A 50-year-old French author, not worth naming, recently remarked in a magazine that women older than fifty are invisible to him. “The body of a 25-year-old woman is extraordinary. The body of a woman of 50 is not extraordinary at all,” he is quoted as saying, showing his maturity level to be closer to a pubescent boy than his actual age.
While the paper-thin insights of this one man isn’t worthy of rebuttal, the truth is, the belief that women 50+ lose their luster is shared by a disproportionate number of people in modern-day culture. A recent study revealed that more than two-thirds of women over the age of 45 have experienced a fallen lack of confidence—judged negatively because of their age from the opposite sex, and by younger women.
Technology also plays a role in the perception of older women being out of sync with social media and the digital world, which is not at all true. But perception is everything, and while the cliché is that men grow old in a dignified fashion, women just grow old. As a woman 50+ with my own domain, Twitter handle, and Facebook professional pages, my online footprint is impressive, and I look within and see anything but.
On the local-front, Michigan Governor Whitmer, at age 47, is just hitting her stride. Other notable West Michigan women include WMU Athletic Director Kathy Beauregard, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and countless other professionals, artists and creative souls finding their voice at an age that shouts from the rooftops, “I’m just getting started!”
Let’s follow the lead of 71-year-old actress, Glenn Close. As a 2019 Golden Globe winner for her portrayal in The Wife, she delivered this impassioned acceptance speech honoring her late mother.
“… I’m thinking of my mom who really sublimated herself to my father her whole life. And in her 80s she said to me, “I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything. …What I’ve learned from this whole experience is, women, we’re nurturers, that’s what’s expected of us. We have our children, we have our husbands if we’re lucky enough, and our partners. But we have to find personal fulfillment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say, “I can do that, and I should be allowed to do that.”
The other day, as my grown son gazed at the DIY décor flowing throughout his parent’s living room, he looked at me and asked why I never displayed my artistic flair while he and his brother were still living at home—not comprehending the sacrifices a mother makes when given the choice of self-expression or simply keeping a home from imploding.
But the truth is, we need to make time for ourselves at every phase in our lives. Women in particular are far too willing to sacrifice self-worth for the sake of loved ones, and it doesn’t have to be an either-or decision. My job is balanced with my passion for writing and my life-long goal of becoming a mediocre golfer. As a woman 50+, I’m looking forward to the second half of my own story.
Follow Heidi’s column in Women’s LifeStyle of Greater Kalamazoo Magazine