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A Man Explains What He Loves Most About Women Over 60

It's something warm. And generous. And sexy.

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A woman in her 60s looks at you differently. It’s not better or worse than the look one gets from a woman of any other age, it’s just … different. She’s a woman who has lived through much of the 20st century and all of the 21st century, and so she has seen, done, encountered, endured, been challenged by, luxuriated in, put up with and relished a whole hell of a lot.

Six decades along, she no longer needs to apologize for, boast about, be dragged down by, wonder if or, really, put up with anything else.    

Not anymore. She is woman, and she has roared.    

That’s the backstory that powers the gleam from within that a man sees when he gets “the look” from a woman who is over 60. It is so in the moment and plainly expressed that it’s impossible to ignore or resist. If you’re working with her (or working for her), it commands respect without instilling fear — a neat trick that too few men, of any age, seem able to pull off.

If you’re visiting her as a friend, “the look” understands you without patronizing you; she’s been patronized plenty enough over the years to know you have no use for that. And if you’re loving her, living with her, it simply welcomes you in. It’s able to absorb and comfort and excite you without resorting to guile.    

It’s straight up. It’s warm. It’s generous. It’s sexy.    

Our culture doesn’t celebrate these qualities nearly enough. In fact, it usually dismisses them. Hollywood has always had a hard time capturing women 60-plus except when it wraps them in the context of motherhood.    

I was reminded of this recently while watching the actress Frances McDormand do her amazing thing in the movie Nomadland. I’ve been a fan of hers forever. It started in 1996, with Fargo, the dark comedy in which she portrayed the hugely pregnant, doggedly plain-thinking police chief Marge Gunderson (“I guess,” she began her most iconic line, “that was your accomplice in the wood chipper.”)    

McDormand was in her late 30s then. Most of her screen time she spent bundled up against an arctic Minnesota winter in a heavy coat, outsized mittens and a big hat with ear flaps. She was in pursuit of two gruesomely bungling hit men and the small-potatoes car salesman who hired them.    

Yet the scene that stayed with me, and cemented my admiration for McDormand, had nothing to do with the murder Marge was charged with investigating. Instead, it was an almost throwaway scene of her in bed after a long day, talking about art on a three-cent stamp with her balding husband, Norm.    

You could already see by the inner light emanating from McDormand’s clear, round eyes that she was going to age well on-screen without ever worrying about aging – that one day she would possess “the look.” Fast-forward a quarter century. I’m sprawled on my living room couch one night with my wife, who is 60, streaming Nomadland on Netflix. McDormand dominates the screen with a stark depiction of aging on the edge. She plays Fern, a recession-scarred modern-day nomad roaming the American West while living in her DIY customized van.     

It’s a leading role but hardly a glam one. McDormand sports perhaps the best bad hair ever. Virtually everything she owns is secondhand. She’s living a life that not one financial adviser would have charted for her a decade earlier.    

Yet I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Neither can the movie’s other characters, both women and men, including Dave, played by a smitten silver-haired David Strathairn.    

Why? “The look.” It glows with the understanding that Fern has been through it all, learned from it all and, finally, is at peace with it all. Fern’s circumstances hardly make her representative of older women. They’re too extreme. But the in-the-moment, plain-thinking visage that McDormand employs to portray her does represent the special beauty of the over-60 set. I see it every day when I wake up to my wife. So as soon as the final credits rolled, I googled McDormand’s age. So did my wife, also drawn by McDormand’s portrayal of something so singularly attractive. She beat me to it. McDormand is 63.    

Nomadland is only a movie, of course, and McDormand was acting — sort of. She has long been outspoken about women aging, on-screen and off.    

“You are someone who, beneath that white hair, has a card catalog of valuable information,” she once said of older women. “I need to represent publicly what I’ve chosen to represent privately, which is a woman who is proud and more powerful than I was when I was younger. And I think that I can carry that pride and power on my face and in my body.”    

McDormand’s performance in Nomadland underscored basic truths about the women in my life — my wife, my friends, my colleagues, the editor who assigned me this story — who are in their 60s and beyond.    

You can be elegant or frumpy or anything in between. You can touch up your hair, or you can let it go a gorgeous gray. You can work out and keep the pep in your step, or you can walk down the grocery store aisle with a little limp — fallout from that damn knee replacement. It doesn’t matter. You are 60. Give me “the look” and I still hear you roar.

Photo credits: Benjamin Madgwick/August; Getty Images; Ari Michelson/Augustn(2); Stephanie Rausser/Trunk Archive

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