Finding Authenticity at Any Age

Finding Authenticity at Any Age

It must be a terrible burden to live “in the public eye.” Every time you leave the house, your appearance is noted and scrutinized. Every wrinkle and sign of aging is documented. Popular magazines have sections devoted to catching stars without make-up, or when they are wearing sweats, or when their hair is less than perfect—when they look like most of us do on the weekends and in our daily lives.   This fits right in with our “gotcha” approach to celebrity.

Given this national, even international, obsession, it is no wonder that Hillary Clinton’s new short haircut has received enormous scrutiny. (Some of you reading this will recall the negativity about Hillary’s use of  headbands when her husband was President.)

Many pundits are trying to determine the meaning of Hillary’s new hairstyle. Is it a signal of some sort? Is it an “in-their-face, I’ll do what I want from now on gesture?” Perhaps. But it is not unusual for people to make appearance changes when something significant happens in their lives. The change might indicate a new beginning, or a turning point, or starting over. My hope for Hillary is that she will do something as new and different and fun as her new look.

Hillary has been a role model for women of all ages, and she is one of the few older (over age 70) role models that women in our country have today. Women like Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Gloria Steinem, Nancy Pelosi, and Betty White also come to mind. We all recognize how difficult it is for women to age comfortably in our ageist society, to stop trying to look younger and act younger, to try to be what they are, not what they were.

Listening to the news media, I was reminded of “croning ceremonies” from the past when older women who reached a certain age were recognized and revered for their wisdom, not their appearance. Contrary to the depictions of the ancient, evil crone in fairy tales, modern croning ceremonies—which are popular all over the world—celebrate women taking ownership of their lives, accepting their wisdom, and living authentic lives. They stop living by the expectations and dictates of others.

Perhaps that is the message Hillary is signaling. It’s simply time to be herself, to be and do whatever she pleases, despite her age, despite the public eye, and, especially, despite the pundits who continually try to define her. If that’s the case, I say “hooray!”

We all could use more of that attitude. None of us should let our age or our appearance be our defining feature. As one older woman said, “I used to be young and beautiful. Now I’m just beautiful.”

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