The bottle blonde at the DMV.

th2 The bottle blonde at the DMV.Yesterday I had the use of a car so I stopped at the Division of Motor Vehicles to get my driver’s license switched over. The clerk asked if I’d been licensed in Alaska previously, and was in fact able to find me in the system. Fill in form ABCXYZ, take the written test and you’re good to go.

Written test? Really? Couldn’t I be grandmothered in, based on the fact that I was once a licensed Alaska driver?

Nope. Moments later questions like “How much liability insurance is an Alaska driver required to carry?” were flashing before my eyes.

The answer is “$50,000/$100,000/$25,000.” Who knew? Not me, apparently, because I got four questions wrong and the testing system kicked me out.

I’ve been driving for 38 years and I flunked the blankety-blank written test. Still can’t quite believe that. The real surprise of the day, however, came from filling out the form.

When I got to the “hair/eyes” portion of the evening’s festivities, I realized that I had to write “blond/green.” My last driver’s license photo was “brown/green.” But that was nine years ago, before hairdressers prevailed upon me to star using lighter and lighter dyes. These covered the gray better, they said, especially since the dyes tended to “lift” (or something like that) prematurely.

It’s not that I have anything against blondes. I just don’t see myself as one.

I don’t have anything against gray hair, either – in theory.

As a young woman I always figured I’d just let nature take its course. My mother had hair of such a dark brown it looked black. Silver crept in slowly, and it was very attractive.

Yet when my own lighter-brown hair started to gray, I was surprised at the complicated emotions it caused. I’d seen how society at large wrote off women as they got “old,” i.e., were no longer Sweet Young Things. Remember the case of Christine Craft, the TV reporter who was fired for being “too old, too unattractive and not deferential enough to men”?

We have to be carefully taught

I didn’t want to play into that kind of nonsense. Yet I found I wasn’t ready to be gray, especially in the last five or six years. I think that’s because of an interesting paradox: The older I’ve gotten, the younger I have felt. (Although I do make funny noises when getting out of a deep chair.)

Additionally, the industry in which I’ve fallen is generally a young person’s game. Most of the PF writers listening to my talk at the Financial Blogger Conference were my daughter’s age or younger.

Would I get the same level of inclusion/attention if I were a gray-haired woman? Maybe. I like to think that the PF blogosphere is smart enough to look beyond the book’s binding and into its contents. But even the smartest of us have absorbed messages of women’s appearances determining their worth.

Sometimes the people who post comments on my MSN Money articles don’t agree with what I write. I can live with that. But what makes me head-bangingly furious is the people who criticize not the premise of the essay, not whether I supported my arguments or drew useful conclusions, but rather the photo that accompanies the column. A few examples:

  • “She is so fat and ugly.”
  • “The writer of this is a farm animal that has been in the feed bag a little too long and looks like a pig.”
  • “This writer hates…herself for being so ugly.”
  • “Donna, get a makeover.”

I wonder if these readers would ever think of posting comments like, “You know, people would take that Dave Ramsey guy more seriously if he’d do something about the male pattern baldness and wear just a touch of lipstick”?

I’m betting not.

Don’t give them any ammo

These comments hurt. Yes, they actually hurt my feelings. I know they shouldn’t, but they do. Worse, they remind me that even in the 21st century, the quickest and easiest way to dismiss a woman is to cut down her physical appearance.

Hillary Clinton was jeered at because of her ankles, which apparently don’t look the way some people think ankles should look. Talk-radio pundit Rush Limbaugh suggested that a photo of Nancy Pelosi would be one way to prevent pregnancy.

What does either woman’s physical appearance have to do with her ability or accomplishments? And why can powerful men remain powerful even if they aren’t exactly Adonises?

