Over 40 and undermined.

I spent my early life living in a French Canadian city. It was a wonderful place, but it had strict language laws. Billboards, posters, signs – all were in French. When there was English, the words were given significantly less prominence than their French equivalent.

When entering stores, restaurants, coffee shops and offices  – every greeting began with “Bonjour”, not “Hello”.This was the norm. It was all I knew. It had no negative impact on me  – that I was aware.

Then I moved and everything changed.

Suddenly I was in an environment where bus boards, billboards, store signs, traffic signs, posters, flyers, brochures, people from government workers to gelato servers  – all “spoke” me  and it felt good!

Actually, it felt great – I mattered!

Until then I hadn’t realized how damaging  “not being addressed” (or rather, being neglected) was to my self-esteem and spirit. It’s just not a healthy way to treat another human being.

Yoo hoo!

And yet…here we are.

Women over 40 face some degree of being overlooked every single day. By the time they’re in their 50’s, they  face it to a much larger degree and begin to feel its negative impact. Women over 60 start getting used to it, however dispiriting. Women over 70 and 80 don’t even notice anymore. Why would they? Years of neglect becomes their norm.

I was in line at Gap the other day. Four tills were open. There was a young couple at one. At each of the other tills, three middle aged women stood with purchases in hand.

And yet…

Behind each of these tills were four posters: a white girl, an Asian girl, a white boy and an African American boy – all in their 20’s.

So much for diversity. So much for connecting with your customers.

Gap isn’t the only culprit (to be fair, they used 63-year old Anjelica Huston in one of their ad campaigns, I just wished it had carried through to the store where I spend money, but alas). Even Lululemon, which brilliantly turned “hippy yoga” into a trend, ignores older women even though they make up a large portion of yoga enthusiasts.

I picked up “the” fall Vogue and saw one older model – Jessica Lang, perfectly photoshopped.

As usual, none of the ads catered to me. However, this year, I put the magazine right back down, turned on my runners, and left the store with my head high with defiant dignity (that’s right Vogue, you can charge over $100,000 for an page, but you’re not getting my $10…you’ve been soooo dissed)

All to say that a major demographic is overlooked on a daily basis in North America and by the very brands that take our money.

Dear brands: You pay attention, we pay money. Deal?

And yet…

According to an article Business Insider, women 45 years old spend $750 billion annually on clothes. If you look at this screen shot I took from the article, even though women in their 20’s figure most prominently on fashion ads, they actually don’t spend any more on clothes than women in their 70’s.

screen shot 2013-11-19 at 3.34.22 pm

What’s more, a recent article in Adweek says, “Worldwide, consumers over 50 spent more than $8 trillion in 2010; in 2020, that is projected to rise to $15 trillion.”

Read the uplifting article here.

So why aren’t over 40’s showing up in more ads? Why are so many brands happy to be paid by us even though they don’t pay us the slightest attention?

The good news is that some brands are beginning to recognize our worth – and they’re being rewarded for it.

When Celine used 80-year old author, Joan Didion, in its print campaigns, they went viral.

Other luxury brands like St. Laurent, Louis Vuitton and Kate Spade have followed suit. Even mid-income brands have joined in – from L’Oreal using Helen Mirren and Twiggy – to American Apparel featuring then-unknown 62-year old Jacky O’Shaughnessey in their campaigns.

We have a long way to go before using older models goes from “maverick” to mainstream. So, for my part, I’ll support those brands that represent me more often than those that don’t.

I’ll also keep noticing the inequity and pointing it out in this blog so that we can catch the neglect and hopefully become a bigger, stronger and more powerful voice in stopping it. Like the blog? Then like the Facebook page!

Connie Briton. Older, wise asser and that’s why we love her.

connieConnie Britton is an accomplished actress. At present, she’s a main character on Nashville. She’s also known for her roles in Friday Night Lights and American Horror Story.

She’s been nominated for several Emmies, a Golden Globe, as well as Critic’s Choice awards.

Besides her artistic achievements, she’s devoted her time to charity and humanitarian work both in the US and internationally. Last year, she was appointed as a Good Will Ambassador to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  She’s also a passionate supporter of women’s empowerment and health issues.

But do you know what she gets asked about most often? Her hair. There’s even a Twitter fan account dedicated to it because, well, that’s not crazy at all.

Hair tips over talent.

Due to my own odd mix of insecurity and defiance, I admit that I kind of like the fact that reporters and audiences still find something attractive about this 48-year old female (and why shouldn’t they!).

What I don’t like, however, is how focused they are on that one shallow and diminishing attribute when there are so many more substantial ones on which they can concentrate.

Clearly, she’s not happy with it either.

Britton’s goal with this video was to destigmatize feminism and pay tribute to the true value women  offer. She did so in collaboration with the Representation Project for its #AskHerMore campaign.

The campaign encourages red carpet reporters to celebrate artistic achievements and not send the message that a woman’s value lies only in her youth and beauty.

I’m thrilled with Britton’s video. I think it’s so positive. I love that she’s an older, successful actor who’s taking a risk (after all, feminism can be polarizing) and speaking out.

