Strange Encounter, or, Don’t Talk to Strangers!

In this photo, Susan Sarandon is in her 60s!

When Susan Sarandon was 50, the age of Bilbo Baggins when he embarked on his first adventure, or perhaps 60, an age that can engender panic in women, she had a croning ceremony.  Her then-partner, Tim Robbins, paid for Sarandon and friends to fly to an island for the croning.

Sarandon never looked like a crone, but rejected the stereotype of the aging woman and embraced her power. Good for her! For the rest of us, it may be slightly different.  Like the late Carrie Fisher, who admitted that she hadn’t aged well, and was annoyed by a movie critic who trashed her looks because he thought Princess Leia at 60 should be able to wear a gold bikini, I do not resemble my younger, pretty self.  

Change is inevitable, though we do not expect it. I am haggard, and yet I do not consider myself a crone, a hag, or any of the other sexist, ageist terms used to denigrate women. I spend so little time in front of mirrors that I refuse to be a crone!  My self-image has never depended on appearance.  As far as I go:  Did I comb my hair?  Fashion statement: Blue or brown jeans?  Reality check: Does this tiny stain on my sweater show?                      

  One day this fall, a strange woman approached me and belittled my appearance. She told me I had a hair growing out of my chin. 

I  responded with the horror of a teenage girl:  “No!  I didn’t know.  My husband didn’t tell me!”

“Maybe he didn’t see it,” she said.

Later, my husband said, “I didn’t see it, because there isn’t one.” 

And really, was it a complete stranger’s business to mention a hair on my chin?  I was so embarrassed.

It turns out that older women can make sexist, ageist assumptions about women’s priorities, too. Who knew?

5 thoughts on “Strange Encounter, or, Don’t Talk to Strangers!”

  1. Thank you for this post.
    So good to know I’m not the only one who wonders if anyone will notice a stain on my jersey that didn’t quite come out in the wash.
    ~ from a very happy 67 year old fan

  2. A very interesting post! It’s tough to be old in any society (perhaps I should say “western society,” which absolutely worships youth). But particularly difficult I think for women, who are still so heavily judged on the basis of their appearance. And as for appearance, we all know, don’t we, that while grey hair looks distinguished on a guy, the opposite is true for a woman! I find it hard to shake my upbringing — very traditional southern U.S. — regarding appearance. Translate: the shirts always always have a little spot or two, but I do tend to grab my lipstick on the way out the door!
    I can’t believe a total stranger (or anyone really) would make a remark like that!

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