You Have the Power, Part 2

Getting comfy at Dakota Blues book signing: left, Jo Anne Gill

After the book signing on August 25, a half-dozen of us sat around, drinking wine and BS-ing, the best kind of sisterly gathering. The topic was looks. Specifically, what we do at our age to look good, and what constitutes “good.” The gathering happened in Indio, in the looks- and wealth-obsessed Coachella Valley, home of Palm Desert, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage, and La Quinta; those monied resort towns.

Astrid Bender, Author

We agreed we should try to feel good about how we look. But we’re trained to try to look younger. It seems every other billboard in the Valley is for body work.

Tammy Coia and Pia Rose

We all want to update our thinking, so we can feel satisfied with our looks even if we’re older, and not automatically equate looking good with looking young. My wise friend Dorys said the reason we do this is we’re in competition. I asked for what? One woman laughingly said for men but that wasn’t really true anymore  - we’re beyond that now. If the men are smart enough to see how cool we are, far out. If not, hell with it.

Joanne Hardy, left, and Dorys Forray, our hostess, right

In some cases we are competing with younger people in the business world, whether as employees or purveyors of a service or product. In that case, you want to look younger because employers equate that with a better employee. It’s a mindless prejudice , but it’s out there, and like my shrink used to say, if you’re in the game, play to win.

Melitas Forster, at 94 our blogger emeritus

But my friends and I kicked this around: if we’re not trying to get a job or something (i.e. manhunt) that benefits from looking younger, why do we hold that up as our goal? Why don’t we just try to look good for our age?

Dorys said it’s because we have a metro mindset. In the Coachella Valley, we’re competing with Los Angeles and New York. We all agreed we need to change our thinking. That’s where the strength of age comes in – we ‘re strong enough to say, “I don’t need to look young. I’m not competing.”

Kathryn Jordan, Author

One of us, Kathryn, lives on an acre of land, in a house built in 1948. She has horses and chickens, and the property borders one of these wealthy, cosmopolitan cities. Although she’s very stylish, she doesn’t try to look like she’s twenty. She said, “I don’t live in that place. I may physically live right next to it, but mentally, I don’t live there.” Kathryn lives wherever she wants, because that place is in her head. She creates that place, that world. She defines that world to her own satisfaction.

I thought that was an enlightened point of view. We can move away from that place in our head. We can live anywhere we want: the land of hyper-competition or the land of mental peace.

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Thanks to Tammy Coia, the Memoir Coach, for sponsoring this gathering. Your community of women writers is a loyal and supportive group, and I am honored to be part of it. I’m also excited to be speaking at the Women Inspiring Women Conference on January 26, 2013.

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Here’s a bonus for you from Debra Ollivier, who blogs for HuffPost 50: Five Big Misconceptions About Growing Older.

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Also, I’m rededicating myself to a passion of mine: I’m going to find good midlife (age forty and up) fiction and publicize it. I want to create a gathering place for books and readers who want to read about the experience of the second half of our lives. If you read or write one, let me know. I’ll add it to my Midlife Fiction – Book Recommendations page. I hope you’ll help me build this into a fun, lively, and awesome resource for all of us.

Comments

  1. says

    Wow, this is better than any book signing I ever did! (Then again, I was still in my forties at the time…I always semi-suspected the 50+ women were having more exciting gatherings.)
    Thanks for raising the “looking young/looking good for one’s age” conundrum–I think it’s one we all struggle with, consciously or not. I do think women tend to compete amongst ourselves, but I also believe that we have the capacity to opt out of that mindset.
    My sister wrote a brilliant piece on our blog earlier this week, titled “I’m not old–No, wait, I am,” about coming to terms with what aging means for women in our culture. I think it’s important to resist the stereotypes, to create our own community, and to stare down those who’d like to pigeonhole us because of our age. This can be a challenge in our youth-obsessed culture, but if we don’t try, I feel like we’re giving up on ourselves.
    Thanks again for an inspiring post!
    Karen

  2. says

    Lynne, so on target yet again. My newest publisher wanted me to make the 50+ protagonist in Drop Dead on Recall, my new mystery, younger because, according to “the committee,” she “doesn’t act that old.” After I stopped laughing, I pointed out that my protag is a lot like me only a few years younger than I am! And no, I couldn’t make her younger – she’s the age she’s supposed to be! Sharing your post on my FB author page. Here’s to maturity!

    • says

      Sheila, It’s like when you say your age to a new bud, and s/he says, “Wow! You don’t LOOK 58!” Because 58 CANNOT = GOOD, right? Only young can look good. Oh, your anecdote frosts me. I self-published Dakota Blues partly because I feared the story would be rejected because “nobody wants to read about old people” and my protag is 50. And I am getting a super response! Plus our monster demographic won’t always be silent, if we can just get them to speak. Won’t that be awesome, when that day arrives?

  3. says

    What a fun book signing, Lynne! Fun and interesting and eye-opening, all rolled into one! In my opinion, we all need to focus on doing the right things so we’ll stay healthy and have a “young” mindset well into old age — the kind of mindset that makes us interesting to be around, productive in our communities, and a treasure to our family and friends. The “sin” isn’t in looking young; it’s in acting old. Demanding. Critical. Boring. That, I think, is a real tragedy.

    • says

      “Interesting to be around, productive in our communities, and a treasure…” isn’t by default young, and “demanding, critical, and boring” isn’t automatically old, but we’re trained to see it that way. That’s what I’m asking people to think about.

  4. says

    I so agree that looking good shouldn’t mean looking young. I think I look good but, definitely, not young. One reason is that I take charge of my health by diet, exercise, and regular medical screenings. The benefits are that I manage Type 2 diabetes without meds, keep my weight where it should be, and reduce my risk of a heart attack or stroke.

  5. Pennie says

    Love, love, LOVE this thought process. You are so right that we are trained to think that looking good is hand in hand with looking younger! I have been guilty of this and I am going to stop thinking that way. Instead I will train myself to be happy to see the wrinkles, saging skin and age spots that I see in the mirror. I can’t change them – or won’t – and they represent the woman I truly am and the life I have lived. It will take training, but I am determined to equate looking good with feeling good and looking this age and not one gone by! Wow – just typing this has been uplifting! Thanks so much, Lynne for helping me relearn a nasty habit!

    • says

      Pennie, this is the thing that seems magical to me: a certain degree of freedom and happiness is within our grasp if we can just recognize it! Thanks for your enthusiasm – the women in the discussion I mentioned were all looking at each other like, “do you think…?” “Maybe we could…?” It was great.

  6. says

    Lynne, it’s so important to have a group of women friends and your recap made me long to be there with you all! I feel so fortunate to have many women friends- writerly and non-writerly- who make me laugh, nurture my soul and my dreams and help me to revel in my own aging process.I love your idea of focusing on stories of midlife and beyond and I will keep my eye out for books to add to your list. Carry on my friend in Lynne-fashion!

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