Saturday, August 12, 2006

party on the ice floe...

I’m 56, and on September 11th, I’ll turn 57. Except for my knees, I feel pretty much the same as I did in my 30's, except that I know a lot more now, and for the most part, I enjoy knowing the things I know. I wouldn’t say I’m wise, but I’m certainly wiser than I was in my 30's.

Two things have happened this week, though, that have gotten me thinking about the way Americans view women as we age. This being August and Texas, of course it’s been hot, for example, yesterday the high was 105. On Wednesday night, just before going to bed, I went into my back yard to water my patio flowers. It was a little after 10:00 PM, and Mike had just left for the evening, so I was home alone. Watering the flowers, I felt incredibly hot and sticky, and suddenly decided to have a quick skinny dip in my pool. There's a high fence around my backyard, so it's totally private. I swam around, au naturel, for about 5 minutes before locking up the house for the night and going to bed, feeling considerably refreshed and relaxed.

The next evening, Katharine was over, and I mentioned my skinny dip to her, thinking she’d appreciate the spontaneity. But her reaction wasn’t what I expected.

"Ewwwwwwwwwww," she said, "Mom! I didn’t want to know that!"

"But why?" I asked, knowing she enjoys going skinny dipping herself. Then, seeing the look on her face... "Oh my gosh, is it because I’m getting old?"

"’s sort of gross..." she said, and then added, "And anyway, what if I’d come over with Xander, what’s he supposed to think?"

I said, "Well, if you come over unannounced with anyone at 10:30 at night, you’re going to have to take what you get and deal with it..."

I’ve been thinking about this. I’m 56, and my favorite things...things for which I’ve acquired a taste in the time I have lived on this earth, so far (and I’m adding more all the time)...those things, for the most part, haven’t yet fallen by the wayside, in spite of the fact that I’m 56 years old. I still like red wine, and dark chocolate (not necessarily at the same time), and I still like driving fast in a small convertible with the top down late at night, and the wind blowing in my hair...and I still like oysters on the half shell, and deep fried calimari, and indie films, and good music of almost any type...and I still like good books, and good conversation, and good sex (though I have to admit, sex is like pizza...even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good)...and just like I have my whole life, I still love skinny dipping...and I don’t think I’m going to wake up one morning suddenly not liking those things, just because I’m 60 or 70 or 95...

Which brings me to my other rant.

I had dinner last night with an old friend, someone I’ve known for almost 30 years, who recently (in the past couple of years) got divorced. For the record, he is, he’ll be 60 on his next birthday. We were talking about dating, and specifically, about internet dating.

"People lie," he said.

"Well, yes," I agreed, "they do, it's the internet, so you have to keep that in mind."

"Yeah," he said, "like this one woman...on her profile, she said she was 56, which would be OK..."

I felt a flag starting to rise in my brain, but pushed it down, waiting to hear what he’d say next...

"But when I met her, she admitted she was 62! 62! I mean, I have a 16-year-old daughter, what am I going to do, going out with someone who’s 62? And I asked her that, and she said it was fine with her if I have a 16-year-old daughter! It may be fine with her, but it’s not fine with me, I’m just not going to date someone who’s 62!"

I sighed, and I’ve been sighing every time I think about it. For what it’s worth, he’s 5 years older than his ex-wife, and is currently dating a woman who’s 51, or 8 years younger than he is...but he was insulted to think that a woman just 3 years older than he is would think it might be OK to date him. And also for what it’s worth, actress Susan Sarandon, who’ll be 60 in October, has a 14-year-old son with her partner, 47-year-old actor Tim Robbins, and no one seems to think twice about it.

What is it with men and age? Most guys I know find the 16-year age difference between Tom Cruise (42) and Katie Holmes (26) quite acceptable, because she’s younger, but they’d be horrified if that difference were in the other direction. But if that difference were in the other direction...if guys Tom Cruise’s age were looking for women who were 16 years older, rather than 16 years younger...well, all I can say is, it’s comforting to me, to think that at 56, I’d still be too young for Tom Cruise.

And Kath, I’m putting you on warning...if I live to be 90-something, it’s quite likely that you’ll be getting regular calls from the nursing home: "It’s your mother, she’s been skinny-dipping AGAIN..."


samantha said...

People say, "Your life has just started when you turn 60!!!" Life has slowed down and you can begin to think about doing things you've always wanted! :D

Tammy said...

LOL I love your free spirit! If Kathy really thought about it she would realize it's your free spirit that's part of what she really loves about you.

Some men think of woman's bodies first and associate them with their age. They seem to forget there are great bods over 50. I hate the age "double standard" and stereotypes.


Theresa Williams said...

Oh how I love this entry. Judi, I'll be teaching a women's studies class in the fall, may I use this in my class? You should definitely see about publishing this! All of your points about men, women, and age are noted. I'm reminded of a man my husband used to know, a bachelor (I think maybe he was divorced) who owned a hot tub and used to have women over to share the tub. He described for my husband a time when a woman came over, stripped down to her bathing suit, and--the horror--she had hair under her arms! Well, he told her she absolutely was NOT getting into his hot tub like that! So that's another thing I wonder about--hair on the arms and legs. It's been a relatively short time since American women have been shaving. Why the vituberation when a woman chooses not to?

emmapeelDallas said...

Theresa, your comment made my day! I'd be honored to have you use this in your class, thank you. And I love your observation about body hair, and I don't understand that, either.

Chris said...

What a great post. I wonder if the "eewww" factor was more because you are her mom than 56 years old?

