Tuesday, September 16th, 2008...5:09 pm

#122: Throw Off the Middle-Aged Burka

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When exactly did the imams sweep through my town in suburban New Jersey and decree that every woman over the age of 40 had to chop off her hair, wash off her makeup, and start dressing in baggy black or beige linen or flannel, buttoned up to the neck, hanging down to the ground, and I’ll have you wear flat, rubber-soled shoes with that, missy.

The middle-aged suburban woman-shrouding style is so ingrained that anyone wearing something bright or tight or low-cut (usually that’s me) is viewed with suspicion. What’s she up to? Who does she think she is? Where is she going? And why is she flaunting it like that?

I say break out the hair dye, invest in some really expensive undergarments, make your daughters take you shopping for once. If your husbands feel threatened, if your friends think you’re a traitor to the sisterhood, if the other moms question your fitness, just let ‘em. As long as you’re still walking this earth, you might as well do it in shoes that click.

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  • Sigh.

    We do The Suburban Burka because:

    1) We hate the new shapes we got (as a punishment?) in our mid-40s. We don’t want to see them. We don’t want anyone else to see them, either.

    2) Everything in the stores is for size 2 teenagers.

    3) We have no time for shopping and styling: We have jobs, elderly parents, young children, too many obligations.

    4) If you have one strand of gray hair, you are getting a 1980 mushroom cut at any hair salon you visit, whether you want one or not. This seems to be the Young-Stylist-Approved Old Lady Haircut, the same one they give the patients at the State Hospital.

    All these reasons are completely true and happen everywhere, millions of times a day. But the “style” is still oppressive–even if we’re doing it to ourselves.

    We can’t change the fashion industry, the hateful beliefs of young hair stylists, or the fact that every “family obligation” means New Job for Good Old Mom. But we can:

    1) Throw out everything worn out, bad fitting, or older than five years.

    2) Get new bras that really fit.

    3) Decide to change hair stylists until you find one who really “sees” you. Alternatively, grow in your hair and put it up…or buzz cut it yourself. It can hardly come out worse than the Old Lady Mushroom.

    4) Decide to try on clothes in inexpensive stores at least once a month. It only takes a half hour. It’s a great cheap thrill when you find something new that actually works–and when you do, buy two. Turn off your cell phone while doing this.

  • At 61, I have now come of “age”. I believe I’m younger now than in the past how many years? I’ve been widowed for 3 years and thought differently at the time. But now I’m looking at younger clothes, shoes, jewelry and Men. Or should I say Man? I refuse to get “old” and the more “looks” I get, the firmer my resolve to get “younger” instead. No middle age/old cover-ups for me. I may have to be somewhat conservative at work, but not in social scenes. And no, I’m not a size 2, I’m a size 18 who wants to to be maybe a 12 or 14 or whatever.

  • Resolve to live healthier, eat right, and get in the gym. Ageing may do a number on your bod, but letting it is up to you.

    If you need style that’s quick and fits with your lifestyle, see a wardrobe consultant. They’re free at department stores. Get a copy of More Magazine. As for the hair, take in a picture of what you want and tell that 12-year-old styling your hair you don’t want that old lady helmet do.

    You’re a grown up! Assert yourself. I’m 45 and I am not cowed by the youngsters or what they think. I’m NOT old. And I refuse to be treated as if I am some doddering ancient person and demand my respect. You should do the same.

  • I’m 70 years young and I like and do dress as I see fit for my body.. I receive many compliments on how I look and dress from women and men.. They all say I don’t look nor act 70 (except my daughter who says she’ll be glad to reach my age and just put on a mumu) (she is a beautiful woman and does not look her aeg either) (she also says I should act my age and that I am a grandmother, which I am a grandmother). Yea! I guess I’m doing the right thing for me>

  • I turned 60 last October up until then i felt pretty good about myself i have long thick hair that i color almost every three weeks to hide the white not gray white its a thing that was in all of my family . Now i just feel old hum i wear jeans and tee shirts flip flops or tennis shoes i hate to dress up and when i do its pants like cargo with the pockets on the leg love cool shoes and belts but now i feel like an old hippie which i was and still am to a fact my partner is 55 and he never says any thing about how i dress he says he loves me and thats all that matters well why am i feeling old all of a sudden why when i look in the mirror i hate what i see sure would love to know what to do…

  • Pamela Redmond Satran
    July 1st, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    I sure wish I had answers for you, Charlene, but I just have more angst-ridden questions. Is it your clothes you hate, your body, or both? If you lost some weight or did a little body reshaping (via an abs class or some posture realignment), would that help? What if you spent some money on clothes? I have to say, I just dropped about 20 lbs via a patchwork of diet plans and exercise (Best: 17 Day Diet), and while I’m far from thin, I’m thinner enough (size 12 and sometimes even 10 vs. bursting out of the 14s) that I feel much better and have new enthusiasm for buying clothes and dressing nicely. So…..that worked for me. It helps your whole spirit when you like what you see in the mirror.

  • mmmmm, I am happy to find out there are more of us real women out there who are NOT afraid to say; ” oh, yeah, we still got it going on” just cuz we are a chronlogical number doesn t mean we are not still “entitled” to enjoy life to the fullest meaning being sexy and all that.
    I am never going to wear old lady clothes or cut my hair off, it s shoulder length and I shake all over. I do not have the body of a young girl but I am pretty much that same “girl” as I once was and that s how I m going to act like me.
    oh, I have several pairs of thongs and don t care if they show when I bend down or not!! ha ha

  • disappearoldwoman
    February 29th, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    I have no idea why a woman would reach her forties and suddenly feel like she has to hide.It’s like through these styles a woman is willing herself to disappear into the background and be used by family as the caregiver, the baker, the chauffeur, whatever. In descript, a nobody, a bit player. I read about this. I also read at the same time that women of this age feel invisible and they don’t like that feeling.

    Apparently this is what society wants of women who are no longer young, for you to disappear. If you try to be visible in any way as a person, whether its not dressing in shroud wear, getting a young partner, continuing to make pop music and slink around in body hugging costumes (that one’s for you Madonna) whatever it is you are ridiculed. If you look like a hot mess, ridicule; if you try to correct that, ridicule. How dare you try and compete with your daughter! That’s a favorite of mine. You can’t compete, why bother trying to look nice? There’s no way you’re sexual, you look too wrinkled and gross! Ewwww….LOL.

    What’s shocking is these attitudes toward women start as soon as 35 years of age. Thirty-five! And once you’re 40, forget about it. To younger folks, 30-something included, you might as well be an alien. Anyway, my two cents. Make of my ramblings what you will.

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