“Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My seventies were interesting and fairly serene, but my eighties are passionate. I grow more intense as I age. “
– Florida Scott-Maxwell
“A woman of a certain age” is a European term which means a woman of maturity, mystery, wisdom, and substance. I like this term so much better than the terms we use in America – terms such as an older woman, a senior American, or even a mature adult. But then, Europe herself can be viewed as a woman of a certain age, while America is a younger, more youth-centered country. I believe, however, that it’s time we start taking the negative labels off our more experienced population and view them as the treasures they are. And while men have often been seen to get better with age, women seem to have been viewed and discussed only in negative terms as they get older. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider that.
Look at the women pictured above. Raquel Welch and Sophia Loren are both in their 70’s, Cheryl Tiegs is in her 60’s, and Iman is in her 50’s. And despite the fact they may have had a little help maintaining their looks, they are all still beautiful women. Next consider Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton, both in their 60’s, who are still acting, directing, producing, writing and continuing very lucrative careers. For that matter, consider Betty White, who at almost 90, is still making movies, campaigning for animal welfare, and may be a future host of SNL. Then there are the women who didn’t even start their well-known careers until after they turned 50, Julia Child being just one example.
I admit I have a personal reason for wanting this change – myself, as well as most of my friends, are already somewhere into middle age. As women, we are often prone to accepting the negative labels and applying them to ourselves. But consider how limiting these labels are. If I accept that I’m older, that my days of youth, adventure, and second chances are past me, I will give up and quit living. After all, why bother? But if I think of myself as a woman of mystery, wisdom, and substance, I will continue to live my life fully. After all, women of mystery are supposed to continue to surprise us. I know which description I prefer. From now on, I will see myself as “a woman of a certain age.” Who will you see yourself as?