I got pretty irritated recently. Am I beginning to look my age after all, I’m wondering? Several times this week I have been the recipient of well-meaning but patronising younger people.
You know, the way the check out women talk to you – do you need help with the packing, shall I go a bit more slowly? I have no issues with the questions – they are very courteous requests. It’s the way they are said – with the dreaded ‘dearie’ or’ sweetie’ or’ love’ added at the end of each sentence. “Oh, isn’t that sweet,” I got when buying some craft items and the shop assistant commented on my ability to alter and restyle clothes, and make my own jewellery. Considering the shop was a craft shop – surely all her customers have this, or similar abilities. Argh! It makes me so mad.
Then there were the two marketing guys in a well known craft store trying to sell me something. They noticed the limp, the temporary stick (I have a hip injury at present and the stick, I admit, is a very groovy violet floral one) and immediately changed their attitude to simpering sympathy as if a) it must be age-related arthritis and b) I must therefore be on the way out and need help.
I was at a conference on Saturday full of vibrant, inspiring women from average age 50 to 70 though with some younger and older. We had a really inspiring talk and demo about colour styling. The woman who was talking seemed really in tune with modern older women’s desire to continue to look stylish, attractive, sexy. Then we had an equally inspiring talk by a younger woman who had undertaken a personal, physical challenge and walked the Great Wall of China for charity. Her experiences were something to be proud of, I quite agree. Then she spoilt it by suggesting the women in the room should also take on a challenge themselves, suggesting it would make them feel worthy and having achieved something.
I have two comments to make here. Firstly that many of the women in the room had already achieved so much in their lives, whether raising a family in the adverse conditions after the war or in the 70s, or having pursued exciting careers as teachers, solicitors, social workers and other similar professions. Many had travelled the world, organised events, changed careers, cared for elderly relatives or disabled children. Every woman in that room had already achieved great personal challenge .
Secondly – a question – why is personal challenge only seen in terms of physical challenge? Eg: sport, running races, trekking, climbing, jumping out of aircraft etc. Challenge comes in many forms – yes physical, but also intellectual, creative, even emotional. Any woman who has put up with a difficult marriage and finally found the courage to get out, or has put up with physical, verbal, financial abuse and bullying, they have already achieved greatness. After a lifetime of work with children young people and families I’m busy challenging myself to pursue a writing career, and last year I taught myself to paint in watercolours; this year I’m learning about the Qaballa and yoga. By the end of the conference, to make a point, I had volunteered to run next year’s regional conference. Another personal challenge. My topic – adding value to age – aimed at inspiring and empowering all older women to ‘not go quietly into the night’. I’m going to steer clear of ‘how to make a will’ or ‘plan your eco-funeral’ or ‘care for your arthritis in favour of singing, restyling yourself, dancing, eating delicious anti-aging foods, and other such positive activities.
A final – tongue in cheek – comment: I was delighted to be able to get into the cinema one evening and not only benefit from Orange Wednesday, but at a reduced pensioner rate too! Well I’m only human! I’ll take advantage of my age if it means a discount, any day; to hell with image then!