Age is just a number. It really is. I’m here to tell you that you’re not too young or too old for anything.
Twenty years ago I was working in Manhattan at an investment bank. I wasn’t an investment banker. I was an actress and my day job was working as the assistant to the President and executive team of a private investment bank. I did things like make travel arrangements, act as hostess at meetings, arrange dinner parties at the Harvard Club, and other random duties like update his stock and bond prices after the closing bell.
The president had a daughter who was also into acting so he would allow me a flexible schedule if I needed to run out for an audition or to do a quick voiceover. When I was turning 30 — a scary age for any woman trying to make acting her profession — one of the Managing Directors called me into his office.
He started out by saying, “Happy Birthday.” And then he said he knew I was feeling bad about turning thirty, but now I’m old enough. I didn’t understand at first. And he said to think of all those times in life when I was told I wasn’t old enough to do something. Well, now I was old enough. At 30, no one had the right to tell me what to do. I found this very empowering.
Now, I’m 50 years old. And I almost hesitated typing that number, because society puts such labels on women at that age. But I’m not ashamed to be 50. I have 50 years of life experience that I use in my business and my writing. And at 50 I’m the best version of me yet.
The United States is a very ageist society. I’m convinced that it’s perpetrated by the retail industry, the cosmetic industry, and probably the drug industry too. I’m starting to get pissed off about the emails and ads I’m receiving from companies who think it’s time I hang up my hat.
For my generation, social security has been pushed back to age 67. So stop trying to tell me I’m through. I have plenty of years of working life left in me.
Here are some of the cringe-worthy headlines I’m seeing:
Sex After 50
Is it so different from sex before 50? I’m 50 and my body hasn’t changed at all. I’m not menopausal, uninterested, or decrepit. Why can’t I have great sex my whole life?
How To Be Stylish After 40
As if I’d suddenly forgotten how to dress on my 40th birthday. Or how dare I wear something trendy if I’m not 18. (To be fair this was an email from a men’s fashion website. This kind of attitude is not just directed at women.)
Is Your Hair Aging You?
Why are you so worried about my hair? I started going gray in my 20s. I’m used to it.
Women Who Age Well – Rules to Follow, Rules to Break
Why are there rules at all? Who’s to say what “aging well” means? Do they mean the size of my retirement fund or the texture of my skin?
These magazines and websites think they are being helpful, but they are contributing to the myth that if you’re not 20 or 30, you’re not supposed to be playing the game of life.
In Europe woman are beautiful at all ages. But it’s not just about beauty. Actresses in England, France and Italy work their whole lives. They don’t worry about not getting cast anymore. Who is more beautiful or a better actress than Helen Mirren, Judy Dench, or Catherine Deneuve? I have a friend whose Hollywood agent told her not to age past 35, on paper anyway. Meanwhile in Italy, Sophia Loren is 81 years old and the new face of Dolce and Gabbana cosmetics.
In the U.S. most makeup ads feature teenagers or twenty-somethings. You might occasionally see an actress in her 40s who is airbrushed beyond recognition. A few years ago the UK banned overly airbrushed makeup ads as misleading, one of them was a Lancome ad featuring Julia Roberts who was 43 at the time. Her image was airbrushed and digitally manipulated to look more “aspirational,” according to the company.
No wonder Botox is so popular. Society makes people afraid to show their laugh lines. I’m proud of my laugh lines. They mean that I’ve laughed. I’ve earned them.
I had a great time in my 20s and 30s. I enjoyed my beauty. I also enjoyed it at 40 and now 50. But I have other priorities as well. I don’t care if society thinks I shouldn’t wear this headband (pictured above) because it’s for young girls. I like its hippie vibe. And more importantly, it keeps my hair off my face — which should be shorter because, you know, I’m 50.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re not too young or too old for anything. You’re at the perfect age to not have anyone tell you what to do. And that age is whatever age you happen to be.
Actress Ruth Gordon once asked, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”
And I ask, “Why does it matter at all?”