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© 2002 by Brigette Lacombe

 "I'm 60, and I'm playing the romantic lead!  Bette Davis is rolling over in her grave!"  These are the words of Meryl Streep as she graces the cover of the current January Vanity Fair issue.  

Boarding a plane headed for warmer climates, I held the magazine greedily in anticipation of reading the article.  I've got half a decade before I reach that milestone, but I was excited to read more.  I have often heard the complaints of women 50 on up of this phenomenon known to all older women...the phenomenon of suddenly becoming invisible, discarded, ignored and not taken seriously.  Our own Lea Lane shares about this beautifully in her post, Becoming Invisible.

Streep herself admits to telling her husband when she was 38, "Well, it's over."  She knew at the time that any woman approaching 40 in the entertainment industry was well on her way to being washed up.

Fortunately for her and us, it was the furthest thing from the truth.

In "It's Complicated",  Streep's character has a fling with her ex-husband and at one point describes herself as a slut while her girlfriends squeal in delight.  In the theater, I found myself doing the same thing.

"Yeah, you go girl!"  Not that I was excited about any woman calling herself a slut, but it was just so juicy delicious to see a woman of Streep's age enjoying her sensuousness and her sexuality.

It should also be noted that the very talent Nancy Meyers directed “It’s Complicated” and I’m quite sure she was also partly responsible for the success of this smart intelligent film.    

Mike Nichols, the well known director, says, "Streep broke the glass ceiling of an older woman being a big star—it has never, never happened before."

Well I say it's about damn time!

Did you know that woman age 45 and over are the largest consumer-spending group?  We spend over ONE TRILLION dollars a year so it's high time we are taken more than seriously.

We're all familiar with the annoying phrases, "40 is the new 20" and "50 is the new 30".  Whatever.  Reality is reality.  When I first heard those phrases, I'll admit that I liked them, they were seductive.  They boosted my ego and kept the nagging fear of aging at bay.  Yet deep down inside me, I knew that I certainly didn't need reading glasses in my 20's or a colonoscopy in my 30's. And what about all the wisdom gained by the marches of time?  I'd never give that up to go back to those days.

Gail Sheehy (author of "Passages") put it well when she recently said, "The 60's aren't the new 40's...the 60's are the NEW 60's!"  As women, we get to decide what the new 40's, 50's, 60's and beyond look like, not some 20-something advertising kid in a downtown Manhattan office.

I am not my mother's daughter.

When my mother was my age, she had long confined herself to a life of domesticity and passivity.  To be honest, I think she was just plain worn out...her choices had long ago been taken by a church who forbade her from using birth control and a culture where women like Donna Reed and June Cleaver were idolized for being dutiful wives and mothers.

Her exercise was playing solitaire, bridge and waiting for my father to take her away when he was done with an exhilarating and productive day.

As for me, my 40's and beyond has been a Renaissance time.   I've learned to rock climb, fall passionately in love, ride my bike up crazy long winding steep hills (I kicked a fifteen year old boy's ass up one of those hills this summer and I will admit I've been grinning ever since), accelerate my professional career and laugh like a kid on a daily basis.

The older I get, the more curious I am becoming.  I want to know about EVERYTHING.  I don't ever want to retire.  I want to push myself, my body, my mental limits.

A popular advertising slogan in the 1960's proclaimed, "You've Come a Long Way Baby!"  Unfortunately it was promoting Virginia Slims, a cigarette aimed towards younger women and was responsible for a rapid increase in smoking among teenage girls.  If they didn't kick the habit, chances are they've kicked the bucket.  

Meanwhile, Meryl Streep may well be paving the way for the rest of us who truly have come a long way baby.

As for me, I'm not slowing down any time soon.  So what if I just joined AARP (gulp)...I'm not proud and there are some damn good discounts available.  So what if I have to check the age box that is right next to DEATH?  These box people need to add a few more if they want to keep up with the new longevity of human beings.  So what if I have to have a zillion reading glasses in every corner of my home, car and office?  So what if a woman my age recently asked me, "Mary, why do you dress so ‘young‘...are you in denial of your age?"  

Whateuuuver.

I'm not going down easily, I'll tell you that much.  Now please excuse me while I get ready for my hang gliding lesson.  When it comes to aging, as far as I'm concerned, the sky is the limit.

*Note:  I will admit to taking some literary license when I referred to the hang gliding lesson.  No way in hell you're ever gonna get me to do that, but then again.... you never know.  The mind is a powerful thing and time and wisdom have taught me, "Never say never."

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