Putting My Big Girl Shoes Back On

Four years ago, I took off my Birkenstocks and walked away from my blog and my role as a business editor at BlogHer.

When people asked why I stopped blogging, I answered as truthfully as I could, “I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore.”

That was partially true. It just wasn’t the whole story.

What I didn’t realize at the time, was that my decision to hang up my blogging shoes coincided with my approaching sixtieth birthday. If you ever needed a reminder that time is in short supply and you shouldn’t be wasting it doing things you don’t love to do, try filling out some online form that demands your age.

As you scan the drop-down menu of possible age selections, you realize that once you get past your current age cohort, there are just not that many more choices.

Turning sixty means you can no longer pretend you are middle-aged.  60 is not in the middle of anything. With few exceptions, 60 is way over the speed limit.

When you turn 60, you are old.   But, knowing it, and saying it are two different things. At this point in my life, it  doesn’t feel natural to say, “I’m old.”

When I say it, it feels like I’m  wearing shoes that are two sizes too big – you wobble a bit, are unsure of how to maneuver, and know you can’t move as fast as you want to or you’ll end up tripping and falling. Don’t get me started on the fear of falling.

It’s hard to say, “I’m old.” It sounds like you are admitting defeat. But defeat of what?  Life?

Does old automatically mean that you’re not as strong?  Not as sharp? Not as sexy? Not as relevant? That you are on your way out, Sistah?

Does old mean you really shouldn’t wear those leggings with a sundress? When you are old, should you cut your hair and stop wearing a ponytail?

If you are old, will you look as comical as a three- year old prancing around in her mother’s shoes, if you put on a pair of stilettos?

Tell someone you’re old and you automatically make them uncomfortable.  What are they supposed to do with that information?

Typically they either assure you that you are not old or they say with enormous sincerity, “You don’t look a day over 55!”

Stilettos are in the eye of the beholder. These are mine: Big Presence-Faraday by John Fluevog Shoes.

Stilettos are in the eye of the beholder. These are mine: Big Presence-Faraday by John Fluevog Shoes.

Recently, I was having dinner with some colleagues and someone asked me about the blog. I explained that it was about figuring out how to be old in a society where old is a four letter word. It’s just not as much fun to say as most four letter words.

Right on cue one of my dinner companions, immediately said, “Elana, you’re not old!”

However, as the shoe clerk said as I was trying on a size 12 when my normal size runs 10 1/2 to 11 – “What does the number matter, the size of  your foot is still the size of your foot.”

Maybe I don’t look it. Maybe I don’t feel it.  Maybe I don’t act it.  But 63 is 63.

Accepting the fact that you are old requires a certain mental gymnastics. After spending a lifetime focused on continuous improvement professionally, physically and emotionally, being old means shifting to a mental model of minimizing loss and at best maintaining.

Frankly, I find this mental shift extremely challenging. I’m not sure I know how to be old, much less think old.

I don’t want to pretend to be something I am not.  I know I’m not 45. I’m 63. – I’m just not sure it means to be 63.

I suspect many of you  are struggling with same issues.

That’s what Stilettos@60 is all about. Tearing down stereotypes. Exploring, sharing and learning what it means to be old in 2014.

As for those stilettos, that’s a story for another time.

“It’s not what you’d call a high-end clothing store, and Pamela Forster, who at one time was Cynthia’s best friend in high school, was not aiming for a young, hip clientele.  The racks were filled with fairly conservative apparel, the kind of clothes, I liked to joke with Cynthia, preferred by women who  wear sensible shoes.”

  No Time For Goodbye, Linwood Barclay.

15 Comments

  • Reply August 8, 2014

    Janet Berry

    I am so happy to see this site finally active – and i have a present for you to celebrate the moment. Let me know when you are available.

    • Reply August 8, 2014

      Elana

      Hope you come here often and share your thoughts and perspectives. I’m up for a celebration – will send you a traditional email to work out details 🙂

  • Reply August 8, 2014

    Virginia

    Congratulations, Elana! It’s both wonderful and scary starting a new blog. I hope the adventure invigorates you as much as it has me this past year. Looking forward to seeing more from you here.

    • Reply August 8, 2014

      Elana

      Virginia, Thank you so much! I think we need to schedule some time to chat!

  • Reply August 8, 2014

    pixie

    Great new perspective. Keep them coming.

  • Reply August 8, 2014

    Christy

    Congratulations Elana! Love it and am excited to read more. I struggled with my birthday number this year but decided it was better than the alternative. Your words hit home and were comforting.

  • Reply August 9, 2014

    Judy Rothschadl

    Congats on the new blog, Elana! I really enjoy reading it. It’s good to have some wise companions when going through this aging thing!

  • Reply August 10, 2014

    Karen Sullivan

    Love it Elana!!

  • Reply August 11, 2014

    Lynn Levinson

    I think your blog is pessimistic. Sixty can be liberating. Children are done with college and now figuring out their own adult lives. Aging parents are hopefully where they need to be for the right care. That doesn’t mean you’re not involved but you’re not the only caretaker.
    I think 60 is not our parents’ 60. If we have time we are doing things that we’ve longed to do when work and parenting raged.
    The only crisis for 60 plus is when you need to apply for jobs online. I can see that facing the age window feels defeating. From one who is retired 65 only means cheaper health care and more money in my checking account from scial security.

    • Reply August 11, 2014

      Elana

      When I say old, I mean chronologically, old. I don’t know another word for someone who is in her 60’s. Senior? Elder? Boomer? What I’m hoping this blog will do is open a conversation around the meaning of old in our culture. Right now, the word is imbued with negativity. Just say to someone, “I’m old,” and watch their reaction.
      They will immediately say,”You’re not old!” I think I am old. However, as my blogging buddy Virginia DeBolt writes,Old Ain’t Dead. I want to change people’s reaction to the word old. I want to change my reaction to the word, old. The only way I know how to do that is to talk, talk, talk, about it.

      So, if you are not old, what are you?

  • Reply August 11, 2014

    Elizabeth

    Wonderful. How about “alive or ageless(as in: numbers are just an illusion)
    EDH

    • Reply August 12, 2014

      Elana

      You are indeed, ageless! I hope you will come back often and share your insights.

  • Reply August 21, 2014

    Lynn Levinson

    If that is a one time event I think you’re being way too hard on yourself. I’m sure the other students who could hear the piercing sound must have suffered just a bit more than you that day. That’s way too much thinking. You’ll know when you have a sensory issue. You won’t need to compare yourself to younger folks.

    • Reply August 22, 2014

      Elana

      Lynn, I actually didn’t think I was being hard on myself — more self-deprecating.It was just a reminder that no matter how fit I am, how people tell me “I don’t look my age” there are parts of my body that definitely know they are 63 It was just a good reminder that aging happens – whether we want to hear it or not.

  • Reply September 29, 2015

    Annette

    This aging “thing” is new territory. I am approaching 60 very quickly and I know a lot of people in their 60s, up to 70 or so, whom I consider at the upper edge of midlife. And I know others who are in the same age group and because of physical decline, lifestyle, and other challenges truly look, act and feel “old.”
    I am teaching women’s midlife retreats and define the age group as 45-65 for that purpose. We can still be vibrant and very much enjoy our lives if we let go of the beauty ideals and expectations of our younger years. But that is exactly the challenge, and we need to allow ourselves to grieve and let go of what no longer is. we have few role models, so we get to define this life phase for ourselves.

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