The Cult of Youth: Where Have All the Older Women Gone?

Each week when I prep my blog, I spend time hunting down images that reflect the topic. However, I dread the times when my blog calls for photos of (gasp) older women. 

I can spend hours trawling through photo sites and not come across a single grey hair, wrinkle, line, or—heaven forbid—“age spot.” If I stumble across someone with grey hair, they are oddly smooth-skinned, with maybe the teensiest smile lines bracketing their full, plump lips.

Think about TV or print ads that feature retired couples—they look like they’re in their forties! Do these retirement communities screen potential buyers to ensure that the only ones allowed in all look like they have another thirty years before retiring?  

Or, my pet peeve, adverts for high-end luxury products aimed specifically at men. If they do deign to feature a person who reflects their customer base (older, wealthy, child-free), he is always a lean, luxuriantly silver-maned fox with a few debonair crinkles around his suntanned eyes.  But always, always, the woman on his arm is decades younger. 

It is sad to see that age-shaming is still with us. We learned how harmful and hurtful it is to body-shame (mock or be critical about someone’s size or shape) others, but we think it’s okay to criticize older women. 

We’ve all heard someone say things like: She’s too old to wear that skirt—ridiculous. She dresses like she’s in her twenties—just pathetic. High heels? Mutton dressed up as lamb. Old people should not be allowed to…fill in the blank…it’s disgusting. 

So, when did old age become this dirty truth, a terrible fate visited upon all women over 35? If you embrace aging, you become invisible, but if you fight aging, you are ridiculed for not accepting the natural passing of time—it’s a no-win every time.

This adoration of youth is now deeply ingrained in western society. We venerate youth, telling young people they are in the “best time of their lives.” So, we are saying it is all downhill from there? 

Young adults cling to their youth living what is now termed “a Pre-Adult Phase:” this is the period from 18 to 25 when you are not regarded as an adult. They actively delay any hint of getting older, waiting to marry, and have children. They live in apartment complexes that are really just college dorms but with granite counters and fancy amenities. 

Our culture is obsessed with youth, and aging has become vilified to the point that people are disgusted by any hint of it. How dare you show your old face around here? 

I don’t blame young people for acting like old age is a horrible illness; every message our society sends reinforces that stereotype.

When I was growing up, I didn’t love the fact that I would eventually age. None of us were wishing the years away or dreaming about our first wrinkle.  But, there was never this belief that youth was some perfect paradise, a golden stage above all others in life. 

We didn’t worship at the altar of youth. We simply enjoyed it just as we had enjoyed being little children—or not. 

Today, I see this almost cult-like adoration of youth among the young. When Bob Dylan wrote Forever Young, it was a dreamy anthem. Nowadays, it is a war cry; we will never allow ourselves to age. 

They seem to think they are the first generation ever to experience youth, and they seem convinced that somehow they are the first generation who will avoid this inevitable fate.

What saddens me is that the younger generations are setting themselves up for a mighty fall. Word to the wise: aging comes to all of us. By age-shaming all of us older people, you are age-shaming your future self.

I know it is hard for young people to accept that getting older is inevitable, but holding up youth as some golden prize will only lead to great disappointment. 

I prefer to enjoy each age for what it brings, and I embrace the Live and Let Live approach. Wear that short skirt, buy the platform boots, get a tattoo. Just do what makes you happy.

And finally: let’s agree to boycott any and every article titled: “What Not to Wear After 50”—usually written by a 25-year-old! Just imagine the outcry if a woman in her sixties wrote an article listing all the things a 30-year-old woman should never wear. 

NOTE: this will be my last blog for a while. After 66 posts and about 46 000 words, I am taking a break from blogging to work on my novel. Thank you for your support. 

See you in the Fall!

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2 comments on “The Cult of Youth: Where Have All the Older Women Gone?
  1. Veronica MichelTracy says:

    “Wear that short skirt, buy the platform boots, get a tattoo. Just do what makes you happy.”… I love it! I have to admit that for myself, loving, enjoying, and accepting those signs of aging is a work in process; I am most critical when it comes to those visible signs on myself. 🙄💕

    • Jane Paterson says:

      Thank you. Many of us do that, and I wonder if it isn’t us harvesting decades of society sewing those seeds of doubt? Just live your best life!

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