After spending many years talking with other women, I’ve learned that nothing ages you faster than yourself. It’s not the wrinkles on your face or the age of the kids in your car that make you seem tired and obsolete: It’s your attitude.
I recently shared a Lyft ride with a woman whom I had just met at a weekend gathering hosted by a mutual friend. Like most conversations with new female acquaintances of a certain age, the topic of motherhood came up. I smiled and told her that my kids are 24 and 27. “I’m so glad that there’s someone here close to my age,” she responded. I realized quickly that this woman had assigned us the unglamorous title of “older moms.”
But here’s the thing with that. I don’t feel like an “older mom,” and I wasn’t ready to be tethered to this woman’s quick take on my age. For example, our lovely hostess was only two years younger than me and she has teenagers. So why was I the “older mom”?
Throughout the course of the weekend, my new “older mom” acquaintance and I crossed paths a half dozen times. Each time we bumped into each other, she made an offhand remark about our age, and not just to me, she made sure anyone within earshot heard her quick jokes. It was beginning to wear on me.
“Look how great! I found another old mom,” she quipped. “We old moms need to stick together,” she chimed. On and on it went. If I wasn’t feeling self-conscious before, I certainly was by then.
I put my arm around her and said, “We’re not old moms! We just have older kids!” There is a difference, and I wanted her to see it.
When someone complains about getting older or being old, makes comments about how young everyone else seems to be, or makes comparisons in age, it reflects her discomfort with aging.
I wondered about other women, those who, like this woman, find it easy to make jokes in front of younger people about growing old. When someone complains about getting older or being old, makes comments about how young everyone else seems to be, or makes comparisons in age, it reflects her discomfort with aging. It’s one thing to make a light joke of backaches, creaking joints, and how tired one can feel after a certain age, but it’s something else altogether to complain endlessly about how young others are and give backhanded compliments about another woman’s smooth skin by ensuring that she knows that your skin was once that smooth too.
A nonstop focus on age does nothing more than make a person seem older. And, honestly, all that complaining makes one look older. Besides, the truth is that most people, when pressed, cannot accurately guess another person’s age.
Instead of focusing on age, as this curmudgeonly woman did with me, I would rather focus on how much fun it is to meet new people, share new ideas, and make new friends. I can’t see the point in wallowing in your age when there are so many wonderful people out there just waiting to share marvelous experiences regardless of how old you are.
I have friends who are 20 years older than me who defy age. How? Because they don’t talk about it. Instead, they talk about their projects, their interests, their lives. They are not consumed with aging or constantly reminding everyone how young/old they are.
I have friends who are 20 years older than me who defy age. How? Because they don’t talk about it. Instead, they talk about their projects, their interests, their lives.
I never did tell that woman that she’s aging herself with her negativity. Her discomfort with age is her own issue. Regardless, I found that I didn’t want to hang around her. But more than that, I began to notice how often the pattern of older women expressing their age with negative speech was all around me. Ladies, it’s not a good look.
At that social gathering, I felt young and alive. Not only did I wear brightly colored blouses and fun patterns, but I was actively engaged in being social and having a great time. There was nothing “older mom” about me.
When the weekend ended, I realized an important life lesson: When I’m not feeling lively — when I start to feel old — I just need to spice up my attitude.
When you act young, then you can feel young — and fool everyone into thinking that you’ve got life figured out. Mix that with some crow’s feet and you’re an instant inspiration!
Linda Wolff is a writer in Los Angeles and the voice behind Carpool Goddess, where she proves that midlife, motherhood, and the empty nest aren’t so scary.