“Women may be the one group that grows more radical with age.” —Gloria Steinem
Marguerite Duras, at the age of 70, published her first bestseller, The Lover. At 40, Katherine Johnson became the first non-male, non-white member of the Space Task Group. Vera Wang didn’t start designing wedding dresses until she was forty. Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t publish her first book until she was in her sixties.
Despite the fact that society often focuses on wunderkind and “the beauty of youth,” there are countless examples of women coming into their own as they gain more experience and wisdom—meaning as they (gasp!) age.
Historically, women were encouraged to be dutiful and devoted housewives—quietly supporting their families from the sidelines. But thankfully, that way of thinking (for the most part) is a thing of the past along with the notion that a woman’s worth lessens as she ages.
So listen up ladies. Before you delete your birth date from your Facebook account, consider all of the things you have to look forward to and embrace as you age:
1. More independence
In our younger years, going somewhere alone may have seemed boring or even scary, or impossible financially. As we get older, the idea that society may look at us askance if we go somewhere solo typically does not weigh as heavily on us, and neither does the cost. Going places alone means doing things on our own schedules, making decisions without a committee vote and not having to acquiesce to others’ needs and wants over our own. Independence has its perks.
2. We are judged less
One of the highly enjoyable things about getting older is that society no longer holds us to the same standards. Maybe it’s that people assume we are the authority in the situation due to our age, so anything we do is more accepted. Maybe it’s just that we’ve come to accept who we are, so we either carry it off with confidence or just don’t notice any judgment directed our way, so we are affected less by it. No matter what the reason, judgment affects us less as we age.
3. We judge less as well
After we’ve experienced more, we also begin to realize that everyone has their own paths and their own reasons for doing what they do. And as long as it’s not harming anyone, it’s easier to nod and move on. This isn’t to say we never judge or that all older people are super accepting. On the whole, though, after we’ve spent years getting caught up in caring about what someone else wears, dyes, does, etc., it’s easier to accept the little things that don’t affect us as just what floats someone else’s boat.
4. Emotional resilience
When we are younger, everything feels like a life or death situation, from a friend treating us poorly to just about any type of rejection. With youth, whether it’s personal or professional, the drama feels real. For many reasons, including hormones and brain development, not to mention life experience, we stop worrying as much as we get older. It becomes clear that we can survive a lot because we already have.
Women from many walks of life have more freedom as they age, giving them the wisdom and state of mind to embrace independence and find themselves in ways that the judgment and dependence of their younger years didn’t allow. Like Julia Child, who didn’t even enroll in a cooking class until she was 37, and Carmen Herrera, who sold her first painting at 89 (and is still painting with the help of an assistant at 102), women embrace their true selves more as they age, turning their later years into true golden years.
To read more about amazing women who came into their own later in life, check out Lisa Congdon’s A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives.
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