It’s interesting, sad, and ridiculous how we age. For many of us, it seems to come on suddenly after years of denial, face creams, and mirror avoidance. For me, it came early, with a shocking amount of white in my long tresses–oh, and facial hair that sprouted, starting out as tiny white filaments, hard to even see—that then turned black overnight. It’s as if I were suddenly advancing in time at an accelerated rate.
I am blessed with what other women call “good skin.” When others of my generation became sun worshippers, I stayed in and read books. I had had a terrible sunburn once, an all day at the beach experience–the thought of roasting skin was something I never wanted to repeat. Drinking? Don’t really like the taste of alcohol. Smoking, definitely not. The big “wrinklers” of my generation weren’t part of my equation of aging skin. The wrinklers of sadness and time, however, are very much there. I choose to see these wrinkles as a sign of character.
But now, it’s come to this: With all the shockingly white hair in the front, I’ve had to have “that” haircut, the short haircuts that Old Ladies have. The bun or updo I used to favor, the occasional ponytail? Far, far and away too desperate looking. Dyes were going to destroy the hair, my last vanity, as it was becoming the increasingly fragile old-lady hair, fortunately still thick. I made the decision to age gracefully.
And if women of position and authority do not age gracefully, I reasoned, what woman can? Around me, the very few other women in authority in the technical innovation fields either go “full male” or “full ingenue.” Some women in tech dye their hair, but don’t wear makeup. In attire, these women tend to go the unisex route –often, the “Oxford shirt and khakis” uniform we all used to favor back in the 80s. Other women go blonde (which hides the grey a bit better). Some wear makeup caked on and dress like interns, tight skirts and high teetering heels. But we cannot escape the laugh lines, the bags under our eyes, the softening of the jaw line (not without surgery).
And so, the face in the mirror is one I barely recognize now. The white hair, after five years of it, is still surprising. The laugh lines make my face interesting, but not ugly. I can see in my face– the faces of ancestors, my mother, even my mother-in-law (whom I loved dearly)–and all the other people gone. It has been an adjustment. But when I look in the eyes of the young women in the workplace, and see the smiles and the relief when I make my appearance, I know that the presence of an older, competent, gentle-but-take-charge presence reassures them (and the men too). They need that reassurance.
An aspirational peer is a term for the “accomplished” role model — people whom we would love to befriend in real life whom we only know through media or from some other distance. Someone like ourselves in age and stage and general outline–who shows us the way to become. They might be characters in a sit-com, a play, a sports figure–they are folks with whom we identify. Women need those reference points — indeed, we all do–but those seeking to make a change in the world—and in themselves–need to know it’s possible. That’s important.
My birthday is around the corner. Here we go. I have to evolve my style, refashion my persona, and adjust. I am grateful for all the blogs I read written by women over 60. For my birthday, which is in a couple of weeks, I plan to write about their blogs and peer into the crystal ball of my future–to thank them for writing, for occupying the space, for being here. Growing older, we need aspirational peers as much as when we are in our teens. Or twenties. Or even our forties. Finding those people through blogging is kind of wonderful.
Hilariously, I forgot to link this post to the WordPress Daily Prompt for the word: Wrinkle. Ah. Getting old.
More soon ~Lola