Limbaugh is a good example: rotund, gray-haired, balding and a former drug addict, he nonetheless has a huge following and had model-pretty lady friends before marrying for the fourth time. Donald Trump is florid and funny-haired, yet is frequently photographed with beautiful women. Plenty of people might consider Henry Kissinger unattractive, yet his leadership was not derided on the grounds that he opted not to have rhinoplasty or to wear contact lenses.

Thus part of me is insecure enough to think, “Don’t give anyone any reason not to dismiss you out of hand.” A potential audience member who looked at my photo could see “gray-haired woman” and interpret it as “someone who has nothing to say to me.”

Escaping the gaze

Is that playing into stereotypes? You bet. But until society changes the way it looks at women and aging – and at aging women – I inhabit an uneasy space. That’s the space between what I think is fair and what I know to be true. Dismayingly, frustratingly, oppressively true.

As I noted in a previous post, “Turning invisibility into stealth”:

“You grow up inside a body that is not your own but instead must be shaped and adorned according to media images. Your feelings don’t belong to you, either; women are trained to be attuned, always, to the desires of others. Your ability to rebel is limited: To buck the system means to risk losing social approval and thus the chance for love, family, advancement at work, the right to exist at all.

“Women have been subjected to the constant gaze for so long that we’ve become the agents of that power as well as the objects of it. We police ourselves. We watch our weight. We watch what we say. We watch TV to see how we’re supposed to look, what drinks we should order, which shoes we should buy, whether our eyelashes are thick enough and our ankles thin enough…

“We also watch what happens to other women when they challenge the status quo.

“By contrast, we’ll likely never watch Rush Limbaugh checking the mirror for flaws, or watch Henry Kissinger confess to Larry King that maybe he should have had his hair straightened.”

Women are still judged, at times harshly, for not meeting social standards of looks or comportment. Our brains and hearts don’t matter. Our abilities and accomplishments don’t truly signify. The families, friends and partners who think we’re swell just the way we are don’t matter as much as that constant fear of not measuring up. Of unworthiness.

At 55, I am weary of the performative nature of being female in the United States. But I find that even as I say, “What does it matter what I look like?” I worry that my rosacea is acting up, that my hair needs re-coloring, that my clothes aren’t flattering. I cannot escape the gaze for very long. Someone is always looking and judging. Sometimes that person is me.


82 Comments

  1. I feel your pain as a late 50s woman. Yes, I too feel the insecurity about my appearance just as I did in high school. It really is a pain to have to color my hair and make sure my makeup is on. I have taken to getting facial injections (painful and expensive) to counter act my marionette lines. I am also thinking of surgery for my sagging neck and eye lids. In looking at men my age, generally they don’t look so hot – much worse than the females. And I don’t think they care. How can I get that way. Great post.

  2. This ia a fabulous article Donna, one of your best. As an almost 53 year old woman I feel the same as you much of the time, feeling I should be younger and prettier. I was considered rather attractive as a young woman but at my age I feel at times invisible and especially by men. This first started happening to me around my mid forties and was hard to stomach at first.
    I too can be my own harshest critic. I think though you American ladies have it harder than us European females. Almost all of your TV personalities and film stars are exceedingly thin, professionally made up, long haired models, whatever their screen role. How on earth do us normal women keep up with that?

    • Donna Freedman

      @Ash: “Normal” women is the point here. I think there’s a generation of young men who won’t know what real bodies look like because the ones glorified in movies and magazines aren’t at all average.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  3. Well, in Henry Kissinger’s defense, he has nicer legs than Hitler, and bigger t*ts than Cher.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5vo7jLGOb8

  4. I agree. In spite of our generation being supposedly “liberated”, we are held up to more unrealistic standards than ever. I mean seriously, can you look at any of the over-50 actresses in Hollywood, and see more than a handful who haven’t had work done? Or at least been getting botox injections. We have to learn to stop ridiculing people for having the audacity to get older.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Mary: Yep. It’s not the aging I mind so much (those deep chairs notwithstanding), it’s the possibility of being written off automatically.