While I love the fashion we see at award shows, surely there’s a negative impact on our society, and women’s place in it, when accomplishments are overwhelmingly ignored in favour of sartorial choices  – and in front of a huge national television audience. I think that’s what concerns me the most. There’s astounding reach.

Do you have any older female sheroes you’d like to see featured here? In my previous post I came up with Annie Lennox and Wanda Jackson. Someone on my Facebook page suggest Bette Midler (who’s as amazing as always).

Please be sure to send me your suggestions and feedback. Also feel free to post them on the Aging Gracefully I Am Facebook page so that others can join in the discussion.

Looking for a woman like Christopher Walken.

FullSizeRender (2)I first saw Christopher Walken strolling along the seawall by my home. I saw him again when I turned around and realized that I did, in fact, just see Christopher Walken strolling along the seawall by my home. The third time I saw him was when I turned once more and, heart palpitating, thought,

“If  Christopher Walken had sneezed just before I walked by him, I may have breathed in some of his saliva, which is kind of like a kiss”.

Don’t judge. It was a random thought. We all have them…we do all have them, right?

Christopher Walken is a cool dude. At 72 years of age, he’s no less cool now than he was 40 years ago. He’s so cool that he actually won six MTV awards for his mesmerizing choreography and dance routine in a Fat Boy Slim video – when he was pushing 60!

Since starting this blog, I’ve wondered if my own gender has an older, endlessly cool equivalent.

Are women anything but cool?

When I Googled “coolest women over 40”, it resulted in a full page of fashion suggestions. Not quite what I had in mind. I tried “coolest women over 50” and ended up with the most beautiful, sexiest and fit women over 50. Not bad, but not cool.

I then tried “coolest women over 60”, “coolest women over 70″ and”coolest women over 80”. I didn’t find anything cool. I did however discover hair cuts to suit my sagging face over the next decades.

Oh good. Now I can stop worrying about that, sigh.

Finally I tried “today’s coolest women”, which lead me to cool women in science, cool women in the Silicon Valley and cool women according to British GQ mag, which came up with a list of interesting choices, many half-naked.

Still, I give them credit for listing Phoebe Philo, an over 40 British fashion designer who was listed among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2014. However accomplished though, I wasn’t convinced that she had Christopher Walken cool.

Plus, she’s in her early 40’s versus early 70’s like he is.

So I did more research on the subject of cool women. Mostly what I found sexy women, great women and powerful women. Cool women? Not so much.

American Cool is soooo not cool.

Then I landed on “American Cool“, an exhibition that took place last year at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.  It seems that out of the 100 coolest Americans ever, only 23 were women (soooo not cool). Then again, they didn’t include Christoper Walken either.

For the most part, I like who they chose for their paltry list of females: Lauren Bacall, Mae West, Billy Holiday, Joan Didion, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry and Susan Sarrandon among them – the latter four all alive, well and over 60.

I was surprised that Katharine Hepburn wasn’t on the list. She grew cooler and more intriguing with age – and she died in her 90’s.

Finally, after much research and reading, I realized something very cool – I don’t need a female equivalent of Christopher Walken, I have two: Wanda Jackson and Annie Lennox.

Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson, otherwise known as the first lady of rockabilly. Wanda is in a number of “Halls of Fame”.  She’s the recipient of the Americana Lifetime Achievement Award. She’s had an alley named after her, as well as a street. She’s a legend with a career that spans over 60 years (how many female rockers can say that!).

She also took to the mike and belted out “Thunder on the mountain” just a few years ago, while in her mid-70s. Watch the video. You’ll love it. She has vitality, passion and, mostly, a good down-to-earth vibe about her.

That track comes off the album, The Party Ain’t Over, produced by Jack Black who, to my mind, is also pretty cool. In fact, that he celebrates talent over trend makes me think he’s even cooler (there’s  lot of cool going round n’est ce pas?).

Wanda, you’re an inspiration! Can’t wait for more from you.

Annie Lennox

Sixty-year old Annie Lennox, otherwise known as “the greatest white soul singer alive”, not to mention songwriter, political activist, gay icon, feminist and philanthropist who, in 2011, was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

This is only the half of it. Google her and make sure you have a few hours to read it all.

She’s also someone who, at last year’s Grammys and without even trying, usurped Hozier’s phenomenal rendition of Take Me To Church with her own mesmerizing performance of “I Put A Spell On You”. I had a friend at the Grammys who said Lennox put a spell on everyone.

Here’s the coolest thing of all.

There are countless remarkable women in the world, not to mention cool ones. That I found two  – who are also well over middle age – tells me they certainly exist, they just aren’t celebrated as much as their male counterparts.

So, the lesson to me (and maybe to you) is this: it would appear that Google search (hence, our culture) tends to view “cool” as a primarily a masculine trait. Yet, the more active we are at not accepting these predispositions, the more likely we are to discover their inaccuracy.

The benefit? We’ll feel better about ourselves. Men and women will value our gender more. The world will be a more balanced, positive and cool place to live.

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Does it have to be called aging?

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.

