News flash – women over fifty are not only considered invisible, we are supposed to want to be.As a designer and wearer of my own slightly outrageous fashion brand, and a proud owner of dreadlocks and tattoos (which I started getting whilst in my forties) I’m accustomed to stares and smirks, knowing full well if I were twenty or thirty years younger, my attributes would be considered appropriate, if not desirable.
But now I’m 53, women like me are supposed to “tone it down”, with our self expression limited to the occasional colourful accessory or stripe of bright toner in our hair.Those of us who decidedly fuck that shit, or who are not the slightest bit interested in looking younger, are considered courageous at best, bananas at worst.
I have no quarrel with women who get work done. More power to you, girlfriends. I’m all for doing whatever makes us feel good hauling our ass out in public these days, because god knows, it’s rough at best. At this age, the suspicion the slightest reveal of our upper arms will make planes fall from the sky is real. But I know this to be true – the most critical judge we face is ourselves, and sadly, close behind is one another.
I believe we judge and criticize on the basis that someone is getting away with something we ourselves would never give ourselves permission to do. That applies as much to cosmetic enhancements as it does to wearing a size 24 bikini. What and who we judge based on appearance tells a sad truth about us rather than any shortcoming or overdoing on the part of the other. We need to give ourselves a break first, then give our sisters a big fat one too. Let’s just be supporters of difference and self expression and leave it there.
I hate that I’m expected to slide gracefully into physical and social mediocrity in middle age. I also hate that simply being myself means standing out, and that standing out is bad. I hate that people look through me because I’m an older woman, and the alternative is judgement and scorn. I hate that at every juncture of my life, as a woman I never just get to be myself, whether it was wearing toothbrushes for earrings at high school, or high top boots printed with multicolored granny squares as a fifty plus year old. For fucks sake, when do we get to just be ourselves? When does being considered either fuckable or benign stop being a precursor for women’s social validity? I’m tempted to say we can’t win, but instead I’ll say I’m out of the running. I’m doing whatever suits me from now on. Upper arms, political ideals, dreadlocks, tattoos and all.