I think the age and body stereotypes that you and the comments mention are stereotypes in themselves. Not EVERY man likes younger or skinnier women. If I were suddenly single, I would NOT date anyone younger than me and I do NOT find skinny women attractive. I like a full figures and I find older women incredibly attractive. Of course, that's what happens when you let the brain be the sexiest thing you find about someone.

But your point is well taken.

Again, great post!

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emmapeelDallas said...

Good points, as usual. I agree, I am stereotyping by saying that, and I've dated quite a few guys who are younger than me, who clearly don't buy into that "the guy must be older" attitude, but so many men (and women) still do.

Katharine "Ewww" said...

"eeeew"? This probably makes it worse, but it was really more of a heavy sigh, followed by a face scrunch, with a troaty "nghhhh" at the thought. It was because for the first time, I could not think of tackling a peeker or someone taking advantage of the situation. Not because my mother isn't beautiful, because she is stunning, classy, and anyone would be lucky to know her, let alone be intimate with her. It was out of the fact that when she said that, she suddenly for whatever reasons, became older. She went from being this adventerous, opinionated, STRONG woman, to this sweet, older, free spirited thinker who goes skinny dipping still. This person has weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and most important... these weaknesses mean only one thing: she must be mortal. Which means... I could loose her.

In that second, I was getting a phone call that my mom had drowned naked in the pool, no less and that I needed to come over immediately. I was helping her back to the room after the nursing home called to tell me she had been trying to sneak out again at night, God knows where. I was going through our family photos looking at pictures of her glowing after she gave birth to me. It had never occured to me that she would get old (er). Who's crazy idea was that? It's stupid none the less.

Just when I think I am really getting to know her and FINALLY am able to enjoy her as a person and friend, she turns out to be human. I'm going to write a letter and complain to management. This isn't fair.

emmapeelDallas said...

Ohhhhhhhhhh...I'm sitting here with wet eyes. Thank you, sweetheart. I love you, too.



Theresa Williams said...

Oh, I'm so glad you don't mind if I use it. I think my students will love it. I'm teaching a class of all brand new freshman, and I want to keep the class as fun and light as I can (which will be a challenge when talking about THELMA AND LOUISE, women sex slaves, and clitoral mutilation!). I know I need to cover these serious and important issues, but at the same time I want them to think deeply about their own lives and how they might adjust attitudes they hold in their day to day lives. Your essay will go a long way in helping them see into ageism. It also represents the kind of writing I want to encourage in there--no dry researched papers. I want them to write fresh, lively prose about their observations about women's issues. Thanks, Judi. And thanks for all the comments over at my blog! I'm honored, considering how you have to budget your time now. Thanks. Oh, and please do, DO see Pather Panchali. All three of the Apu movies are fantastic, in fact. After you watch it (them) let me know what you think!

AdriftAtSea said...


You go girl... age is more a state of mind than any mere chronological figure. Yes, this society has some pretty strange and unfair double standards, but not much we can do about that.

Not all men are like Mr. Cruise, and continually shopping for the next younger model... look at his track record...

And I think that Katherine will have to keep the "home" on speed dial, if you're ever in one, which I'm kind of doubting... you're too young for that...and IMHO always will be.


Paul said...

My preferred pool attire is the same as yours, but I think the age bias issue is not as clear-cut along gender lines as you think.

Cynthia said...

You're my kind of gal!

dreaminglily said...

lol Wow... I honestly can't believe her reaction lol It's your home first off, second you have a right to do whatever you want, 57 yrs on earth kinda gives you that right lol, and third, you were naked. And? She DOES realize you shower right? And not shower in a bathing suit? lol :op

As for the age difference... First I have to say the thing with your friend pisses me off lol It's three years for god's sake lol It's not the end of the world lol And at 60+ does age REALLY matter that much? Eight years then compared to eight years in 20's is a different thing all together.

It's funny you should write this because my parents and I were talking about this at dinner the other night. He and a man that works for us had been talking about the attraction some men have for much younger women. Dad said, "You know, maybe it's just me, maybe I'm crazy, but I really don't get what a middle aged man sees in a young girl. To me that's like dating my daughter, or worse, my granddaughter, and I find that disgusting." The other man said, "No, honestly, I don't understand it either."

I know that a lot of men don't really think that way. They'd just like a woman, period. I certainly don't find anything attractive in dating a man old enough to be my father that's for damn sure lol

But maybe it seems more natural the other way because of the way men and women mature? Women generally mature before men so perhaps it's finding someone on their maturity level? Just a random thought lol

Hmm... okay, now you have me ranting lol


Gannet Girl said...

This was a great piece -- you can tell just by the variety of responses, including the one from the antagonist herself! She sounds like a wonderful young woman, a daughter to take great pride and joy in!

Melissa said...


I'm with you sister! It's infuriating the way women are held to a different standard. And you might remind your daughter (as I've reminded mine) that before she knows it, she will be your age and to think about how she wants to be thought of and treated when she arrives.

Kids these days!!!

(clothes hanging on the post willy nilly)

Mrs. L said...

Some of us are 62 year old women who don't care for men in their fifties.

I can't believe your birthday's on the 11th. I have another friend whose birthday is April 19th -- the date of the Oklahoma City bombing. Too cosmic for me.

Mrs. L said...

Some of us are 62 year old women who don't care for men in their fifties.

I can't believe your birthday's on the 11th. I have another friend whose birthday is April 19th -- the date of the Oklahoma City bombing. Too cosmic for me.