Just Say It
Recently, Girls Gone 50 was at an intimate dinner hosted by advertising crusader Cindy Gallop. The powerhouse influencer went around the table and asked everyone to introduce themselves, say a little about their professional background and, GASP, say their age. Out loud. To the whole table.
I’ll admit, despite the fact that the dinner was held as part of AARP’s initiative to #DisruptAging in advertising and the ad industry, despite the fact that we have built a marketing agency and blog entirely around empowering, embracing and advocating for women over 50 - I cringed a little.
This is how deep my lifelong conditioning runs to hide or at least fudge my age. It’s like a gag reflex.
As a seasoned professional in a youth-obsessed industry, as a woman living in Los Angeles for chrissake, and as the late-in-life mother of two daughters who have reminded me since kindergarten that I am the oldest mom in their class, I have been obscuring the numbers ever since I became the first junior creative ever hired at a certain Holy Grail of advertising agencies and realized I was also among the most senior in age.
I was 25.
Fortunately, or sadly, this is where being a creative person comes in handy.
“I’m 22 plus shipping and handling.” Or “I’m 18 with 35 years of experience.” or “It’s the 20th birthday of my 30th birthday, ok?”
“I’m as old as God,” I’ve even told my daughters rather than reveal my exact age. Which had the unintended consequence of them telling their friends “I think she’s in her 60s,” when I was, in fact, 48. How could they know where to put me in context of eternity?
It’s not just that I’m vain. It’s that I don’t want to be judged by someone else’s preconceived notions. In other words, it’s not just me, it’s you.
The thing is, though, being the proverbial “woman of a certain age” really doesn’t cut it anymore, does it? Because just by calling ourselves that, we might as well be wearing the Scarlet A for Aging instead of those compression pants.
By fudging our age to avoid becoming an invisible middle-aged woman, we make ourselves invisible middle-age women. Every time we tell that little white lie, we erase a little more of our true worth, diminish our lifetime value, disown our long nights spent battling demons and countless days slaying dragons. We have earned the right to tell the truth that we are powerful and pretty damn awesome.
This is not your mother’s middle-age, but our children and grandchildren will never realize this if we continue to lead them to believe we are perpetually somewhere between 35 to 48.
“Say your age as often as possible. Be loud and proud,” Cindy Gallop says from her end of the table. “I’ll start. I’m 58,” she announces and proceeds to go around.
As I looked around the table at the impressive assemblage of industry talent - smart, funny, thoughtful, incredibly accomplished women and men in their 40s and 50s, I am proud to be among their number.
Halfway around the table it’s my turn. “I’m 62,” I announce.
As we go all the way around, I realize, “Oh my god, I’m still the oldest one here!”
But now I’m ready to own it.
Top Photo by Hubert Chaland unsplash.com