  5. Sometimes stupid people are also horribly mean. Don’t let them get to you! I love reading your posts.

  6. This is your best post ever!!!! I color my hair so that people will not honk at the old lady puttering along, sitting too long at the light, changing her mind about turns. I have heard how men talk about old ladies. The gray hair is the giveaway.

    Old women are valued less than the young. No one needs me to reproduce or care for young. I am in the last stage of Virgin/Mother/Crone.

    I am not pretty at all. But, once upon a time I had the young body, firm jaw,long hair, and spring in my step. I could get up from the floor with no hands needed. Now, getting up from a chair with arms is a major moves accompanied by grunts and takes forever. sigh I took stair steps two at a time. Now, I can barely get up a step from parking lot to the sidewalk.

    Yeah, I am thinking the hair will stay dark forever.

  7. Vicious and degrading commentary about others is not the exclusive territory of men. It has become an attempt by some women to make themselves feel better about themselves. I am sorry that you have become a target of this type of behaviour. Your most excellent writing about your personal journey has been an inspiration to me and many others and you should be proud of what you do.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Janet: Thank you. And you’re right: Men aren’t the only ones who do this.

  8. Donna, have you seen this TED-X talk yet?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMS4VJKekW8

    I find it particularly fascinating because of the juxtaposition of the subject matter she discusses (which is pretty much everything you’ve mentioned) and her appearance as she gives the talk.

    Then there’s also this happening in the tech world:

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-57565446-1/get-ready-for-objectify-a-male-tech-writer-day/

    Which I think will go off the rails pretty much the instant it starts, but it’s kind of an amusing way to look at the issue.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Ana: Thanks for both those links. Judging from the comments in the “Objectify a male tech writer,” there are some extremely hostile guys out there who are utterly missing the point of the exercise. As one calmer person pointed out, these men may be afraid of ceding any power or authority in the tech field to women.
      As for the other, the researcher is indeed lovely. I wonder whether any audience members fantasized about her, or wondered why such a pretty woman was worried about stuff like that.

      • What was more striking to me was how made-up she was for that talk. I wonder how much she was thinking about authoritative she’d be perceived as if she wasn’t carefully groomed? The very thought makes me sad.

        I’m pretty sure the whole exercise is going to turn sour and hostile in the first twenty minutes of it beginning on the 1st. :) But such is the internet. Most people let their id run wild and then defend themselves indignantly when faced when the consequences of doing so. Don’t let the personal comments get you down (even as hard as it is) – you’ve been very personally inspiring to me and I’m quite positive many others. I very much admire how much grit and gumption you have – how you don’t let yourself descend to the general level of the internet when you mull over life’s experiences. You admit to the vulnerability then rise above and forge on. I think that’s missing from my generation; I’ve learned a lot about how to really handle life as a grown-up from following your ongoings.

        • Donna Freedman

          @Ana: Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad that you’re getting something from my posts.
          As for the makeup…could it have been just because she was being filmed? If you’ve ever run into a TV personality or anchorperson right after a broadcast they look almost clownlike. Or maybe she, like me, was thinking, “If I want them to listen to me then I’d better be impeccably groomed and made-up.”

          • Julie Wubbena

            She wipes some of the make-up off at the end. I think it was to prove her point.

  9. Getting old sucks for me. When a younger male smiles at me, I instictively look behind me, seriously. Wish I could afford highlights again! :)

  10. auntiali

    I’m a 51 yr old who has given into the gray and doesn’t give a damn. I quit coloring my hair 8 years ago. I’m fat, have rosecea, and don’t wear makeup. I’m sure I would look better if I did more for my hair, skin and make up but I don’t care what other people think.

    My husband thinks I’m fine and is still in love with me. I’m fine with his gray hair, wrinkles and belly.

    I’m in a different situation where I’m a still at home mom (kids in college) and don’t have to deal with fellow employees or the public.

