Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Aged by Others

I've been getting white hairs since I was 14 years old. I remember exactly where I was when my friend pointed it out to me. We were in a stairwell full of teenagers transitioning to their next class. We were on our way to French class.

The idea of my aging was pointed out to me fairly early on, you could say.

As my white hairs increased, women especially felt the need to point out that those hairs were "prematurely aging" me. (Though I never got anything but compliments from men...there's a sociology paper in that.)

I kept my white hair. It was gorgeous. It came in perfectly striped, as if done by a professional.

Notice that I said it "was" gorgeous.

I got tired of women telling me things about my age, first of all. Women who knew me and women who had never met me. I got tired of people deciding things about me because of my freaking hair color.

I color it now. At first, I colored because I was tired of being put in a box and now I do it because I like how it looks.

Hair coloring aside, I wonder how many ways every day we are aged by other people's perceptions of us or how they think we should be?

How many times do we hear that certain clothes, certain music, or certain activities aren't for our age?

I cringe at how many times I have thought or said, "She's dressing too young." What? She is dressing how she feels! Have you thought or said the same?

As I look around for dance workshops to go to, my frustration increases. There is so much ageism in the world of dance. Most serious workshops are targeted at people under 25, and if there is a segment of the workshop for those of us with a few more years, they assume you are a teacher.

The dance world says "no" to me based on my years rather than my abilities.

I am invisible to them. Not for long, of course, because I am stubborn and this dancing is the love of my life.

But how many women are stopped in their tracks by this Ageism? How much beauty and wisdom and talent are we missing out on because women over 35 are shoved into pre-labeled boxes?

What have your experiences been like?


Rachel @ SuburbanYogini said...

In some ways I'm lucky because I'm petite and young looking people think I'm more like 25 than 35 and are always very surprised when I tell them the truth. Although I have been dying the grey out for a long time (early grey runs in the family).

However, this has it's own problems. I'm often still treated like a little girl (especially by men) and not taken as seriously as perhaps a 35 year old woman deserves to be (not that I am serious about much really, but I think you know what I mean!)

Tess said...

Have you seen the film biography of dancer Anna Halprin? Check out the trailer (below). I don't think she worries about any of these things.

Christine Claire Reed said...

Rachel, That's the interesting thing about people not really SEEING other people. My that it's colored, they "canNOT believe I am 41!" they are SO blind to others that a simple thing like hair color stops them from looking further?!

This, of course, is a sad and telling metaphor for so much more.

Tess, Yep. Anna is a definite hero of mine! :)

mrsduncanmahogany said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mrsduncanmahogany said...

It has taken me two solid years to grow out the dye and let my silvery highlights shine. I am 42 years old, look 32 even with my silver, and I love my hair because I refuse to put chemicals into my body anymore, seeping dyes into my scalp is not something I wish for. I get comments often, from even the "younger" generation on how they LOVE my hair. I am not going back to dye, no matter how "young" it makes me look.

And I feel better about it all the time!

Christine Claire Reed said...

Dianna, Yep, I got the same comments all the time, and anyone who bothered to LOOK saw that my skin said different things about my age than my hair. ;) I didn't dye until about a year ago. (And there are other options besides chemicals, of course.)

It's taken me a long time to be okay with the dye -- that women have done this FOREVER, that many women who won't dye wear all sorts of make up (I wear none and thus the skin). My point being that it CAN all just be for fun.

My LARGER point of this piece being, obviously, that OTHER people contribute to our concepts of our own aging -- wrongfully.

mrsduncanmahogany said...

Hi again Christine,

ABSOLUTELY! I agree 100% with what you are saying. Sad that other people are so quick to judge. I try not to ever do that, and if those people choose to do that, then it is them who has to live with the bitter, judgemental attitude. I shall just be happy, ride my bike and do yoga. Now if I can only get dancing in there too ;)

Be well,

lucy said...

oh, i can feel my own blog post coming out of this topic. i'm trying to decide how much of this i do to myself, but then i realize the voice i hear inside my head began with someone else - mainly i hear "dress your age." what the heck does that even mean?!?!?

although i do remember bin in a "juniors" department about 10 years ago and the very young clerk saying "this might be a little young for you." oh, i was furious and consequently have never returned to that department. aarrgh. like i said, i think there's a post in here for me too. for now, however, think i'll go play :-) xoxo

Christine Claire Reed said...

Oh, I know, Lucy, it literally PAINS me to think of the times I HAVE BEEN THE ONE SAYING that AWFUL thing. I CONFESS.

I realized, after much reflection, that I was TAUGHT to say that about other women who "DARED" to be themselves. Makes me sick to think about all of this and how we pass it down and around to each other.

I will happily look forward to your post.

Now I am the one shopping in those "junior" sections (what do all these terms even mean!?!?) and I am the one getting the looks and I just grin at them. :)

lucy said...

my sister relates that we, too, were "carefully taught" to say those things about others. yuk!! and just now when you referred to shopping in the "juniors", i heard myself say, "yea, but you're 10 years younger than i am"... oh please, does it ever stop?!?!? off for my bubble bath now :-)

Christine Claire Reed said...

Lucy! Let us make a pact here and now to always and forever be open to shopping in the "juniors" section!! Someday we will meet in person and we will go purchase the cutest, most fun, most impractical outfits EVER! :)

Tess said...

You know, I've been reflecting on this post and reading the comments with interest. I think there is one "crime" that older people (not just women) are guilty of. That is wearing something or looking a certain way specifically in order to look younger.
If the way someone dresses truly expresses the essence of their personality, that's great and truly ageless. It's the fakery that's the problem.
So dying one's hair is not necessarily fake, it can simply be a chemical expression of one's style.
But if one regards getting older as a dirty little secret to be concealed at all costs, that's when the problems start.

Christine Claire Reed said...

Excellent and accurate (to me) distinction, Tess. Well said! :)

lucy said...

it's a deal, christine!! and tess i love your additional thoughts here.

stuffing aging into a corner won't make it stop... one of my favorite adages is "you don't stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing!!" i missed a lot of years not playing, because i was trying to "act my age." forget that, there's always time for a happy childhood!!

Jennifer said...

I believe I've told you before that you and I have the same hair---
same color, same length, same "highlights"...mine came in stripey too.

I am 48 years old and I constantly have my mother telling me that my hair is too long (where is it written that a woman's hair can be "too long"? Exactly HOW LONG is too long?), that "older women" can't wear long hair (gee thanks Mom, but if I'm older, what does that make YOU?)

Ahh and I also dress inappropriately for my age. Hmmph!

Megan Matthieson said...

So. Aging. Dancing. Check my latest blog post. A small vid clip of me dancing this past weekend (in bikini!) I am fifty. But in my heart I am still about 28. A couple of years ago (the classic mid life crisis stuff) I went through a rough period. A long one! But I came out of it saying YES to all things that give me joy. Dancing is the main one. Of course. I've been dancing since I was 4, with a decade off when my children were small. I find that I fall 'in between' most groups- usually relating to younger friends more than ones my age. Oh well. I'm just going to be true to myself. Which is a dancing (as long as I can!) loving and crazy person. Thanks for your lovely post.

Megan Matthieson said...

Sorry! My link didn't work. It's