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finger wagI’ve been reading a great deal recently about the things I shouldn’t do, or should do, and it’s pretty much the same thing. Apparently as a woman over 50 I fit into the top two categories of people — women, and people over 50 — whom others think they should be bossing around.

Don’t wear mini skirts after 50.

Go gray naturally with your short hair because you’re too old for long hair.

You don’t need these things after 50.

Eat this after 50.

Mustn’t eat this after 50.

Don’t expect love at first sight after 50.

Drink no wine after your time. (If you get that, you are definitely over 50.)

Let me start by explaining this to writers everywhere. Stop. Telling. Women. What. To. Do.

I haven’t been told “No” this many times since I was four and climbed on top of the refrigerator to throw down the eggs kept up there, one little fragile oval at a time. I had my reasons — two of them to be exact. First, climbing was fun. Secondly, those eggs made a cool sound and a delightful yellow and white splash as they hit the linoleum floor.

And much like the adorable toddler I must have been, the adorable over-50 woman I am now doesn’t enjoy being told no. Bratty? Perhaps. But more likely, unlike toddler me, I believe I’ve earned the right to make good decisions, or bad ones, on my own. Dammit, I’ve lived more than 50 years; that should be worth something in terms of respect for my choices.

In particular, if you are considerably younger than I am, you have no clue what is appropriate for me. You think I’m old and you’re wrong. Older, yes. Old, not so much. (Not that there’s anything wrong with old!) Millennials should not be telling me what to wear. I’ve seen what you wear and it’s what I was wearing 20 years ago so I am obviously way ahead of you in fashion. As four-year-old me would’ve said, “You’re not the boss of me, Millennials.”

It’s not just fashion. Don’t tell me what’s good for my body when your body still has elasticity. About 20 years ago, a young doc told me I was 100 percent headed for knee replacement if I didn’t stop running. I explained my running was the pace most people walked and I only ran about three miles at a time so I doubted it was hurting me. He insisted he was right and I figured he spent about a million hours studying the body and must know whereof he spoke so I stopped. I felt like crap for about five years and figured, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” and started running again. Still running now, about four to five miles a few times a week. No aches, no pains, and yes, still my original parts.

Food bloggers all appear to be about 30 and love to tell me what to eat. Eat kale! Fried foods are not your friend! Chocolate will kill you! Chocolate can save your life! (Okay that one might be true.) Don’t eat animals … unless they eat grass, then you can eat them … unless you have empathy, then you can’t eat them! And, yes, they all use a lot of exclamation points because everything they write matters!!!

Here’s the thing … I will, at this point, eat what I want, exercise how I please, dress my way, and suffer the consequences. I’m just badass that way. There’s a difference between aging and getting old. As long as we keep experiencing the world, keep trying new things, keep learning, we stay vibrant. We age but we don’t get old. Part of experiencing the world requires us to continue to make our own choices. We’ve earned the right to do so.

Poet Shel Silverstein had it right in his Listen to the Mustn’ts Piece, in which he advises not to pay attention to the shouldn’ts and instead embrace the concept of “anything can be.” At any age. As long as we believe “anything can be,” so can we.

For more of my fun reads on aging your way, meet me over at Grand Magazine.

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