THE WAKE-UP CALLOn a morning, much like any other morning, before I headed out for the day, I was checking my outfit in the mirror (fortunately it wasn't the soul destroying work mirror that shows every line and crinkle) and I thought "I'm looking pretty good for someone my age". Bang! there is was.....the dreaded midlife disclaimer "for my age". How had it crept into my own mental dialogue without me even thinking about it?
WHEN DOES IT START?I'm not sure when in life it sets in that judgments are based on how old someone is....Does it start at 40? or 50? I can't imagine it applying to someone in their 30's. I've noticed I often do it when I see someone around my age looking good, and I hear it from others regularly too. I know for certain that no-one says about a 20 year old "gee she's looking good for her age" or "she's in great shape for her age", but when it comes to life after a certain date you become either invisible or "good for your age".
Helen Mirren, the actress, has it attached to descriptions of her outfits all the time - particularly that shot of her taken in a red bikini (mind you she never had children so her tummy didn't suffer the indignities of being stretched to the size of a small town and deflated again numerous times - so that helps a bikini photo no end). I noticed another pic of her in a purple swimsuit and she looks much more like a woman in her second half of life - still pretty "good for her age" though!
JUDGEMENT DISCLAIMERSI've also heard people apply it in the negative too - "really, you wouldn't think she'd be wearing those earrings at her age" or "you'd think she'd be a little more settled at her age" etc etc. There must be a magic age where this disclaimer becomes normal and I'm yet to figure out when that actually is......maybe it's 42 (the answer to the universe's question). At some stage I'll have to start surveying a spectrum of friends and see whether they hear it or not to determine an approximate start date. I can't imagine it applying to the 30 something young mum down the street so it must be a later stage and I'm thinking somewhere between forty and fifty?
TACKLING THE DISCLAIMERSo, do we fight the disclaimer? Or take it on board as a compliment? Or as a gentle reminder - in case we've had the audacity to forget how we should be behaving at that 'certain age'? Surely it has to be better than being invisible (the other curse of the midlife woman) because at least people have seen you to be able to pass comment on your appearance or behaviour. But it is still another nail in the coffin of middle age when your outfit choice is subject to a disclaimer even when you know you're looking pretty darn fantastic "for your age".
I've chosen to kick myself in the pants if I catch myself thinking that way. I love all the pictures of much older women rocking bright colours, or bohemian dresses, or high heels, or whatever - so why put any disclaimers onto my own choice of outfits. I think from now on I'm just going to cut the thought off half way through and then it'll be "I'm looking pretty darn good!" end of story - no disclaimers!