Today I am getting dressed to go pumpkin picking with my granddaughter, grandson, daughter, son-in-law, and Calvin. It’s cool and overcast, so I’m happy to wear an oversized light grey, sustainably made sweater I recently received as a gift. The first I have not declined in a long time. What I liked about it was that it could be a sweater that any woman, playing any role, could wear. I add the softest suede Loro Piana loafers with a tassel, also light grey, a reminder of one of the last shoots I did for MyTheresa. I wear my oldest pair of jeans, they still fit comfortably. I got them before I was an Accidental Icon. Today they are worn and faded and they feel as light as the exquisite suede that feels like I am wearing a slipper rather than a shoe. They are splotched with white paint that matches the rafters under my garage roof that I painstakingly painted last year. They make me feel accomplished. I could be mistaken for an artist.
I add a pair of Celine reading glasses. I had them made from a frame I got on a resale site where I have been selling clothes I wore as an Accidental Icon that no longer suit me. My lambskin fanny back, courtesy of Agnès b. allows for holding a fussy newborn or easily chasing an eight-year-old who is always determined to color outside the lines and go off the beaten path. A “do not enter” sign for her always holds a mysterious allure. Wonder who she resembles? As I look at the outfit I chose today, any woman at any age could wear it on a blustery fall day to the local pumpkin patch.
Not all of us are grandparents, some by choice and others not, so I try to not talk about my grandchildren incessantly and to wear what people may not expect a grandparent to wear. Just as when I was a mom, and I am going to add, a mom of a younger child, as you never stop being a mom, there are other parts of who I am or aspire to be that have held importance for me and it was always a struggle not to lose them. Trying to not lose them becomes an important part of staying in balance. Our roles are fluid and change throughout our lives. Mothers, lovers, married or not, workers, professionals, caregivers, retired or unemployed sometimes it’s hard to remember that who we are inside is someone who transcends roles even though it may be hard to find her when the roles she plays become all-consuming. It seems in older life we get the gift of re-discovering the person we may have lost or found as our roles change, or we can become someone we never knew before.
Society writes roles for older persons, and they may not be the ones we want to play. They try to tell us what we are supposed to be and what to do. There is also the fallacy that we may have mountains of free time we can fill up with anything we desire. When the media started calling me “instagramma” or “graninfluencer” I objected to the assumption that all older women were by default grandmothers and that we were still being valued foremost for our reproductive capabilities rather than our creative ones. There is a big conversation being had by younger people who choose not to have children and the negative responses they often get. A woman’s right to decide about this is up for grabs. Our generation did in fact re-write the roles that our mothers had to play in the 1950s. It’s time to rewrite them again. Whether it’s not retiring when expected, wearing what you want, including red lipstick, or being an older single woman without a spouse or children, what do we need to support the roles we want to design for ourselves? What needs to be put in place for those of us who choose or the choice is made for us to not rely on family to take care of us as we get older? When young people are making the choice not to have children, how are they thinking about what may happen when they are older at the same time these decisions are being made? What about older persons who still have to work, are providing caregiving to others, and are under stress because of these multiple roles?
Once again, I am struck by how different and individual our aging journeys are. How we age is shaped by the number of resources we have access to, our social position, our health or lack thereof, geography, family relationships, and losses we have experienced. Statistically, women live longer than men, so chances are they may at some point find themselves alone. Women are cohabitating without the benefit of marriage as I am. They are in committed relationships yet keep their own living space. They are experimenting with the rules, just like my granddaughter is. Friends in China are jointly buying property and renovating a house so they can maintain friendships and connections when they retire. Older women are opening up their homes to students for help with household chores forging mutually caring relationships in the process. We are becoming online dating people, starting our own business people, caring for parents, and supporting children and grandchildren all at the same time. We are a multitude of women reinventing, adapting, and finding our way. It reminds me of being young, reinventing roles for women about sexuality, work, and parenting. Our time for revolution has come around again; we did a lot of rebelling in the 1970s. How ironic is it that in our 70th decade we are doing it again? The 70s seem to be our decade for doing it differently for sure.
What are you doing differently? Whether it’s what you wear or how you are living, working, traveling, or having relationships, let’s hear about it.