The Benefits of Aging

“Women of a certain age? What age is that?”

Sometimes people ask me about the subhead on this blog. Mostly it’s younger-sounding peeps responding to comments I make on The Huffington Post. I don’t answer, but I could, and here’s what I’d say:

If you have to ask, you’re too young.

As we Boomers stare into the 7x magnifying mirror, trying not to stab ourselves in the eye with the mascara wand and bemoaning the crevasses in our skin, we should remember there’s some compensation for getting old. Keep your eyes open and you’ll see them. The Senior Discount, for example, if you’re not too proud to take it. Most of the younger folks are too innocent to know the difference between a 57-year-old and a 65-year-old, so I get the discount and they don’t card me. All us old people look alike to them.

Recently at the pool, I was trying to reassure my 86-year-old Mom that nobody cares if her legs are crisscrossed with bulbous veins or her backbone is curved or she doesn’t fill out her swimsuit top anymore. None of us in my 55+ community would win any beauty contests except maybe my friend Joan. I pointed at all the adorable children and beautiful young adults visiting their elders on that sunny Saturday. “Take a look around, Mom. The only people who look really good don’t qualify to live here.” And then my big sis and I shared a snarky laugh.

Mom knows what I’m talking about. She’s still independent, but it’s getting harder. Sometimes she has to negotiate with people who are too young, too busy, or too mean to care about a 4′ 11″ woman in her mid-eighties. So Mom prepares. We rehearse before the attack. One of her strategies is to “Play the Grandma Card.” For example, she might tell a clerk, “I’m just an old woman. At the rate you’re going, I could be dead by the time you (fill in the objective).” The poor kids are shocked because they believe her, and they really snap to. You might think this is unethical but I think it’s a benefit of age. Kids play the youth/beauty card all the time. Why shouldn’t we take advantage, just like they do?

Use whatcha got.

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  1. tricia says

    Being small and having a rather silly personality, I’m used to people expressing surprise at my age (particularly when I ask for a senior discount) . While the natural , nice-girl response is to thank someone for thinking you are younger, I really have reached the age where I don’t want to thank someone for the flattery (which, let’s face it, often times is just chatter/I don’t know that they think I look that young) .

    I don’t respond nastily to the comment – but I also don’t want to act too pleased/grateful at such remarks because it suggests that youth is better, that we all strive to look young. That I need to hear that. I feel good about being older – about reaching that age where I can cop a certain attitude that comes with becoming more mature; I like that the things I seek are no longer what I needed/wanted when I was much younger. I like being seasoned/smart/a sage.

    • says

      Tricia, you’re silly like Rosa Parks was silly. Or Gloria Steinem. It’s hard to convey to people that it’s insulting to be “complimented” about not looking like what you are. It’s like agreeing with the YOUNG person that WHEW, Thank God I don’t look my age, for $%^#’s sake. ANYTHING but what I am. What in insult. How ignorant. Yet they mean well. I get discouraged when peeps my age don’t get what you’re saying. So thanks for saying it. Glad you’re here.

  2. says

    Your post, Lynne, reminds me happily again of Lear’s Magazine: women of a certain age are women who weren’t born yesterday. Just saw some photographs of my great-grandmother in 1919, hands on hips, chin high, in the swimming costume of the day that, while flouncy, long and supposedly modest, soaking wet, it’s all out there anyway. Very inspirational.

  3. says

    Oh My Gosh, Lynne, You are too funny!! I love this post and all its reminders of how keeping a good sense of humor is vital to growing old gracefully. The first time a 20-something Dunkin Donuts clerk gave me a senior discount without even asking, I was taken back. Then I thought,”Hey, I just saved 10%. I get to pocket a few cents rather than digging for more”. The “Grandma Card” is a great idea. BTW. your Mom is my heroine and role model-independent and feisty, full of that Greatest Generation spunk and pride like my own 88 yo Mom. Give her a hug for me!

    • says

      I sure will, Kathy. We just had lunch at the pool, in my 55+ community where she now lives, and as we were leaving a friend of mine came barreling over to “meet Lynne’s mom.” Funny thing is, my friend isn’t much taller than Mom, and we joked about it. I said, “See Mom? Here at Four Seasons, you’re even taller!”

  4. Betsy says

    So happy to find a blog I can relate to! I live in England and next year at 60 I’ll be able to ride the buses for free anywhere in the country. Your blog has me planning my first trip rather than feeling depressed at turning 60. Thank you.

  5. says

    Sometimes it is GOOD not to be seen as a sexual being. It means you can go to the grocery store without having to spend a lot of time fussing with hair and makeup too! As for invisible, I would like to share a poem, if I may, that I wrote several years ago.


    Is this how invisible feels?
    Walk down the street

    faces turn away
    blank eyes in blank faces
    make me so small
    i could fit through
    the eye of a needle.

    Invisible is painful
    needle-pricks in skin.

    Sometimes eyes do register:

    Not my fault,
    my eyes say in return, then
    cast down to count
    cracks in the sidewalk
    looking like wrinkles in old skin

    Sounds of metal on metal
    grind in my ears, careless collision
    mind on other things
    fearful that age does this
    am i smaller today
    than i was yesterday?

    Am i more invisible today?
    Each day smaller and
    smaller until one day
    i just disappear

    only a crooked smile
    like that cheshire cat

    more and more absent-minded
    until there is no mind at all?


    Carol A Stephen
    April 16, 2007

    This poem won an Honourable Mention and publication in Arborealis,
    an Ontario Poetry Society anthology, 2008

    • says

      Thanks for sharing the poem, Carol. It is rich and poignant. The award is well-deserved.

