By Lorraine C. Ladish
I will never forget the day when, at 50, I walked into the living room wearing a new pair of boyfriend shorts. I asked my daughters what they thought.
My youngest, then nine, looked up, arched her eyebrows and said, “I don’t like the wrinkles.”
I looked down at my new purchase. The shorts were straight out of the box. They were not wrinkled!
“What wrinkles?” I asked. “I just bought these pants!”
“The wrinkles on your legs,” she deadpanned.
I burst out laughing. I explained that it was normal for me to have wrinkles at my age and that I was asking about the shorts themselves.
“They’re cute, I guess,” she concluded with a shrug, and kept on doing her homework.
That day, I realized I had come a long way from the self-hatred that plagued me as a teen and young adult. My daughter’s comment, which was completely innocent and matter-of-fact, hadn’t fazed me. I was finally comfortable in my (now sagging) skin. And I wasn’t going to let some wrinkles above my knees prevent me from wearing my new shorts.
Five years have passed since that day. I still wear the shorts, mostly around the house or to the beach. I must admit that, although I’ve exercised all my life, I would now need to spend all day at the gym for my legs to bear any kind of resemblance to what they were just ten or fifteen years ago. And, quite honestly, I have better things to do with my time. Who cares if my legs don’t turn heads? It’s more important to me now to touch a soul with my words or uplift a heart with my actions.
I suppose I’m a part of the percentage of women over 50 who, according to a study by Lifetime Daily, have a strong sense of confidence over how we look and feel. I know I’m fortunate, since society as a whole doesn’t seem to encourage us to stay visible as we grow older. Just recently, French author Yann Moix stated publicly that women over 50 are invisible to him, which sparked a heated debate in the news and on social media. Many fear he has voiced the opinion of most men and, perhaps, some women. Thankfully, there are others who, like me, are willing to fight back and dispel the stereotype of the invisible or undesirable older woman.
Besides, it's a myth that being young equals feeling worthy and pretty, even if you are desirable to men. Like too many teens and young adults, I spent my entire youth struggling with my self-image, to the point of developing a severe eating disorder. Back then, I would’ve given anything to be invisible to the opposite sex, and even to my own gender. But age takes care of those insecurities for the most part, even when most beauty standards preach to us that only youth can stand out and be beautiful.
Now that I’m beginning what is hopefully the second half of my life (my grandmother lived to be 101), I’ve adopted my own standards of what is visible and beautiful. I no longer strive for six-pack abs and tight glutes. I’m more concerned with being strong and flexible, and with having a functional body and a sharp mind.
I recently became a certified yoga instructor at 55, coming full circle with my beginnings as a fitness instructor in my 20s. Back then I tried to help women look good. Now I strive to help them feel good. Because a woman who feels like a freaking goddess, whether she’s 20, 40 or 60, will never be invisible. Just look at model Maye Musk, 70, or choreographer Debbie Allen, 69.
Times are changing, and I’m pretty sure that when millenials hit 50, they’re going to make sure they aren’t made to feel invisible in any way by younger generations.
I, for one, feel that by living our best life and continuing to set new goals for ourselves we can lead our daughters and granddaughters to feel they are headed towards greatness. We must all do what makes us feel good on the inside regardless of age. Visibility, just like strength, resilience and courage, requires going against the grain and is very often a choice. We just have to make it.
Lorraine C. Ladish is a bilingual and bicultural Latina editor, writer, speaker, online influencer, yogini and mom. Founder of Viva Fifty! Published author of 18 books. Her most recent book Your Best Age was released by HarperCollins in September of 2017. Follow her on Instagram and stay in the loop through her website.