Saturday, March 6, 2010

Women of a certain age

I have heard that phrase, "women of a certain age," all my life, it seems. But I never actually thought about what that age might be, until I happened to read a 2005 quote from this article on Planet Jackson Hole about Annie Proulx (her picture is on the right).

I'm reading one of her books of short stories (Close Range: Wyoming Stories, 1999). It has become my habit to pop over to Wikipedia and read about the authors of books I'm reading, and somehow I've missed all of her short stories, although I did read The Shipping News, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize. Annie lives in Wyoming and was asked if she minds having become so famous that she is now recognized in coffee shops and bookstores. She said:
No, it is not difficult to move around Wyoming anonymously. Women of a certain age are invisible. And most Wyoming people don't give a damn whether you write novels or knit mittens.
How old is "a certain age"? (Annie is now 74.) Another article I found while perusing the origin of the phrase was written by Ariel Leve in the Times Online:
Whenever I see women who have had plastic surgery to look younger I think they never look younger, they just look like they've had plastic surgery in a desperate attempt to look younger. As soon as the famous woman walked away I asked the host of the party how old he thought she was. "She is," he paused carefully, "of a certain age." I'm not sure what that means. Was it a compliment? An attempt to be respectful? Turns out, neither. His explanation: "It means she's past her use-by date."
Oh, well, THAT explains it. Then I looked up Helen Mirren on Wikipedia to see how old SHE is, because she certainly doesn't look like she's past her use-by date. She's 64 and still sexy. I'm sure she's had plenty of plastic surgery, but she doesn't look all weird (like Cher or Joan Rivers). I suppose it would be easier to allow yourself to grow old if you had all that botox and plastic surgery to help you along the way. Or would it?

There is a real benefit to being a woman of a certain age and becoming invisible. It's even better than having an invisibility cloak, because you can just leave the makeup behind, the striving to catch someone's eye, and enjoy your life, just as it is. What do you think?


  1. Oh! I agree. There is so much freedom that comes with age. It is nice to be "Me" without having to please anyone else except "Me". I just wish I had learned the same at 20... (The only person that I need to please ME.)

    "To thine own self be true... And it must follow as the night...the day. Thou canst not then be false to any man."

  2. I agree! I love that I can be me and to hell what others think. Does that mean I'm past my expiration date? Maybe, but I've yet to expire! I have a friend who had a face lift and I didn't have the heart to tell her it really didn't make much of a difference.

  3. Interesting subject. I certainly qualify as a "woman of a certain age." lol One of the things I admire about many British actresses is that most do not appear to have had a nip and a tuck. Helen Murrin? Love her work...but perhaps she has had a little work done. But for the most part, it seems the Brits allow themselves to age naturally.

    What is sad about the Hollywood actresses is that they all look alike more or less after a few trips, and quite frankly, freaky.

  4. At home when my parents would say about a woman “c’est une femme d’un certain age” it meant that she was no longer a young chick. It meant “mature” so it could be anywhere from 50 to 65 I think. After that they would say “a woman of the 3rd age”. In France the 3rd age is 65 to 89, then it is 4eme (4th) age, 89 and up. If you read Wikipedia in French on “vieillesse” or old age it also says that there are new definitions. Young olds are 65-75, then old 75-85, then old old 85 and older. In France and many other European countries you are not considered “senior” until you reach 65, before that you are “mature.” It’s funny how in this country you are considered “senior” when you reach 50. I also think that seniors are not well thought of here as much as they are in Europe. We see a lot more seniors on TV and movies over there, people like seniors and respect them a lot because they think they bring a lot of experience, wisdom if you will. Here they are invisible.

  5. Interesting. I had no idea that women had an expiration date. Does the same concept apply to men?

    My husband has informed me multiple times that there will be no plastic surgery or botox or any of that jazz in our futures. We are to age naturally (although perhaps not gracefully) and be happy with what we've got. I feel pretty okay with that!

  6. Hurrah!!!! I can't wait!!!! Been wearing a little purple...just as Jenny Joseph says in her poem...Love, love, love it!!! Simply wonderful post!!! ~Janine XO

  7. I am way past trying to catch anyones eye..and I truly welcome being invisible...I haven't worn makeup for years.. only lip gloss is that really makeup? Nope I had my cataract surgery..that was as close as I get to an eye lift:)

  8. I could care less anymore. All this plastic surgery and Botox. What a waste. People just need to take aging in stride and forget their vanity.

  9. You know, I fight with this in my mind. I teeter between trying to cover everything with makeup and fussing with my hair way too long every day to saying to myself that I should try going "more natural"....but everytime I use less, people ask me if I'm tired or if I am feeling okay. LOL
    I am 57 going on 58 so I don't know when I should just let my "natural" looking (too tired look) just become me, a woman of a "certain age"......

  10. Whatever happened to the famous Ohio saying: "Over the hill."

    I now much prefer: "Pat his/her use by a certain date."

    Never heard that one before.

    I try to somehow work in art everyday. But it is no longer sculpture or oil painting, or drawing. I am still in photography and Photoshop but that's about it.

    I still am not looking for a job in Heaven.

  11. At 52 I guess I would be considered a young old. I've noticed a higher level of contentment since I've reached age 50+. I like to look good for my age, but I don't try to look younger than my age. I feel like clean healthy living and controlling stress in one's life does more for your appearance than any plastic surgery does. I was recently at a family gathering and noticed that relatives that I hadn't seen for a while, and are close to my age, that have lived a very rough, unhealthy lifestyle, looked to be about 10 years older than me. It was then that I realized the difference this can make.

  12. As a woman of a certain age, I don't think I'm past my "use by" date. I think I'm used up! Empty, scrape-the-carton, throw me in the recycling bin, used up. I've lived six lifetimes. And I LOVE invisibility. It's very relaxing. I always say I could rob a bank and everyone there would be hard-pressed to recall a single detail about me. It's lovely.

    We are singing off the same song sheet this week. I'm working on a post that has something to do with this. :)

  13. I have certainly not reached my expiration date and don't intend to for a while. On the other hand I have no desire for botox or plastic surgery.

  14. I know I'm invisible. It can be an advantage. You can hide in a crowd. One thing that is true is that there are an awful lot of us! and there's power in that, don't you know!!
    Blessings, Star (adjusting my red hat and purple suit)


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