    I was called many ugly names while growing up and going through puberty. I realized I would never be “pretty” in that sense. In my late 40′s I realized that I didn’t want to change and I didn’t care what people said. My sister is 8 yrs older than me and colors her hair and everyone thinks I’m the older one. I don’t care!

    • lostAnnfound

      This sounds almost like my story except my husband doesn’t have much hair left anymore!! ;)

  11. What is it about men who speak that way about women? I have a feeling they aren’t very successful people, and they probably don’t have much in terms of self esteem. God help their wives and daughters. So, Donna, don’t feel too badly about what they say. They aren’t the kind of people you would want to have anything to do with. They are probably jealous of your intelligence and success.

  12. Hmmm…. IMHO, the cultural attitude toward older women is just one facet of an overall, pervasive dislike of women, period.

    Take a look at the comments on news reports about the recent decision to allow women military members to serve in combat roles. The tenor of the discussion trends toward open hatred of women. It’s unmistakable. That few or no readers try to rebut that disgust toward women suggests the feeling is pretty ubiquitous.

    Older adults in general are targets of disdain and dislike. Women take the brunt of it, though.

    When I try to discuss issues having to do with aging (for godsake, I’m almost freaking SEVENTY!), my young doctor keeps exclaiming, “Oh, don’t say that! You’re not old!”

    Attempts to explain to him that there’s nothing wrong with being old and in fact I’m rather proud of it are greeted with a blank expression.

    Where medical care is concerned, this attitude is dangerous. Because of course, older women who complain of various symptoms are usually just brushed off with…yes! a blank expression.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Funny About Money: Yes! This! Or when people refer to you as “young lady” when you’re in your sixth fracking decade of life.

  13. Ro in San Diego

    Another great article, Donna.
    I think women are harder on other women then they ought to be. Today, an acquaintance asked me if I would like to look through her very nice plus sized clothing she was getting rid of. As happy as I was about her recent weight loss, I was miffed that she had to add the bit about the clothing being plus sized. Yes, I’m fat. Thanks so much for reminding me. Grrrr. Passive-aggressive, much?

    I am fortunate that my husband would look at this gal and comment that she’s too skinny. I like my life, I’m comfortable in my own skin. Being financially fit is a good thing too ensuring that if something were to happen to my husband I wouldn’t have to re-enter the dating scene unless I wanted to. I don’t need anyone else to support me. That’s huge and very comforting.

    If a young man smiles at me, I like to imagine he’s fantasizing about being my kept man. The truth be told he’s probably one of my 24 year old son’s friends and I fed him a yummy, hot meal when he was 10. :)

  14. I am so glad you’re still writing on this blog. Lovely, lovely stuff.

  15. lostAnnfound

    Excellent article, Donna! I have tried dying my hair a couple of times, but I hate the way it makes my hair feel, so I’m letting the gray come through. I don’t wear makeup and I work from home, so you’re likely to see me in Jeans & shirt when I do happen to venture outside because my wardrobe is sparse. I have a couple of friends (whom I love dearly no matter what they look like/wear) who have been coloring their hair for years and will not leave the house without makeup/jewelry/just the right outfit. They come across as very confident women when they are out in public or in a social group situation (maybe because they have their “game face” on), but I have to wonder what they are really feeling about themselves when they are so concerned about the image they will project to others.

    • Donna Freedman

      Maybe it’s more like their “war paint,” i.e., they know they must show no weakness and appear a certain way even to be allowed to exist in the world. That makes me sad.
      At-home worker here, too, and I have relatively few clothes. Don’t need too many, since most of my days are spent in sweats and T-shirt at the computer. I did go to half-price day at Value Village on Sunday, and bought one pair of pants and one nice-ish shirt (vs. another T-shirt). Shopping makes me tired, honestly. As long as I have a nice outfit or two for when I go to conferences, the rest of the time it doesn’t matter what I wear. Wish the rest of the world knew that, for all our sakes.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  16. notsoMickimouse

    Donna,

    This is such a good post. I think it is so much harder to be a woman these days, in all our contexts. Did you ever read Neil Postman’s “Amusing ourselves to Death?” Much of what you write about here, I believe, can be attributed to TV and then the internet becoming the center of our lives. And the dictator to our souls. We are forever tied to “image.” I think it affects women more than men, but I do not think that men are immune to it. I think a large part of why RL and DR have such large followings is that they are radio personalities first. Radio doesn’t have an image. If they had been on TV first, it would have made a difference.