      I agree about the relief when you feel an absence of sexual pressure. I’m okay looking and basically shy, and when I was younger I felt like a piece of meat. Now I’m free of that. To me it’s a good thing. Obama recently said of his graying hair and wrinkles, “Michelle still thinks I’m cute.” And that’s how I feel too. Bill still thinks I’m cute and I don’t care about anybody else.

  6. says

    So, I was not going to leave a comment on this out of…..I don’t know, self-consciousness? But then I figured what the heck.

    I’m 44. For a crazy amount of time (decades), I’ve been preoccupied with the idea of women not being seen as sexual beings after…whatever age. A few years ago, the idea of a tee-shirt that says “A woman of a certain age” popped into my head. I’m not a real activist type, but, obviously, this is a “statement” tee-shirt. I set up a Cafe Press online store, and a little blog. I thought the idea was so great that all I’d have to do was tell people, and the shirts would sweep the nation.

    Yeah, that didn’t quite happen. I’ve since talked to a bunch of people with experience with these things and have been told that one of the things I need to do is “start a conversation” about the whole idea, get people involved. Have not yet done that, as if I’m going to get more serious about this, I have to get out of Cafe Press and find a better way to sell the shirts. Also have to find out how, or hire someone, to get traffic to me.

    Anyway, all this NOT to plug my still fledgling site, but to say that I figured the “conversation” had to in part be about how old is a woman of a certain age. Though, really that is just a starter and not even quite the point.

    When I read your post, however, it struck me as true. If you have to ask, you are too young. I am very aware that though I am not officially young anymore, and it shows, I am still… to put it? I’m still just barely passing as viable in these terms, on borrowed time. I know I have not become “invisible” to the masses quite yet, and that when I realize I have, that will be a new world.

    Inevitably, my feelings and views on all of this will change. But I do think these limitations affect women of all ages — in very different ways, of course — and we cannot know things that we have not yet experienced. But I think that for many young women, the knowledge of a sort of expiration date coming sometime in a foggy future, haunts them.

    This is getting very long, but I can’t end before I make it clear both that I do not think that this is all a bad thing — it propels people to find REAL meaning and purpose in their lives — and also that I think some of idea that women are not sexy after whenever is a fallacy.

    • says

      Oh, Nomi, I hope you don’t feel excluded from our conversations because you are only 44. My daughter Donna is 40 and I’ve told her she’s of a certain age, and to please feel welcome. I remember the challenges of all my ages, and none of them were/are easy.

      Traditionally, “women of a certain age” was code for “older women”. What is “older”? Not sure. But a 44-year-old is certainly on the cusp of life-changing upheaval. If we older peeps can reach back with reassurance along your journey, we surely will.

      As to your tee shirts, the phrase “woman of a certain age” on a baby is funny and ironic, because it asks the question, “what age is that, dude?” It’s kind of in-your-face and I like it. But if you put it on a woman who is middle-aged or older, it says less, because it’s like identifying what already is. Like a woman wearing a shirt that says “woman.” If you maybe made it into a sentence that was more catchy with lots of different endings, that might sell more. Example: “A Woman of a Certain Age Jumps Out of Planes.” (see my last post with Nanci skydiving.) Or, “…Likes to Take a Little Walk.” (with a pic of a woman atop Mt. Everest). Or, “…Enjoys a Refreshing Swim” (with a pic of Diana Nyad swimming to Cuba – or trying to, anyway.) I like the look of your website. Best wishes with your biz.

  7. says

    Great post – I love the comment about the magnifying mirror – that was my (requested) birthday present on my 50th birthday. I got tired of poking myself in the eye and putting more mascara on my eyelids than eyelashes!

  8. Corinne says

    By the way, love the windmill pictures on the top of this page. I just moved back to my native state of North Dakota, and to me there’s nothing more beautiful than the waving wheat and the wonderful (and nearly gone) windmills.

    • says

      Corinne, I took that picture in ND! Mom and I had just left Dickinson (her home town) in June of 2008. We on the 85 heading south just past Belfield (off the 94). My extended family is mostly in Dickinson, but also Williston, Bismarck, Richardton and Grand Forks. Thanks for mentioning that you’re a native NDakotan. What city, if I may ask?

      • Corinne says

        I was born and raised in Crosby (way way way up in the NW corner), and left at the wise old age of 17, saying I would NEVER come back to ND. And now I’m nearly 60 and extremely happy to be back. I live in Bismarck, and although I’m not looking forward to a ND winter, I love being back with family and friends.

  9. Corinne says

    I’m proud to be a “Woman of a Certain Age”! Your post today reminded me of a funny incident when my daughter, who has always looked about 10-15 years younger than she really is, was about 18. We were at a banquet, and they brought her the childrens meal. She was irate and extremely offended! The next day, we went to a restaurant and she was picking up the tab, and started laughing when she got the bill, because she said “Now we’re even….they gave you the senior citizens discount (I was about 50 but have had gray hair for years). I will happily take the discount! I have worked in long term care and senior housing for 30 years, and the wisdom of our elders is invaluable and a true gift and blessing.

  10. says

    Well…when you put it that way, Lynne! This was my morning chuckle! I agree about the seniors’ discount, which in a few months I will FULLY qualify for. Right now, if they accept “over 60” I qualify but a lot want 65. Never actually been carded. When I go places with my friend, Lili, I get her to buy the tickets, but sometimes I just boldly say Senior, please. I love your mother’s humour too. Found myself, for the first time, seeing a more positive benefit to this aging thing. Mind, for a long time, I didn’t FEEL old, so I just ignored it. Only lately have I focused on which end of the hour glass is fuller…Carol

  11. says

    Loved hearing about your mom playing the Grandma Card!! I can tell she’s got a great sense of humor, something that will help her as she eases into the next stage of life. She’s a wise woman to prepare now — most are in complete denial and when it hits, they’re shocked to the core.


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