I’m 70 years old and I’m a grown ass woman. According to the Urban Dictionary, a grown ass woman takes responsibility for herself and demands the respect of others. We have confidence in our own decisions and make them for ourselves.
I’ve been reading stupid fashion advice for older women on the Internet. I know, I know. Why ever would I do that to myself? I ran across this series of arguments and counter arguments on Facebook. Ever curious, I pretty much had to read them all to make up my mind what was what. I fumed for a while after I finished. Then I read them all over again! I searched the ideas on google. Just to make sure that it was in print. Like really, I’d make that up. Picture a grown ass woman rolling her eyes.
There seem to be several strands of outrageousness here. One is that as you age you need extra help to dress yourself. Then there is this offensive approach like you do with children. Awww, isn’t she cute? Look at what she is doing. At her age.
There is the crazy thought that as you age, you lose your rights to be yourself. That somehow, you become less and can be forever put in your place. Made to look and feel old. Put away. Or moved out of the way to make room for those who are younger. Go do the search yourself. See if you can see the offensiveness in ageism. Or not.
I do remember the ridiculousness of my youth in the 1960’s. How so many of us said we’d die before the age of 30. You know, the old, “Live fast, die young and have a good-looking corpse!” (said by Humphrey Bogart in the movie, Knock on Any Door, 1949). We couldn’t visualize ever growing old. But we all did. Those of us who survived the 1960’s anyway. I guess, in fairness, youngsters thinking of the age of 30 as old is just the way things are.
Personally, I’ve lived according to Helen Keller’s statement that “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Occasionally life is very difficult. Painful. Excruciating even. The little joys can sometimes help us make it through the big painful times.
Music, candles, pictures, pets, clothing, good smells and even jewelry. Then there is laughter and play. Sex. Relationships. Friendships. Intimacy. All important to our ability to make it through those dark nights when life sucks. Now imagine a life where you don’t get to make the choices of even those little joys. Because somehow those joys, the small things don’t fit your given image. <sigh> A nightmare, I think.
I’ve earned my right to make my own decisions by living life as it happened. By making my own choices and paying whatever price was required by that choice. Good or bad. Pleasant or painful. Growing up is like that. You live. You learn. You either mature and win some battles. Or you stay childlike and life grinds you up as you lose your battles. If you haven’t had any battles yet, you have very limited advice for others.
I’ve been playing dress up as far back in my life as I can remember. Every single time I leave my home, I dress up for myself. Wearing what I want and feeling good about it. Dresses, jeans, and hats when I feel like it. Scrunchies for color and just for the hell of it, with scarves, shawls, and jewelry to match everything I own. I wear my hair long because I love it and my natural silver because it’s a beautiful color. I stopped dying it red after my last bout with cancer because my hair grew in so beautifully. And also because my husband loves it.
As grown ass woman, I do know how to dress myself. I know what looks good on me and what makes me feel dowdy. I dress to please myself. Not you. It shouldn’t have shocked me that twenty-somethings are telling people older than them what not to wear. I mean I thought I knew everything when I was younger too.
Still reading those articles felt like someone had thrown a glass of ice water at me. There is this crazy issue about hair styles. I should cut my hair, not cut my hair, dye my hair, not dye my hair. Another telling me that scrunchies are so far out of style that people might laugh at me.
Everywhere I looked there is glaringly contradictory advice for you and me. I never in my life bought or read fashion magazines. Except once years ago, when I was quoted in an article. That one I framed and hung on my office wall for years! But I digress.
Seriously, mental health is being fully who you are. As we age, we face life’s challenges related to each phase of life. Leaving home, education or not, careers or not, relationships or not, children or not, on to the infinity of possible choices each of us makes in our lives. How we navigate those challenges determines the quality of our life. I believe that we can make self-enhancing choices at every turning point in our lives. No matter how big or small those turning points appear to be.
But we cannot make the kind of choices necessary for our own well-being if we spend our lives taking advice from people who know so very little about us. That’s the most offensive aspect of the inappropriate and ignorant fashion advice I read. It comes from no-nothings. People who know nothing about us and our lives. People who don’t know what makes us happy, sad, or in between. People who have no clue as to the challenges we face day-to-day.
I say, wear what you like. Pink and Orange if it suits you. Big hoop earrings because they suit me. Polka dots and plaids together if that’s your style. Or frilly blouses and dresses because they simply make me smile. These are the little choices we each make. Practice making these ourselves so that we’re ready for the big ones when they come.
Big choices like marriages or not. Parenting or not. And on and on in life as we grow. No matter who gives us advice, no matter how willing we are to pay for our choices, we will pay for them. No one else walks in our shoes. No one else will reap the reward for your self enhancing choices but you. And no one else will suffer for choices that blow up in your face. No matter whose advice you followed.
And that my friends, is the end point of all that stupid advice giving. People making your choices for you. If you allow that in your life, you won’t grow into making your own choices when it really matters to you.
I hope you’ll choose to become a grown ass woman or man and make your own choices. Your life will be better for it.
If you have responses to my writing, have questions, or just want to share your thoughts, please feel free to share your comments. I’d love to hear what you are thinking.
If you would like to learn how to make your own choices, contact me for further information or to set up an appointment:
Email me: email@example.com
Phone: (615) 464-3791
Photo is from the George Grantham Bain collection at the Library of Congress.
©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D. All rights reserved.