Growing old Disgracefully

by Jul 18, 2022Becoming a Wise Woman

A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Old Disgracefully

I am sure you have heard the phrase ‘to grow old gracefully’, but what exactly does it mean?

If you do an Internet search, you will find everyone has a different idea. From accepting you are now old to doing everything you can to avoid it. It is all quite depressing, really.

A group of age-defying women playing guitars in a recording studio, growing old disgracefully while breaking stereotypes about ageism against women.

Members of the punk collective Unglamorous Music paying a few tunes

I think the word ‘graceful’ is the wrong word. It either applies to the way you move or as an adjective to mean someone pleasant, polite and kind. All very pleasant, but not very inspiring and a bit passive for my taste.

The words I associate with ‘growing old gracefully’ are nice, bland, and boring. This woman wears sensible clothes in muted colours and has neat, short hair. She doesn’t complain, accepts that she has had her time and is happy to step back and let the younger generation take the spotlight.

I don’t know about you, but that isn’t something that I aspire to.

But if you can age gracefully, does this mean you can also age disgracefully?

Now that sounds much more appealing.

What does ageing gracefully look like?

During my Internet search, I found it covered how you look, and how you behave. Attitude didn’t come into it at all.

How you look

There are so many conflicting ideas. I can’t decide whether it means young looking as long as possible or letting nature take its course.

According to The Lady, women over 50 should not be wearing miniskirts, skyscraper heels, false eyelashes, fake tan, leather trousers, baseball caps or glitter of any sort. Oh, and being wrinkle-free in your 50s and 60s is most important. Although, Nurture Replenish Skincare sponsors this article, so they would naturally express that sentiment.

In fact, there are so many articles about what you should look like after 40, 50or 60, that somebody must think this is very important. There are rules about how long your hair should be and how much, if any, makeup you should wear. How long your skirts or dress should be, how tight your trousers are. Even the sort of underwear you should wear – no thongs, obviously. Apparently, there is even an age after which women shouldn’t wear jeans!

The one thing that these articles have in common is that when we get older, we should keep our bodies covered up – God forbid we might offend by showing some ageing skin!

How you act

Another irritating phrase that is open to interpretation is ‘acting your age’. Who decides how you should act at a particular age? Do the same standards apply to men as they do to women?

Unsurprisingly, men are not required to age gracefully.

As a mature woman, how should I behave? Should I be fading into the background and accepting my lot or desperately hanging on to my youth?

If acting maturely, either means being sensible, sober, respectable and, ultimately, invisible. Or spending all my time and money on the way I look, then I don’t think I will bother.

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What would ageing disgracefully look like instead?

Two women, defying ageism, hold glasses of wine and share a moment while smoking a cigarette.For me, the first image that comes to mind is Edina and Patsy of Absolutely Fabulous. Those women are ageing disgracefully and having fun doing so!

Beating the stereotypes

The stereotypes of middle-aged women are quite insulting. We are either man-eating cougars, grey-haired frumps, interfering busybodies or sad, childless career women. None of which applies to any of the women I know. This representation is slowly changing, but these negative stereotypes are still predominant.

I don’t know why there is so much emphasis on the way we look or act at a particular age. We should discourage conformity to anybody else’s idea of what it means to be a particular age. Why should we have to be any certain way? It is up to us to be who we want to be and no one else’s concern.

How to grow old disgracefully

The best way to age is by being ourselves. Not caring too much about what other people think about what we do and what we look like.

If anything, getting older is the time to rebel.

When I was younger, I rebelled by being a punk. I dyed my hair, wore outrageous clothes and didn’t care what others thought about it. Then, when I got older with a responsible job and commitments, I felt I had to conform. This lasted for a while before the rebel inside me had had enough. Now I am deciding how I want to look. How I want my hair and the clothes I want to wear.A hawaiian hat-wearing elderly woman confidently sips on a pineapple drink, defying ageism and growing old disgracefully.

The most important thing about growing older is your attitude. I have known women who seemed old at 18. As well as women in their 80s who refuse to conform to anyone else’s idea of what it means to be an octogenarian.

If you can’t be yourself now, you never will.

Eight things that you should do after 50

Here is my list of things you should do when you reach midlife.

  1. Wear what you like when you like. Do so if you feel comfortable wearing jogging bottoms and a loose top. If you want to wear glamorous dresses, why not? You can even do them both, though probably not simultaneously!
  2. Your hair is your business. Have your hair long or short. If you want to colour it, let it go grey if you prefer. It’s your hair. Have it how you like it. If you have always enjoyed bright pink hair, now is the perfect time to go for it.
  3. Stop worrying about how you look. Instead, concentrate on being fit and healthy.
  4. Regret nothing. You can’t change the past. Remember, everything you have done, good and bad, has made you who you are.
  5. Try new things and visit new places. Looking back at your life, it will be your experiences rather than the stuff you bought.
  6. Have friends of all ages and walks of life. Having a diverse group of friends will help you keep your mind active and stimulated and make life more enjoyable.
  7. Stay informed. Keep current on what is happening worldwide and take an interest in what is happening locally.
  8. Fight for the things you feel passionate about. Never make the mistake of thinking that you can’t make a difference in the world. You can!

The idea of growing old gracefully or disgracefully is meaningless. There is no one way to age any more than there is to be young. Each of us will go our own way.

I always loved the poem by Jenny Joseph called “Warning” about what she would do as an old woman. Especially the line, “When I Grow Old, I Shall Wear Purple.” Although I already wear purple, I will have to pick something else.

  • How do you want to age?
  • What does ageing gracefully or disgracefully mean to you?
  • What is on your list of things you should do in midlife?

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