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The Best Part of Being 60-Something

I can finally let go of all that's been weighing me down.

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You do you. Women of all ages are told this via female-directed websites, magazines and self-help books. But for the 60-plus demographic, it’s actually doable.

Even though younger women often choose as their battle cry, “I don’t care what others think,” on their journey to prove they’re warriors as well as “badass” — the fact is they do care. In fact, they’re desperate for the approval of others because getting to their next phase in life depends on it. I should know, for I used to be one of them.

I remember all too well pretending to fit the mold (while claiming to be breaking it) or hiding human flaws lest I’d be denied the promotion, the man or acceptance into whichever “club” I was trying to belong.

A woman in her sixth decade, though, who has most likely had the life, career, family or whatever it was she wanted to attain when she was 20-something, doesn’t have much anyone can hold over her anymore. “You’re not inviting me to your birthday party? That’s OK, ’cause I’ve already been to a million of ’em in my lifetime and I know what cake tastes like.”

We can finally let go of the please-like-me baggage and secrets that have been weighing us down, as well as the insecurities based on what others think of us, and realize what really matters is being ourselves and letting the chips fall.

Hey, everyone says our age bracket is invisible anyway, so why not take advantage and live transparently?

“I don’t want to gird my loins. I don’t want to be defensive. I want to prepare to be open and present,” said Sharon Stone to The New York Times about her recent memoir, The Beauty of Living Twice (Knopf).The proof of her words is exhibited less in the book’s content (an abortion at 18, childhood sexual abuse, her health scare that led to losing custody of her son, and Hollywood’s play-ball-or-get-off-the-field misogyny) and more in the fact that she wrote about it all with fearless candor. 

At 63, the Oscar winner knows what’s important (her three sons and her humanitarian efforts) and wants to call her own shots by letting go of her handlers and having a presence on Instagram. (“So, if a director wants me, specifically, they’ll be able to find me.”) Michelle Pfeiffer, also 63, when talking to reporter Mary Louise Kelly on National Public Radio about her role as the brash, formerly rich widow in her latest film French Exit, called caring about what other people think “exhausting.” Indeed! And isn’t growing older in general tiring enough? Why add to it?

Unfortunately, this well-earned self-acceptance doesn’t happen the minute we blow out the wax numbers six and zero on our birthday cakes. It took me a while to get used to the fact that what other people think of me is none of my business. Sometimes, at 63, I still forget that I’m not 23 years old — and I don’t mean that in a good way.

Forty years ago, I was often caught up in the extremes at work, trying not only to be viewed as promotable but also as someone who should be able to keep her job when pink slips started to fly. In social circles, I was concerned whether I was seen as cool, and in the dating realm, I was hoping to be desirable from the male gaze.

In the past few years, I have found myself in situations where someone proved toxic and I reacted initially as I would have back in the day — that is, to go along to get along. I’ve actually had to remind/convince myself that I’m not that put-up-with-anything-so-I-don’t-fall-out-of-favor girl anymore. Now, people should be worrying if they’re going to fall out of favor with me.

I can quit a job or bow out of a social event where I’m made uncomfortable, and if others take umbrage? Well, there’s a saying that’s not new, I’m sure, but it’s new to me: Don’t push me away, then wonder where I went.

I no longer have the emotional bandwidth to deal with mostly avoidable things that up to now I have let aggravate me. Hence, I have begun unfollowing celebrities on social media who are provocative for attention’s sake, I have been trying not to keep up personal or professional relationships out of misguided loyalty or nostalgia, and I have not been basing sartorial choices on fear that someone might comment that I spent too much/too little, am being too on trend or so unfashionable, or too sexy, too dowdy, too casual, etc. (If you don’t like what I’m wearing, then don’t look.)

Most of all, my goal is to spend my remaining decades not wasting one more second formulating “zingers” to lob back at those determined to show me how tough they are by making aggressive, passive-aggressive, defensive or smart-aleck remarks. Instead, I can use my energy to walk away as though whatever they’ve said didn’t matter — because it doesn’t.

But that’s just me. You do you.

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