealing with it is to declare I am 50 forever. Am I being “cute”? Who cares. Ignoring age-related cultural norms and outdated thinking works for me. Try it, you will like it.
Ann Herzer says
I’m really behind in reading my emails; read part and will need to come back tomorrow. Great stuff, as usual. Thanks. Ann H
Ginnie Siena Bivona says
Yes! Dammit. I am so not interested in being “cute” although it happens all the time! I get called “Young Lady” a lot, like I should be flattered by that. I’m not…I am annoyed! I love and enjoy being older…and I’m proud of it too. Worked hard to get here. And I want to represent my generation as happy, active, creative and accomplished. So I tell everyone who asks (and a lot who don’t) exactly how old I am, 86, so that they can see what their future may be like. The only way I disabuse the “old” myths is by showing them the truth. Oh..and I love your book, so does my 57 year old daughter!! You’ve nailed it!
Barbara Morris says
Ginnie, you are so DAMNED cute! Thanks for the feedback!
Linda J. Brown says
That is a brilliant article, Barbara, and it outlines a mindset that I hadn’t even realized or figured out yet. I can’t decide whether I’m playing into it, or not. For all my decades, priorly, I have ignored my age and hardly ever celebrated my birthdays. Even when I was in the States, I was often not living near family and no one knew when my birthday was. I didn’t hide my aging. just didn’t pay much attention.
But now, I’m fascinated by the Big 80…. and that’s not unusual in the population, as so many grown children flock around a parent turning 80, as much as the Big 50 wedding anniversary. My son-in-law flew to Ireland to his Dad’s 80th. I’m not expecting any family to flock around the African Lake Victoria where I hope be on mine….simply to claim the title “Victorious!” Consequently, I’m often letting my present age slip to fellow-hostellers, just to watch their eyebrows rise. And of course, for the subtle reassurance that I don’t look that age or the eyebrows wouldn’t be doing that. Years ago, I remember hearing a man tell everyone, proudly, that he was 90….. and I’d think “Oh, please, don’t go bragging about it!” But now, I know what was behind it: his own personal amazement and pride/thrill that he was still walking about, unaided.
I honestly believe that I am poking fun at Old Age and in order to do that, the witness has to know the score.
All of these analyses are good to add to the conversation. Cute is a good word for it. Why in the world, NOW, am I suddenly attracted to “Bling” on shirts and jackets? I never was before? Are we gravitating to younger styles, simply because we like the way we look in them, or because we feel younger than we did when we were harassed with child-raising and husband-pleasing? And now, we’re free to cut loose? And laugh at being a 30-year-old in a 70+ year-old body?
During my brief stay in the Canary Islands, I have met, (through a Canadian 65-year-old expat, married to a local), some very ingrown customs of her-island sister-in-law and girlfriends, who have hung together since grade school; meeting almost every day at the same sidewalk café at 11 am, for coffee. Maybe ten best friends (non-working women) have done this most of their lives. They are old ladies now, but still feel like schoolgirls when they gather. My friend said that they all went through a decade of rough times together as their husbands retired and stayed underfoot all day, messing with The Girls’ routine schedules. They were so angry that one of them told her bored and needy husband to “Go Take A Shit And Sit In It!” as she proudly reported that morning in the coffee mates.
Barbara Morris says
Linda, thanks for the feedback. You are such an inspiration. Keep on keeping on!!!!!