This article is part of our series, “Lessons to My Younger Self.”
I would tell my younger self, “You know all those really hot boys who don’t give you a second glance? Well, guess what? In a couple of decades’ time, they’ll be all over you. And you’ll be two decades older, and they’ll be the age you are now.”
Here’s why: From the moment we are born as women, the world conspires to make us feel insecure about absolutely everything—the way we look, dress, talk, act. “Nice girls do this; nice girls don’t do that.” As a result, we spend our entire lives overcoming the impact of those sociocultural dynamics (including spending our entire lives on a diet) that just don’t operate in the same way for men.
I’m 51. These days I consider myself a proudly visible member of the most invisible segment of our society: older women. And I want to help redefine—by the way I live my life—what society thinks an older woman should look like, talk like, dress like, think like, act like, and date like.
Right now, I look and feel better than I ever have in my life. Yes, occasional angst about my weight still happens, and so dieting still happens, too. I came back a few weeks ago from two weeks of eating and drinking my way around Europe on business and vacation, and as my Twitter and Facebook followers know, immediately went on a stringent diet—hashtag #fatmageddon. I am happy to say I am currently seven pounds down, with just three to go to get back to my “comfort weight.”
But #fatmageddon is essentially just about fitting back into the large tranche of my wardrobe that becomes non-viable when I put on a little too much excess poundage. These days, I am extremely fond of my body, despite the odd bit of weight-gain angst. And I never, ever let it impede my dating and sex life.
I would also emphasize to my younger self, “by the time you take your clothes off, the guy is just so pathetically grateful that you’re there—and you’re naked!—that you should have absolutely zero body issues.” As I wrote recently in Rookie to all my younger selves—i.e., Rookie’s teen girl audience—“No matter what you think of your own naked body or however much you might want to change or shrink (or expand) bits of it, the person who’s been lucky enough to get to have sex with you is just enormously grateful to be there and thinks you’re the biggest turn-on in the world. (This is always, always true.)”
I have never been photographed so much, filmed so much, asked to model so much as I am now. While shooting a segment a couple of years ago for 60 Minutes (sadly, I ended up on the cutting room floor), the female producer enthused to me about their luck in finding me, given I was providing expertise on a particularly male-dominated business area. “You’re articulate, you’re pretty, you’ve got all the right experience.” she said. Wait a minute, did she just say “pretty?” Nobody called me pretty when I was in my teens and twenties. “Pretty” is not a word I have ever associated with myself. I loved it.
But these days, I hear it all the time—from hot younger men. (I started dating younger men accidentally, when my team at the ad agency I used to run pitched for an online dating brand, and I had to try out the client’s product.) I have never been told so often that I am beautiful and that—shock! horror!—my body is beautiful. One young gentleman informed me that I had a beautiful butt. (He was examining it close up at the time.) Ladies—I do not have a beautiful butt, by any objective standards. But he thought I did, and that’s all that mattered.
So, yes, I would say to my younger self, “Those hot guys who won’t give you the time of day now will one day, when you are much, much older, be telling you you’re beautiful.
“And the best thing about that will be—you’ll already know.”