And we should stop trying to be relevant
It wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard or read before but this time, it was directed at me.
“Your outfit is cute. It’s something my daughter would wear,” the woman standing in line behind me said with a smirk. She, herself, had on skinny jeans, knee boots, and a drapey cold-shoulder sweater — a choice many women my age make.
I glanced down at my wide-leg jeans that reminded me of a pair I owned in the 90s and white tennis shoes. My pink sweater had balloon sleeves and a low back. “Thanks,” I said even though I knew it was a backhanded complement. “I love how comfortable the jeans are.”
After she walked away, I headed back to my table tucked away in the corner of Panera. I spend most mornings there and as my husband teases, I’m Panera famous. People stop by to chat with me and all the employees know my name. This woman, who’s name I didn’t know, mentioned she saw me often before bringing up my clothes.
Lucky for me, I give zero cares what other people think of me. I’ve reached the place in life, at 46, where outside opinions matter less than my joy. And I felt joy in my outfit that day.
In the US, there are still vast swaths of the population that believe once a woman turns forty she must cut her hair shoulder-length or shorter and step aside for the younger generations. We’re supposed to behave like mothers — whatever that means — even if we’re childless. You can see this in the idea of the “eccentric, fun, single aunt.” She’s typically over forty, career focused, travels, and wears whatever she wants. She’s also viewed as being somewhat unformed and immature. At the same time, mothers — specifically those who make their children the center of their world — are praised for their maturity.
I won’t dive deep into my thoughts on “The Cougar” stereotype except to say, why is it abnormal for a young man to be attracted to an older woman, but young women are expected to be attracted to older men? Short answer: older women are thought to be dried out and stale while older men are refined and dignified.
And let’s not forget the disdain society has for trendy women with daughters. “It’s so sad,” some will say. “She’s not twenty anymore. She needs to stop competing…