Do Women Deny Their Age or Compete With Daughters?


Barbara Morris

A reader commented on my article about middle-age “mean girls” behavior in the October issue of my newsletter. I responded briefly to the comment but wouldn’t you know – I have lots more to say about it. 

The comment: 

Great advice! As one who is in her forties I avoid the middle-aged gripe club and referencing my age all time. But I have a question. Maybe the answer is in your e-book, but what do you say to people who claim that doing what you prescribe is denying their age? And what do you think about women who say having a youthful vibe, particularly in dress is “trying to compete with your daughter?” 

Let me be clear: I do not “prescribe” denial about your age or that you are aging. I “prescribe” defiance. While it’s foolish to deny reality, it’s smart to defy avoidable decline that may make you appear older than you are. For sure, much decline associated with advanced age is avoidable; it’s nothing more than failure to make an effort to keep what you have. 

That said, it’s not always easy to defy decline because as the years go on, our human nature prefers ease over effort and the leisure oriented senior culture mindset and lifestyle do not make it any easier. So, what to do? Recognize what you are up against and defiantly be a pit bull in the battle against avoidable decline. 

An example of an act of pit bull defiance is starting an exercise routine while you still have the strength and capacity to bend and stretch, and sticking with it year in and year out. Continuity of effort begun early in the aging process produces amazing results needed most in the older years. If you can make that happen, you definitely will appear younger than your chronological age and the envious may hiss that you are trying to deny you are aging. So what? 

Trying to Compete With Your Daughter?  

As for the charge you are “trying to compete with your daughter” – many older women DO look as good as their daughters, and can wear their daughters’ clothes and look great in them, but I don’t think a woman whose head is on straight tries to compete with her daughter. 

When a woman implies another woman is trying to compete with her daughter, what’s really going on? Is it nastiness or perhaps just a well-meaning suggestion that an “on trend” garment worn by a young woman may look silly on an older woman? For example, a super short dress that seems to be made of barely a yard of fabric may look cute on a slim, trim 18-yar-old, but on a 50-year-old woman (sans pantyhose) with cellulite and spider veins? I think most (not all!) women know the difference between a “youthful vibe” and looking ridiculous. But clothing is just part of the picture. What really projects vibrancy is self-confidence that unfortunately, is often misinterpreted as trying to appear younger than you are. 

Classy Casual by Sandy Dumont, The Image Architect

If you are in doubt about what’s in good taste, I highly recommend Sandy Dumont’s new ebook, Classy Casual: How to Wow Everyone When You’re Dressed Down. It’s a fast read that will keep you up to speed on the do’s and don’t’s of dressing appropriately. It’s filled with photos to help you make fashion decisions that will benefit you.

An aside: 

Seeing women of all ages who seem blissfully unaware (or care?) that the view of their front or back landscape may change dramatically when sitting or bending even ten degrees, I am often tempted to utter a childhood taunt when I see such trendy fashionistas: 

“I see London, I see France, I can see your underpants” 

Perhaps you are not old enough to have heard that expression but as a first grade six year old (waaaay back when) I heard it a lot. A cute classmate’s parents owned a clothing shop for young children and Jacqueline always looked picture perfect in her short short flouncy Shirley Temple dresses, a sight that motivated gleeful little boys to let her know (to her horror) they could see her picture perfect lace-trimmed underwear. Never seen a Shirley Temple dress? If you have watched teen idol Selena Gomez energetically bounce up and down around the stage in her short short flouncy dress (to the delight of panting pre and post-pubescent boys), you have the picture. 

I don’t know why I remember Jacqueline so clearly. Maybe it’s because I was so envious of her long black Shirley Temple curls and even more envious of her lace trimmed anklets and shiny black patent leather Mary Jane shoes. I never had a pair. I usually had to wear what my sister Margie outgrew and she never had Mary Jane shoes either. (I still feel the sting of deprivation and thank you for feeling my pain.) 

End of aside. J 

You have to live with YOU the rest of your life, not with those with nothing better to do than conjecture about your age, your appearance, or that you are trying to give the impression you are younger than you are. Ignore the harpies. As for remarks about trying to compete with your daughter, you have lived long enough to know how to dress and look fabulous, not foolish. 

Bottom line: Your goal should be achievement of healthy, independent, DEFIANT agelessness, with a focus on learning, growing and staying productive. In the end, reaching THAT goal is what matters so do what it takes to make it happen.



  1. I love your use of the term “defiance”  with respect to accepting your age and not giving in to it. Perfect!

  2. Hi Barbara, as you know I am a huge champion of your approach to the “age” issue, and since adopting your approach of unhooking myself from what is simply a number I have felt like a totally different woman. Perhaps what your other reader is confused about is that this is an effortless process, in other words one is not strenuously denying one’s age, or even worse behaving in a way that is harmful to oneself or others by age-denying, rather it is simply a process (for me anyway) of not really thinking about my age at all and just enjoy being myself in the present moment. This doesn’t mean not having thoughts or memories about the past or planning for the future of course, I treasure my past for making me who I am today and look forward to my future with excitement, but the key is to live in the present moment, forget what other people think (I mean, who cares? What other people think tells you about them, not about you)……and above all stop calibrating everything you do in terms of whether it’s appropriate for 45, 55, 65 etc…think about what you can do, not what you can’t do! This is totally different to age-denying and I think it probably gets easier to do as you get older and gain a little more life experience, however for my money this idea of re-defining the whole way we think about ageing is amazingly life-changing, liberating and really quite effortless…with the side benefit that feeling ageless somehow really does make you ageless.

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