Make Your Voice Heard
The Art of Aging Weirdly
Aging with grace is all about settling in to who you are. Even if that's someone who's a little odd.
While taking in the sun on the front patio at the neighborhood café with several girlfriends, the discussion turned to how long it took to finally feel comfortable in our own skin. With the group of us all past the half-century mark, we each shared our personal stories of finding our way. And we laughed at the realization that our acceptance of ourselves happened only recently for the whole lot of us.
Which brought us to the follow-up discussion: if given the chance for a do-over, which decade of our lives would we most like to revisit? Not surprisingly, none of us wished to revisit our twenties. But perhaps a bit surprising was the fact that not one woman in this gathering chose to relive her thirties. Instead, every single woman at the table chose the last decade for reliving life.
Age 40. Because it takes 40 damn years to finally understand who we have become and accept who we are. No longer caring what it takes to fit in, and unconcerned if others might find us a little… weird. But, even as women on the north-end of 50, we still sometimes need to remind ourselves that it’s OK being who we are.
One woman who has done just that is actress Mayim Bialik, whose resume includes the TV sitcoms Blossom and The Big Bang Theory. She is also known for her quirky style choices, and was actually coaxed into appearing on an episode of the popular makeover show, What Not to Wear. While she was a good sport about the whole thing, she doesn’t shy away from admitting that her lifestyle doesn’t fit the Hollywood norm. She’s quoted as saying, “I like Army boots, I like peasant skirts — sometimes together! So I do know that I have odd taste.” In a recent episode of her new sitcom, Call me Kat, she acknowledges the hypocrisy of her stint on the reality makeover show, with a scene of her interviewing random women on the street, asking them if they are comfortable in their current attire. With their confirmation that they are, she congratulates them for embracing their own style, and makes no attempt to change them.
As I look around the table to my friends, I see that although we are all wonderfully different, we have similar stories. One shares this memory… “I must have been in my mid-thirties, and my husband and I went out to a glamorous affair with friends. It was the holiday season, and I had on a black jacket, a short black skirt, and a glittery blouse. Halfway into the evening, one of the women asked me if I thought adding the shimmering top made me feel sexy. She then laughed and told me that my entire wardrobe was matronly, and I was in dire need of a makeover. Another friend laughed along with her, and they proceeded to joke about conducting a fashion intervention on me. Until that very moment, I was feeling pretty, and I was crushed that my friends didn’t think I was good enough. My wish in life would be to go back in time and pick myself up at that moment… and kick the asses of those other women.” She then laughs, and we toast our coffee cups in declaration of peace and acceptance.
So, with help from the self-assurance of 50 years and a rearview mirror, here are four random bits of wisdom we can all remind ourselves to follow:
Celebrate your inner-weird – Part theater geek, part tomboy — I knew I wasn’t your average kid way back then. I just didn’t know that I could embrace my quirky inner-weird. Remember that oddly talented girl in school who didn’t care what people thought? Be her.
Relax – If only someone had taken me aside when I was a mere twentysomething and told me to relax — that I was only halfway to becoming my whole self. While teens envision 30-year-olds as being grownups, the truth is, at 50+ I’m still looking forward to reaching grownup status.
Take that summer job at Yellowstone – or that ski patrol job, or the volunteer position at the local animal shelter. You get the point — find something or someone who can use a little help, and can benefit from your skills and know-how. You may think that you have your entire life to do the quirky things you’ve been meaning to do, but life is about twists and turns, and it’s so easy to find yourself saying, “I wish…” Don’t be that person.
Make your own mistakes – O Magazine once featured the following tip for succeeding in life – “Learn from the mistakes made by others.” I could not disagree more, for I have never learned from watching others make mistakes. In fact, if you’re not making your own mistakes, you’re not living. Legendary actress Tallulah Bankhead had it right with her wisdom that mistakes should be made often and earlier. Don’t spend your life on the sidelines watching others have all the fun — get in the game, even if it means making mistakes. Hell, I don’t even care if you make some of them twice.
The advice I would give all women and girls? Celebrate your inner-weird and enjoy the ride!