Years ago, I was hired to write an ad for a downtown hotel. It was to run two weeks before Christmas. It was to promote discounts on daytime rentals rather than overnight stays. It was meant for shoppers who wanted to relax in a luxury room for a few hours between shopping trips at nearby malls.
Actually, that’s not true. the ad wasn’t for shoppers at all. It was for office workers in the area having illicit affairs (I lived in a French city and there were A LOT of affairs!). Because affairs would be put “on hold” while companies closed for the holidays, the hotel owner estimated that daytime discounts would be ideal for couples looking for pre-break quickies.
So, with all that information in mind, I came up with an ad.
It featured a scantily-clad woman lounging on a bed, shopping bags strewn on the floor, and the silhouette of a gorgeous guy next to her. The headline was, “I told them I’d be shopping all day. Ho, ho, ho”. The copy suggested the rooms were a perfect escape whether you were spending the day shopping or treating yourself.
It was a funny ad filled with overtones. The owner loved it – except for one thing.
Could you say what I want it to say, but without actually saying it?, he asked.
Gerascophobia: the word for fear of …dare I say it?
I’ve since had variations of that same experience many times over. It happens when someone feels compelled to boldly go, but then worries about potential consequences.
So, they go from fierce to fearful.
Which brings me to the name of this blog. It almost went from Aging Gracefully I Am to Living Gracefully I Am. Lovely and positive, but also safe and lame.
Here’s why it was nearly “improved”.
I surveyed a couple of dozen women. All loved the idea of a blog that promoted the value of women – in all their stages and not just during their youth – and for reasons beyond beauty.
In fact, many said it was time we stood up to ageism.
Conversely though, some of those same women didn’t like the word “aging” in the name or slogan.
Can you say aging without actually saying it?
Um…no. No I can’t. And here’s why – I’m not anti getting older. I’m anti “anti aging”. I’m against the expectation and insult that one must defy age.
The aging process: from fierce to fearful to fierce again.
The word isn’t the problem. Our concept of aging is. So much in fact that when I wanted to “boldly go” up against its negative stereotypes, I too fell into self-doubt. I too thought perhaps I should use different words. I too went from fierce to fearful.
Should I take a more positive approach, I wondered? Should I post photoshopped photos of older women living the dream and add headlines like “Sexy, successful and loving it?”.
Am I being too negative? Or, am I being negative about the negatives and therefore I’m being positive?
Oh. My. God.
Thankfully, before I could lose my mind, I shared my fears with other women and what came back was a world of support. As one friend succinctly put it:
“I am so sick of the positive and strong over forty crap. Aging as a woman is hard. It can be empowering, frustrating, diminishing and fabulous. I applaud your attempt not to glorify it and celebrate all that is aging. Some parts are good. Others not so much. I like the honesty in your approach.”
That clinched it. Aging Gracefully I Am is the anti “anti-aging” blog. A double negative that makes it a positive. Rather than avoid the word, let’s face it, use it and take away the negative hold it has on us and the society suffering from its prejudice.
I used to feel insecure about my age. I used to resent having to add it to my online dating profile. I used to be embarrassed to say what it is (except when the admission meant I’d get discounts…I’m nothing if not practical!).
I’ve had plenty of moments where I felt left out because, while I was enjoying the company of younger colleagues, I realized I wasn’t part of the club. It hurt.
I continue to have these moments, but they happen a lot less often. I’ve also realized that I’ve been part of the club more often than not. I’m blessed with friends, acquaintances, colleagues and influences of all ages.
What I find as I age, and as I experience ageism, is that my back gets up (and not in that smooth Downward Dog way that middle aged women strive for). I become just as outraged and defiant about ageism as I’ve been about fat shaming, gay marriage and “lol” getting a place in the Oxford dictionary (Ooops, sorry…writer’s rant).
This process, and its accompanying self-doubt, also taught me the value of having a community of women, young and old, who can share their experiences, perspectives and support especially when it comes to working together to create change.
Fact is, there’s no shame in aging (or getting older or becoming timeless or whatever synonym you’d prefer to use) unless you’re unhappy with your life – and that’s a shame no matter how old you are.