Staying visible After 50, 60 70, 80…
Several years ago, while out shopping with a close friend, we had a somewhat disturbing conversation. This friend is about 18 months older than I and, at the time, had just turned 60. As we were rummaging through the racks at one of our local department stores, she impatiently rejected one fashionable item after another and then bitterly proclaimed, “I can’t wear these – they’re too young for me. Besides, men don’t look at women our age anymore.”
I was quite taken aback. She has always been gorgeous. She has classic features, crystalline blue eyes and fine, lovely skin. I always envied her looks. But there was clearly something else in her attitude at play here, something that reinforced her beliefs. And, I think, she sent that message out into the Universe.
I suspected that my sorrowful friend was feeling disheartened because for most of her life she had relied a great deal on her extraordinary looks. Now that she saw the natural changes in her face, body and hair, which in my mind didn’t diminish her beauty one whit, she felt she no longer had anything desirable to offer the opposite sex.
Or maybe she just bought into the cultural fiction about older women. Many of us did. Until fairly recently it was a common for women to become invisible after 50. We didn’t see ourselves reflected positively in the world of fashion, the arts and society in general.
Of course, all that has changed suddenly and dramatically, likely because some geniuses in marketing finally got the memo: we are a huge demographic.
Now we see gray haired glamorous women on magazine covers. We see them on fashion runways. We see them as role models. But it’s not just the highly visible icons of fashion and celebrity that are making a mark for our age group.
We have all been given permission to show up – and in a big way: to wear our hair gray, white, streaked, or bleached, loose, long and romantic or short and spiky. We also have permission to keep wearing jeans and leather, high heels and sneakers. In other words, we are allowed to be what we have always been – ourselves. It’s refreshing, and we hope it’s not just a fad.
And as for my beautiful friend? I felt I owed it to her – and myself – to put to rest her idea that men don’t make passes at girls who… are over 55. And frankly, I had not found that not to be the case in my own life. I knew that it has much more to do with how you feel about yourself and what you project out into the world. So I decided to test my theory and found a perfect opportunity to do so.
On a day when I was particularly busy, I dashed out of the house in my jeans, slip-on sneakers and an old, slightly loose cashmere sweater, with almost no makeup. While racing from the bank to the post office, I caught a glimpse of myself in the window of a store. I appeared harried, tired… and old.
I literally stopped in my tracks, took a deep breath – literally a nice deep, yoga-like breath – to calm myself – and began to walk, at a more reasonable pace. Frantic and tired don’t say “attractive.”
Then I lifted my sternum a little, elevating my entire upper body and shoulders while taking pressure off my tummy. I didn’t throw my shoulders back military style, which can come off as either aggressive or unnatural.
This slight move, I remembered from many years ago in my dance and bodywork training, allows your lungs and internal organs to take up some space – a nice metaphor for what I was trying to accomplish.
And I lifted the corners of my mouth only slightly – not into a smile, but enough to feed back to mind the fact that I was actually enjoying myself. And then I continued walking to my next destination purposefully… when I began to notice being noticed.
The first was a rather dapper gent about half a block up the street who was walking in my direction. Although I intentionally avoided direct eye direct I clearly felt his attention on me the entire time we approached each other, and slight “buzz” as he passed by. I continued up the street.
The next was a younger man (ahem…) who actually turned his head to watch me as he was crossing the street. Still looking straight ahead I moved my eyes sideways to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. I wasn’t. And then, a group of people, men and women sitting at an outside café paused their conversation as I passed by.
Keep in mind that I was not “dressed for success,” nor was I wearing anything outrageous in color or very revealing and I did not have spinach in my teeth. From my side there was no direct smiling or head nodding or wiggling of body parts. I simply changed my posture, my gait and my attitude. I reminded myself how deeply fortunate I was to be alive and ambulatory and what a beautiful day it was.
I wanted to tell all this to my beautiful friend, but she is going through a personal crisis now, as her husband is recovering from surgery. She’s not too much up for tips on how to look more desirable. But I hope she gets the message somehow.
Just imagine the kind of attention that gorgeous creature could get by just breathing, unfolding her body and being grateful for what she does have. It might make her – and her husband – feel better about being simply being alive.
Originally Featured on Sixtyandme.com