In this age of self-acceptance, it can be shameful to admit you care not to embrace anything considered to be an imperfection, weakness, frailty or flaw. But here it goes: I don’t want to age. Wrinkles, gray hairs or sagging boobs aren’t my concerns. I was never afforded the luxury of banking on my looks, and there’s no reverse in that ahead. My interest in makeup and skin care is purely for pleasure and enhancement, not correction. My issue with aging is that it means ceding to younger people. Even in my earliest days of writing about beauty, I felt my career had a quickly approaching expiration date. How could I compete with fresher, ambitious competitors who had mastered Snapchat and Instagram? How could I stay relevant in a business obsessed with youth?
In a recent episode of the FX series “Louis,” Louis C.K., a comedian pushing 50, explores the subject of aging in a confrontation with a 24-year-old storeowner. The storeowner says Louis can’t cope with the younger generation “because we’re the future, and you don’t belong in it. Because we are beyond you and, naturally, that makes you feel kind of bad. You have this deep down feeling that you don’t matter anymore.” Hearing that assessment, Louis replies, “That’s pretty true.” Later, on NPR’s program “Fresh Air,” Louis elaborates on the exchange. He says, “You get older, and you become less in the center of things, which I think is part of getting older. There is more energy and focus on younger people. You start to resent it at first. You start to feel like somebody has taken something away from you, but then you realize that there’s a privilege in that, and it means that we are all developing.”
When I’m insecure about my age, I try to remember Louis’ assertion that “we are all developing.” I do feel I’m at a higher level of development, having surmounted most of the juvenile, inconsequential anxieties that occupied too much of my mental capacity in my teens and Twenties. I may not be taking a selfie every second, but my thoughts and opinions still carry weight. There are plenty of women 50 and older making headway in the world demonstrating that maturity, wisdom, spunk, persistence and, ahem, development should be lauded life goals, not hurdles to overcome. In the moments in which I worry about becoming a victim to age rather than welcoming it for the benefit it can be, I turn to these women for inspiration. Here are a four of them I hope will inspire you, too:
A comic dynamo, the 54-year-old’s portrayal of Elaine Benes on “Seinfield” will make her a pop culture icon forever. But she’s kept the laughs rolling well beyond her Benes days. After winning an Emmy for “Seinfeld,” she scored one for the CBS show “The New Adventures of Old Christine” in which she played the titular character and three for HBO’s “Veep,” a satire of government centered upon Louis-Dreyfus’ Selina Meyer, a hilariously inept politician. In between her small screen roles, she’s squeezed in movie parts. In the movie “Enough Said,” Louis-Dreyfus explores the difficulties of finding romance following a divorce. While promoting that film, she discussed middle age with The Guardian, commenting, “I actually dig it. It’s funny because I don’t think of myself as middle-aged. In my mind, I’m, like, mid-30s. However: I also really like being here now and having all these experiences behind me. I like that. I find it very freeing. When you’re younger you’re putting yourself out there in a way you think you should be seen. Then as you get older you’re like: ‘Nah, fuck that.'” Fuck that, indeed.
Last month, The RealReal, the luxury online consignment shop Wainwright founded and helms, raised $40 million in funding, bringing its total stockpile of investment to $83 million. That’s a lot of money, especially for a chief executive officer who is nearing 60-years-old. In fact, she told DailyWorth.com she’s one of the only executives that age whose company has received funding in the last couple years. There were stumbling blocks on the path to Wainwright’s current accomplishments. TheRealReal is estimated to generate more than $100 million in annual revenues. Wainwright was famously the ceo of Pets.com, the company notoriously associated with the dot.com bust. She boils down Pets.com’s problems to economics and timing in an SFGate article. The idea itself wasn’t bad. After all, people buy tons of pet products online today. Good or bad, Wainwright has put Pets.com behind her to build a business on the rise at TheRealReal. Speaking about success later in life, she told DailyWorth.com, “It’s a really fun time to start a business because you don’t have other issues like when you’re in your 20s or 30s. You’re the person you are when you’re in your 50s. You are the person you’re going to become, and that’s a very freeing, fun time to do some extraordinary things.” And Wainwright is definitely doing extraordinary things.
Regardless of where you stand politically, you have got to give the first lady props for being a strong example of a woman in power. The daughter of a water plant employee and a stay-at-home mom, Obama was a lawyer and hospital executive before settling into political roles alongside her husband. As a first lady and mother, she’s shown panache both in the fashion (check out the stunning Carolina Herrera gown she wore to a state dinner in 2014 or the Tracy Reese dress she sported in 2013 during a ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial) and leadership departments. In her White House post, she’s dedicated herself to supporting of military families and ending childhood obesity. She’s not afraid to shake her tail feather to promote activity as part of her Let’s Move! initiative, poke fun of her husband to keep him humble and provide girls with a smart role model. “I never cut class. I loved getting As, I liked being smart. I liked being on time. I thought being smart is cooler than anything in the world,” she said. Talking about her plans when her husband’s presidential term is up, the Los Angeles Times reported Obama said last year during a session at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, “It’s a new spotlight, it’s a different spotlight. But I think that there is more that you’re able to do outside of office oftentimes than you can do when you’re in office.” We are sure she’ll continue to be a standout long after Barack Obama’s eight years are up.
Apfel proves style is ageless. The textile, interior design and fashion legend known for her oversized glasses, bold makeup and irreverent high-low wardrobe choices launched the textile firm Old World Weavers with her husband Carl in 1950, and together they lent their fabric expertise to museums and the White House during nine presidential administrations. But the public at large knew only little about the remarkable Apfel until she was in her mid-Eighties when the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2005 showcased her eclectic mix of clothing and accessories in an exhibit titled “Rara Avis (Rare Bird): Selections from the Iris Barrel Apfel Collection.” The exhibit was not a capstone to her career. Since then, Apfel has been very busy. Among other projects, she’s collaborated with MAC on a limited-edition makeup line, designed glasses with Eyebobs, sold jewelry on HSN and been a visiting professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Now, a film called “Iris” about Apfel by the late esteemed documentarian Albert Maysles, the director of “Grey Gardens” and “Gimme Shelter” delves into her shopping habits, creativity and zest for life. In the film and in press coverage about it, Apfel dropped pearls of wisdom on the regular. One example: She told Allure, “Worrying about getting old is the kiss of death; you have to be busy and stay engaged. I can feel lousy until someone says, ‘Let’s go to the flea market.’ Once I set foot in there, it’s like I’m a teenager—no one can keep up with me. You cannot be interesting if you’re not interested.” Oh, we’re interested Iris.