Oh, the conundrum that is “age.”
Growing up, I adhered to the notion that “age is just a number.”
All my life, my circle of friends has spanned all ages. I am a gregarious sort who finds it easy to connect with people, as they in turn seem to do with me. Maybe because I refuse to assume that a person is “this way, or that way,” because of the year they were born. I’ve always thought that way of thinking is utter bullshit.
In my twenties, I had a relationship with a man in his fifties, who was, in fact, older than my father. Maybe not the best move, in retrospect — especially after my dad spotted us in a bar, together — but it gives you an idea of how little I was affected by the number on a birth certificate.
As the years passed, I realized the cold, brittle truth that people are routinely judged by a number they have nothing to do with and certainly, no control over.
Because I worked in advertising, an industry where youth is revered, age became an even bigger deal, as I saw more seasoned individuals get shit-canned just for being older. Talented, inspiring individuals who were given boxes to pack up their stuff and escorted out of the building. Like criminals.
When I was laid-off (over the phone), in February of 2018, after fourteen years at the same company, I wasn’t even allowed to retrieve my things. My nimrod of a Creative Director, who used phrases she didn’t understand, like “case and point,” packed me up and shipped my shit in boxes that were falling apart.
What the hell is wrong with this picture? How about, everything?
Guys, I can’t speak from your point of view, but I suspect you feel the same frustrations as we women do. Note the word, “suspect.” Because, when it comes to sexuality, especially, and how you are perceived as older sexual beings, I don’t believe you face the same challenges. More about this in a minute.
When I finally took a good, hard look around me and witnessed how aging is perceived in our society, I was bummed the fuck out. There’s no other way to say it.
I’ve always hated the “senior citizen” moniker. It’s like being put into a box. A box that’s frayed and ready for the recycle bin.
There are so many odd expectations related to aging in our culture that I find troubling and infuriating. For example:
Why, after a certain age, do so many women chop off their hair? I’m not talking about those women who get, like a Joan Jett crop because it’s chic and sexy. Or, women who have serious issues with thinning, and shorter hair, in their case, is healthier hair.
I’m talking about the “Granny Do.” The “I just turned 60 and now I have to cut this shit off, do.”
The fact that a woman feels she has to conform to a certain way of thinking because of societal standards is terribly sad to me.
I’ve worn my hair long practically my entire life. Except for a brief period when I succumbed to a chin-length bob, which I liked — but long hair is my jam. And, I don’t give a fart in hell what anyone thinks about it. Like my red lips, it’s who I am.
Again — if that what makes you feel good, awesome! It’s about choice, not perception. So, if you’re of a certain age, and want to wear your hair down to your butt crack, go for it!
Muumuus, shifts and other shapeless attire: Why? Do our aging bodies look that bad? Should we turn away in revulsion when an older woman dresses in a way that says, “Look at me. I’m proud of who I am?” Wrinkles and all?
Got “bat wings” for arms and it’s 95 degrees in the shade? Let them fly, baby! Wear your tank top, proudly.
Has your ass gone south? Who cares? It’s an ass.
There’s a lot of talk about body confidence these days so I’m going to segue for a minute and say that I’m a big proponent of exercise. I work out daily. Cardio. Strength training. I’m a believer. It’s done great things for my body, overall health, and my self esteem. And, it keeps my anxiety in check. IMHO, exercise is an affordable, effective “fountain of youth.” That may sound hypocritical, but don’t we all want to look and feel as good as we can, for as long as we can?
More important: A strong body is a healthy body. Just sayin.’
The truth: Past a certain point, few of us will look like we did when we were 25, or even, 35. But, that doesn’t mean we’re not still beautiful in our own right…still sexy, and vital. Take a look at 73-year-old Helen Mirren. Sex on well-trod wheels! If I’m fortunate enough to exude that level of heat when I’m her age…well, watch out.
Age discrimination in the workplace. This is a biggie, and the juncture where both women and men are routinely screwed. I’ve experienced it firsthand so I know whereof I speak.
In retrospect, I should have known better. I chose a career in advertising, an industry where youth is revered. But, I was younger then. And, impulsive. And, I wanted to write, and only write. I had stints at newspapers, but I thought advertising had a certain sex appeal, that journalism didn’t.
Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda.
Now, I’m attempting to make it as a working screenwriter. I’ve been at this for fifteen years. Hell, yeah: I’m a masochist. Although, I will say that Hollywood is somewhat more accepting of us more seasoned folk. Of course, it helps if you make a name for yourself before you actually are seasoned.
And then, there’s the elephant in the room: SEX. Guess what? Again, I can’t speak for men, but older women think about fucking! They really, really do! Who they’d like to fuck. Why it’s so hard to get fucked. When they might fuck, again.
In my experience, if an older woman owns up about loving sex, she’s weird, or a perv. Not so with guys. “Hey, they gotta put their dicks, somewhere!”
A few of my women friends have told me they don’t care if they ever have sex, again? Huh? Why?
Oh, sure — it may not be as slippery “down there” as it once was, but that’s why Astroglide exists. Just a dab’ll do ya. Even coconut oil does the trick, with the added benefit of smelling, and tasting, like a pina colada.
I don’t know what prompted me to write this. I guess I’m in one of my moods. I think too much, and I get pissed off. Too much.
Authenticity is important to me, so I’ll finish by admitting my own hang up. I’ve never liked disclosing my age. I don’t like to be put into that worn box. I’ve always been, and will forever be, a badass. A woman who had the balls to start a rock band at work and sing lead in that band. A woman who keeps putting herself out there. A woman who “never says never,” because that’s like giving in and giving up.
Of course, anyone can find out anything online these days, and that bothers the shit out of me. Enough so, that, when I do own up to my age, I feel like I have to include the disclaimer, “But I look, think and act a lot younger than what I actually am.”
And, that’s the truth.
Now, why did I have to say that?
Sherry McGuinn is a longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.
I hope you enjoyed this. If so, here’s more: