Over the Hill

A few weeks ago, visiting my two young grandsons and their moms, I emerged from my bedroom for an outing wearing makeup, including tinted lip moisturizer. I rarely wear makeup, and it didn’t go unnoticed. “Why are you wearing lipstick, Gigi?” the nine-year-old asked. “Um, I guess so you won’t think I’m old,” I floundered. “You are old,” he replied.

I knew my grandsons—and anyone under the age of thirty (at least)—see me as old, with or without make-up. They accept that and would not have said so had I not appeared looking different. My mother always wore bright red lipstick (there are still several tubes in the bathroom cabinet), that was how I knew her and she looked odd without it. And when I caught a rare glimpse of her without her glasses in my young years, she didn’t look like herself. In the end, she wore neither lipstick nor glasses, giving in to her face being old and her vision unimprovable with corrective lens. Is that giving up or acceptance of what is? Is there a difference?

So why do I sometimes wear makeup? All I can come up with is that when  I look in the mirror, I don’t want to look old to my own eyes. I don’t feel old. I feel like forty or fifty, decades both difficult and empowering when I was learning to live my own life and truths. Now I want to look my inner age, at least to myself. Looking “old” scares me a bit, truth be told, especially after watching my mother’s transformation. It’s about fear, not vanity. It’s my own inner ageism.

I’m in the last third of life, there is no denying that and I am determined to live it mindfully. I’ve started reading The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul, by Connie Zweig, PhD, which addresses the issue of how we see ourselves as we age. 

I’m also reading Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life, by Louise Aronson, which is more about how society views elderhood. The author tells of a med school professor who asked his class to quickly, without filtering, write down the words that come to mind when they hear the word “old.” And then to do the same when they hear the word “elder.” Try it! She continues in later chapters to talk about how medical professionals discount and disrespect elders. I think I’ve found a new passion.

Words like “over the hill” reinforce our inner stereotypes about aging. I recall telling my family, planning my fortieth birthday celebration, “no black, no ‘over the hill’ references.” Even then I knew my mind about that. Forty sounds so young at 70! Thirty years ago, I never gave a thought to being 70. But thirty years from now, if I’m still here, I will be the age my mother was when she died. And I think about it a lot.

But for now, I tell people I’m “restoryed,” not retired, which sounds too much like “done.” I’m not done by a long shot. I’m preparing for an epic road trip in October through California, planning to hike in eight of the state’s nine national parks. “Are you going by yourself?” I’ve been asked with incredulity. “Yes, yes I am.”

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Great write! Great read! My mostly solo trips are what I imagine them to be as I am planning them…& so much more! What a great trip you are imagining! Please post a pic of your car tent! Happy to be with you!


Suze Orman asks this question…What is your ultimate retirement? Now more safe after covid I ponder it anew.

Bonnie Rae

What a loaded topic. Old, elder, aging … depending on who you talk to they indicate either wisdom or diminishment. In almost every case though, they indicate a certain invisibility for women. It’s said that you have the face and body you deserve at 60. Rather than see that as a criticism I think we should own it, regardless of what that face and body may imply. Beauty in youth is chance and dumbluck, there’s nothing earned about it. I’m one of those people who looks older than I actually am. I know the choices I’ve made to make that so, but I am finally accepting that I can’t go back. I am who I am. 

Maybe the difference between being an elder and being “old” is as simple as the recognition that what matters most is what’s inside. I’ve always been drawn to people for what they project from within. I personally hope people can look past my rough exterior enough to know that my “true” beauty is my best kept secret and if I’m not a loyal friend who can be both honest and kind that “looking good” is meaningless. There’s no lipstick in my practice, just a whole lot of letting go. Thanks for writing about this. I feel like I have a lot more to say so I hope I can find the time to expand on this a bit with a future post of my own.

Mary Bucklew

Being your contemporary on the age scale, I have much to say, but I will need time to do it justice… time – ever illusive!