    I am in my mid-40s and am feeling lumpy and dumpy. I have white hairs mixed in with my dark chestnut. I have rosacea and it’s starting to wreak havoc. Lately clothing manufacturers seem to be against me. And I have never felt like I have a voice. Not even when I was young and being taken advantage of. so… keep writing Donna. You have a following. And in a way, you are our voice :)

    thanks much for being vulnerable.

    • Donna Freedman

      What a wonderful thing to hear: “In a way, you are our voice.” Except that I want you to find your own and use it — loudly, when called for, and joyously and personally the rest of the time.
      Thank you.

  17. Meghan in Jersey

    Ouch, you’ve touched on a coarse, frizzy, white nerve! I’ve been going gray since I was 27 and had to cover the Metro desk phones for kmack. (True story.) I’d already been coloring my hair for “fun” since I was a teen, but HAVING to color it is a whole different story.

    And, yes, I do feel that covering the gray is something I HAVE to do, for exactly the reasons “Funny About Money” said above. It does indeed seem our society has an unhealthy dislike of old people in general, and of women who do not fall neatly into the “hot” or “cute” categories, preferably both.

    There was an excellent essay somewhere several years ago by a woman who decided to stop coloring her gray. She only lasted about three months. She hated the way it made her feel and the way people treated her.

  18. Sandra Gonzales

    You changed my financial life when I started reading about your experiences on MSN. I hate that you have been hurt by stupid people with sh*t for brains. People make those comments because what you write about hits home but they are too weak to fix their lives.

    You are bees knees Donna!!! And don’t you forget it!!

    • Ro in San Diego

      I am going to respond to Sandra’s comment because I too, have changed my financial way since reading your column on MSN.
      I too hate that you have been hurt by stupid people with sh*t for brains. We love what you do and appreciate you.

      • Donna Freedman

        Thanks to both you and Sandra. In fact, thanks to everyone for your thoughtful comments.

  19. My take?

    Menopause is sooooo liberating. ;-)

    I love my gray hair.

  20. ImJuniperNow

    Never been pretty, never will be. Been barked at, laughed at, heard comments like “Did you see that?” Always been fascinated by why people feel so free to say things so loud and clear, instead of among themselves. When recently asked by I wasn’t shopping myself on EHarmony I was told “Well, you’re kinda cute and you’re certainly not stupid.”

    No, I am not stupid. I decided long ago that if someone was put off by my appearance and wasn’t interested enough to talk to me and allow me to win them over with my superior wit and charm, my compassion and generosity, my work ethic and integrity, they weren’t worth my time.

    Eff ‘em all, Donna.

  21. Donna, I just read this really interesting article on the “ownership” of female bodies: http://www.xojane.com/issues/lena-dunham-naked-nude?utm_medium=facebook

    I haven’t seen the show Girls, nor do I know much about Lena Dunham, but after googling some of her nude pictures, I was thrilled to see that she is a perfectly normal woman who is proud of her body. (I almost said “flaws and all,” but the point is that having a normal body doesn’t mean that it’s flawed.) A good friend of mine remarked that men in our society own their bodies, whereas women’s bodies are owned by others. It was a really interesting comment, and it got me thinking about the reasons why we do what we do to “look good.” For whom are we doing this?

