Growing old while female

Aside from being a little bit wiser and having to admit that I have an informed opinion about washing machines, I don’t really feel much different to the 25 year old version of myself that I once was. I often think I have a bizarre mental condition where I look in the mirror and fail to see the fact that I have clearly grown older (age-o-rexia?) My mind erases the wrinkles and grey hairs, kindly photoshopping out the ageing process and helping me to pretend that the inevitable isn’t happening.  I’ll never forget my 75 year old Grandma looking me in the eye and telling me: “I don’t feel a day over 25 my dear. I often look in the mirror and wonder who on earth that old lady staring back at me can be” – a sentiment I am slowly beginning to understand.

Despite my inability to see it, I am clearly ageing however. The big 40 is looming and I can see the unwanted and mysterious figure of my future menopause waving at me from the horizon. In these times of extended adolescence, you can kid yourself that you’re still young at 30, but by the time you start to approach the next big birthday you really have to admit that you are definitely a grown up now. The fact that I am also responsible for two whole other people and seen as some kind of authority figure only adds to this ridiculous notion. Yes, I am definitely getting older.

We all know that old age is not kind, but it is particularly cruel to women. Not only do I have to contend with some sort of weird second puberty type thing that will do unpredictable things to my body and mind (hormones and me really do not mix!) but I am also starting to have to confront the idea that soon I will become invisible. Society does not care about middle-aged women who are no longer attractive to men and the thought is terrifying.

When I was younger I bought into the idea that a woman’s sexuality was her power. I realised that I could hold men in my thrall, picking and choosing lovers in night clubs like a kid in a sweet shop. I thought that prostitution should be decriminalised – why shouldn’t women make money out of the pathetic men who have to pay them for sex? And, like many young women I contemplated the idea of becoming a lap dancer to earn some extra cash. I had no idea what the future was going to bring.

I had no idea how having two children would swell my body like a balloon, giving me amazing tits and a huge ass, adding half my body weight to my athletically boyish frame. I had no idea about the stretch marks that would claw their way across my stomach and said enlarged arse or what your boobs end up looking like after they’re gone on a crazy journey from a B cup to a G cup and back down again (slightly deflated balloons in case you were wondering) and how this would change my relationship to my body. I had no idea how when my friend used to tell me that I had the most amazing flat stomach that this was a temporary condition to be cherished, never to return again in a post-child world. I was young and invincible and I thought I knew everything.

I can therefore totally understand why young women think that their sex appeal is empowering. Women have precious little power in this world and I don’t blame them for grabbing it with both hands wherever they find it. It’s only now as I look in the mirror at my body scarred from the battle of 2 pregnancies and births and notice the winter creeping into my hair, that I realise my mistake. Youth is a temporary state and one day you will have to deal with the entropy. One day you will walk down the street and nobody will turn their head to look at you. You will do your sexiest dancing in the nightclub and nobody will care. You will try to convince yourself that you are a strong woman and these things do not matter to you but secretly they do.

If women’s sexuality is to be viewed as ’empowering’, what happens when you lose it? What happens when your looks are no longer your selling point and somebody actually has to value you for what’s going on inside your head rather than what it looks like? The more women promote the idea that our sexuality constitutes our power, the more we disempower older women who are no longer seen as viable sexual objects. We can see the consequence of this kind of thinking in the way that older women disappear from our TV screens, highlighted by the case of Miriam O’Reilly who was dropped from the Country File for the heinous crime of being over 50. We can see it in the refusal to take women seriously as experts or academics, our looks always valued more than anything else.

As I grow older, I know that I will lose my sex appeal – it’s an inevitable part of life – but it shouldn’t be this scary. I should not be worrying about how my life will be because I should never have put so much store in it in the first place. Women should be valued for our talents, our intellects, our creativity and our cracking sense of humour just as much as our male counterparts and we shouldn’t be scared of growing older. I’m going to do my best to embrace the wisdom that age brings rather than mourn the losses of youth but society has to change too.

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12 Comments Add yours

  1. E says:

    thank you for this 🙂

    Like

  2. downssideup says:

    Thank you for writing this. I have a post about reaching 46 in my head, a tumbling turn of throats that I am trying to keep positive. But this really echoes a lot of my feelings. Looking forward to hopefully meeting at Blogfest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. downssideup says:

      *thoughts*

      Like

    2. Ms Davis says:

      Thanks. Lots of women have contacted me to say it resonates with them and it is always nice to hear when it does. Wasn’t aware of blogfest – I’ll look it up!

