On my birthday in January I did something I haven’t done since I was a teenager: I went skiing. I drove to Mammoth, California with my brand-new ski outfit and swooshed down the mountain with my instructor Catherine, who had long, slivery white hair and could ski backwards and talk at the same time. I was amazed.
Women today in their 50s and beyond are the healthiest, wealthiest and most active generation of females in history. We are making money, spending money, and looking for new ways to engage in the world around us. So why are we widely ignored? I’m 53 and it feels like I’ve entered a demographic no one notices. The cultural dialogue isn’t directed my way, and commerce barely knows I’m alive. The only marketing group who is super persistent with me is AARP. They keep sending me an ID card that I’m scared to accept. Will it make me old?
It seems like most companies think that women in their 50s are done. That once the kids leave for college, we’re supposed to skip the next decade and turn into grandmas, or become someone who moves to the sidelines and thinks about retiring as she putters around her so-called empty nest. Men can be dynamic all the way into their 90s, but women over 50 should take the cue and have a seat, right?
The irony is, this is exactly when people should be talking to me. I’m saying there’s a Life Begins at 50 revolution in the air because now, more than ever, I’m paying attention. I’m ready to be spoken to like I matter; like I have a point of view on things I care about; like I’m invested in my own happiness and health; like I’m eager to learn new things and try new adventures; like I plan to have all of the things I want (not just some of them).
Most women instinctively know we’re divided into three camps: those who have raised children, those who have had careers, and those who have done both. But there are magical, superpower threads that encircle all three of those groups. Having the strength, patience, and sheer love to be a mother; having the singlemindedness, determination, and insight to be a female leader; having the endurance, grace, and spirit to accomplish both. These are the qualities I see in women all around me. These are the things that keep us vital, young, and above all else, relevant.
On my birthday ski trip, I saw in Catherine what a woman in her 50s looks like—strong and skilled; confident and irreverent. A woman who every day rides up a mountain and glides back down like nothing in the world can stop her.
Those are the women I want to talk to. That’s the woman I want to be.
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