As “women of a certain age,” many of us fear the curse of invisibility. Our challenge is to find ways to move past the wrinkles and age spots and gray roots and get people to actually see us—and all the wisdom and talent we have amassed over the years. Ours is not a culture that universally celebrates its elders. When the outer shell begins to wither and fade, the glory and beauty that remain inside often go unnoticed. We know we’re still fabulous…and the people who love us realize it…but what about everyone else? What about the generations coming up behind us? Do the women who are not our daughters even see us?
By the time we reach our fifties, most of us have moved past the competitive phase of our femaleness. When we see an attractive younger woman, we admire her beauty instead of envying her blush of youth. And perhaps it is within these vibrant women that we’ll find the answers to our questions.
Take Angie, for example. She’s a striking young woman in my spin class—tall, slender, and leggy—with a figure that does great justice to fitted bike shorts and little tank tops. For months we spent two days a week in the same room at the same time, yet we never spoke. One day after class, I approached her and announced straightforwardly (and perhaps a little goofily), “Excuse me, but you have the body I’ve wanted since fourth grade.” She grinned, then laughed, then said my compliment came at the perfect time because she’d been having a difficult day. Now Angie and I chat on a regular basis, strangers no longer.
Then there’s Carolyn, a lovely Scandinavian woman who’s forty and looks about thirty. Nearly young enough to be my daughter, I assumed I’d never even trigger her friend meter. But one day before spin, as she was about to take her little boy into the daycare room, I commented on how much he reminded me of my own blond-banged son at that age. We ended up mounting side-by-side bikes and chatting during the parts of the class when we could actually speak without gasping. After that day, we sought one another out at the beginning of class. Within a week, we’d made plans to socialize beyond the gym. One event led to another, and we decided to take a chance and introduce our husbands. Now the four of us are frequent companions, and Carolyn and I rarely go a day or two without speaking. She has, in fact, become one of my closest friends.
As time has passed, the act of reaching out to younger women has evolved into a way of life. I relish sharing their attitudes and energies, and I love the wonderful generational overlap that allows our lives to traverse and mesh in such mutually rewarding ways.