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The only lines we need to erase are those drawn by the media.

I recently had a brow lift. In fact, I’ve had several over the years, none surgical. They occur naturally – and often – when my mother imparts wisdom.

Yesterday she said, “People are living longer,  you know.”

I raised my brow. After all, my Mom is 98 years old.

She also knows a lot about living. She’s been an Air Force officer, a medical social worker and a working Mom with four children. She traveled to Russia when Westerners weren’t welcomed and moved from one city to another 3,000 miles away at 91 years old.

So, though not illuminating, her point was accurate. People are living longer, some really living, especially women.

Women are living longer, but being killed off earlier.

Unfortunately, we’re being killed off earlier too. How many older women do you see gracing fashion magazines, TV and film? Oh – and by “older”, I mean women as young as 40 years old.

My Mom’s generation had gender challenges, but they were possible to overcome. Today, women are being faced with the impossible – we’re expected to fight age.

We’re bombarded with anti-aging serums, creams and injections. We’re advised to “get your first facelift by age 40”.  We can’t even eat butter without it causing wrinkles – well, presumably. The article with this revelation said that butter “increased the likelihood of a wrinkled appearance” – whatever that means.

I even recently read an article cautioning women on smiling too much.

According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery,  214,268 women had Botox last year. Of them, a full 21% of the procedures were performed on those 34 years old and under.

Young women in their 20’s are being told to fight wrinkles before they begin. Essentially having to spend their youth preparing to fight age. Oh brother.

When People Magazine named 50-year old Sandra Bullock their “2015 Most Beautiful Woman”, I was thrilled – until I saw the cover. The photoshop alone took 50 years off her age.

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Miuccia Prada, of Prada fame, won’t use older models.

Fashion magazines are filled with images of women, or rather girls, barely in their 20’s. This despite the fact that numerous brands are designed for affluent women over 40.  Sixty-six year old Miuccia Prada, one of fashion’s most powerful people, admits she’s not brave enough to use older models.

It takes courage to put an older woman on  a runway? Really?

She actually was quoted as saying that we need to find a solution to aging. I’ll tell you what Miuccia – there are two: self-acceptance or death. Both solve aging.

The Golden Age in Hollywood? Not likely.

The movie industry is no better. Notoriously poor at gender equality, it fails even more remarkably when it comes to older women. Leading men age, but their love interests don’t. When the thankfully forgettable, Six Days Seven Nights, came out in 1998, the big concern was around Anne Heche’s sexuality. The fact that Harrison Ford was 27 years older than her wasn’t even questioned.

Anne Hathaway recently told Glamour Magazine, “When I was in my early twenties, parts would be written for women in their fifties and I would get them. Now I’m in my early thirties and I’m like, ‘Why did that 24-year-old get that part?” I was that 24-year-old once. I can’t be upset about it, it’s the way things are.””

Actually, she can be upset about it. I know I am. I hope we can all get upset enough to create positive change.

After all, the messages to women are oppressive. The messages to women about aging are devastating.

I believe they also hurt men.

I write online dating profiles (it’s okay – I use all a client’s own words so that it’s an honest representation).  Because of this, I had a friend ask for help revising his singles ad. Apparently, his profile was attracting too many older women. When I questioned what he meant by older, he said “In their 50’s and 60’s”.

He’s 57. He’s still single.

Ageism hurts our self-worth and perceived worth by others.

Don’t get me wrong – I have no issue with age gaps. I have an issue with ageism. Ageism hurts our self-worth and our perceived worth by others. I can’t help but wonder how many lonely men and women are out there and all because we have a skewed sense of what matters.

In addition, its insidiousness terrifies me when it comes to blurring the boundaries of safety and appropriateness between girls and men.

Anti-aging is vain attempt at the impossible.

Ageism is unhealthy. Anti-aging is vain attempt at doing the impossible. So my suggestion is that we begin to fight the signs of ageism, not the signs of aging.

Which brings me to this blog – it’s not meant to be militant. However, the posts won’t be complacent either.

A main purpose of the blog is to be vigilant about catching and reframing negative messages of all kinds to women of all ages. We have so many coming at us that we can become immune.  Aging is just one of many. It’s a scary one though.

For instance, the concept of “anti-aging”, though dangerous and outrageous, has – in just a few years – become a common mindset and part of our vernacular.

And, let’s be honest with ourselves, it’s not all the fault of the media. Somewhere along the line society started this. It’s within us to change it.

Other reasons for this blog are simple and positive. We can learn ways to maximize our great selves through health, beauty and fashion(take that Miuccia!).We can read about women (and men) who celebrate our worth. We can discuss the rewards (and challenges)  of our life stages.

If my Mom is any indication, I may be around for awhile, so I’d like a few laugh lines ahead.

I can’t say that I know exactly what this blog will be about. I know I want it to promote self-esteem in women of all ages. I also know that I’ll show particular fondness for older women, men and brands who do right by all of us. I encourage readers to provide suggestions and feedback. I also ask that you have patience as I find my way and figure out what’s relevant.

Here’s what I can say that this blog won’t be about – it won’t be about anti-aging.

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