      Like

  3. Marcelle says:

    Bullshit. Women are empowering whatever age they are. Even on their own. This blog hangs every self-worth up on being a sexual “catch” for a man – ugh!

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    1. Ms Davis says:

      It’s just a reflection on societal standards really and how this impacts on women. I actually agree with you that women shouldn’t hang their self esteem on men, which is what my blog is saying. I did when I was younger which was my mistake.

      Like

  4. JJ says:

    Im sorry that you view getting older so negatively. If you feel this way when you are not even 40 I wonder how you will deal with approaching 50/60 etc. Its all about attitude in my opinion. If you see it as something to dislike and fear then that will be your experience. If you feel ugly and unworthy then that will be your experience. I am 15 years older than you and feel and look much younger. People are very surprised when they learn of my age as they perceive me to be late 30s. I have always had a glass half full outlook and think this goes along way to how we are perceived. If you feel overlooked etc and are not happy about the way you are then change it.

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    1. Ms Davis says:

      It’s more that I am trying to highlight how society views older women. Since writing this, some older women have been in touch to tell me they have found ageing liberating which has been absolutely lovely to hear. Perhaps in writing this I am now more able to see the positives as women like you have responded in such a supportive and nice way.

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  5. Somethingstill says:

    I was once young and attractive and now I am neither. But, people I meet in all sorts of circumstances (other than let’s just assume my night club appeal has plummeted) treat me just the same. It turns out it wasn’t prettiness that built my very good relationships. Just as well!

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  6. Carol says:

    Don’t let the worry of getting older spoil the here and now, have as much fun as you can every day, when you are nearly 50 you will look back to here and realise how young, fit and sexy you still are.

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  7. Ali MacLachlan says:

    Ms Davis, it’s common to freak out in one’s late 30s about crossing into middle age and thinking you’re about to become invisible.
    Here are a few points about the 40s I would like you to note.
    1. 40 looks almost no different from 29. Well, unless you’ve been going hard on the booze and drugs, in which case you have earned the right to look like Keith Richards before your time.
    2. If fit, you can have more babies, or even your first baby, as I did, in your 40s.
    3. The 40-something body is stronger and tougher than the 20yo bod. Who are the distinguished mountaineers, marathon runners, iron woman champions? Often they are in their 40s or 50s.
    4. Who are the top-earning actresses in Hollywood? Sandra Bullock, Amy Adams, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston, Toni Collette, Cameron Diaz. All hell and gone from 40. Reece Witherspoon is closing in on 40. She is awesome. Young Jennifer Lawrence, who I love, will get even better as she gets older.

    I appreciate that some women think sex appeal is the only power they have, and that once they depart their youth, they lose it. But consider the many of us who never had sex appeal. The diary of my 20yo self is all about how invisible I felt, how the boys I liked treated me as a good sport and amusing friend but never fancied me back. I reckon I speak for many women there. Only a few females of the species have sexual power. The rest of us make our way using our wits and brains, and we cultivate other kinds of power — professional, economic, social.
    Oddly, things were quite different when I was 40. Men would follow me down the street and try to talk to me. I wanted to yell at them, “Ma-a-ate!” (I’m Australian, btw.) “I am 40. Go find yourself a 20yo who wants what you’ve got.”
    I am 50 now, and find it hilarious when young men eye me off. I’m not interested, but I appreciate the implicit compliment.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. June Pallas says:

    I’ve just turned 60. My 40s and 50s have been fantastic. I met and married young; brought up two children in those twenty/thirty’s decades. I gave up paid work (a joint decision) because my husband worked/studied and concentrated on being excellent in his job whilst I concentrated on being home for our two children. The empty nest and the freedom that brings, brought a whole new dimension to our lives. His career soared affording us the opportunity to travel and my he and I now relish the freedom that retirement from his work beckons. I love the fact as an older woman I can relax in my comfortable clothes, relish my silvering hair and walk hand in hand in the sunshine with the man I have supported and loved for over 40 years whilst eating salted caramel ice cream without worrying (too much) about the calories. I suppose what I am trying to say is embrace every decade and enjoy life. Hitting 60 is a huge wake-up call – life is short.

    Liked by 1 person

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