  22. I’m my own harshest critic but I know that I am judged by dozens of people a day when I go out. It’s the nature of the world. So I say “screm ‘em” in my head. I refuse to wear makeup when I don’t feel like it, my hair gets brushed like two times a day, and I’m finally starting to look a little older (I’m 30 but have always looked around 15-18 to most people…that sounds way more awesome than it is…). If someone talks to me, hopefully my personality will win them over.

    If I was being attacked in comments by hateful people, I would feel like poop too. Anonymous attacks just hurt. But you can always email one of your many fans like me and be assured that you are not any of the awful things they say, but you are an amazing inspiration and haters can just eat dirt.

  23. My guess that most of the personal attack posters are young (and thus likely dumb@sses) More importantly they probably are judging themselves more harshly than judging you, without knowing it of course they are little insecure monsters.

    I was born with a birthmark on my face, this led to a lot of teasing/bullying as a kid. I don’t care, it is what it is. As an adult on average someone makes a comment EVERY SINGLE DAY. As an adult I have noticed other adults horrified or stumbling over their words at their own rudeness, those that are still adults and still poke fun are most likely the most unhappy people.

    Also, for being a more liberated/open society people have gotten more self-centered and rude.

    Oh, and responding about Rush Limbaugh, you must have missed yesterdays show where he was talking about how the left abandoned Hillary in the primaries against Obama, even playing a clip from his show in 2008, basically saying they are doing the same thing now after her testimony. And Nancy Pelosie does “scare” me, but for some of the things that come out of her mouth. And, the left was very sexist against Sarah Palin, remember that picture of a young man between her calves? All while taking out of context what some conservative said about a woman on the left. As someone in the middle (right of middle) I have been more welcome for having open discussions with conservatives than with most of my friends on the left who just yell at me, throw up their hands and don’t understand why I don’t see it word for word or action for action as they do on ALL items. I actually find my left leaning friends to be LESS tolerant and more likely to attack a woman based on looks than for substance.

  24. jestjack

    Sorry to hear of your troubles at the DMV….doubt if I could handle the written test without the help of a “study group”. As for the trials and tribulations “gals ” have to go thru so as to remain attractive…I don’t know how you do it. DW who is about your age gave up on the hair color routine some time ago and her hair came in almost blond…and as crazy as it sounds gets compliments all the time. The time and money saved …a bonus. As for the “creeps” that make such awful comments…”not a fan”…and to quote you from one of your e-mails…”their parents must be so proud”. In addition, I am forever amazed as to how much time was devoted to the different hairstyles Mrs. Clinton has employed during her time in Office. One would think the media would focus on the many miles she has logged and challenges she has faced…I agree there is truly a double standard. Good article but I would suggest you get some vitamin D from sunshine … it helps me this time of year with the “blues”. Good Luck at your next visit to the DMV!!!

    • Donna Freedman

      I brought the manual home and will read it a bunch of times before attempting the test again. Insurance amounts? Why does it matter whether I know, since the insurance agent who will sell it to me knows the minimum I must have? Sigh.

  25. ImJuniperNow

    Donna – Have to add this – I’m not a big Oprah fan, but I have been watching her Life Lessons class/program. One topic was being happy with yourself the way you are. The first woman to get up was SO distraught by the brown splotches on her face (even tho she was a pretty young woman) it affected every aspect of her life. Oprah asked to speak with her after the show.

    After several others spoke about their personal issues, the last person to be featured/get up and speak was a young man from Australia (I’m ashamed I can’t remember his name) who was born with no arms and legs, and who had accomplished more than most four-limbed people ever would.

    It was eye opening for me and I hope for everyone else watching.

    • Julie Wubbena

      His name is Nic Vujicic and he is truly a hero.

      • I think you can find him on you-tube and he is an inspiration, and i bet he makes all the men jealous! LoL, he probably has gotten MORE HUGS, from women, than any single good looking man, who has all his appendages ;-) including the good looking men in acting…because they get hugs that are fake and he gets it straight from the heart.
        If we are commenting on the same person i believe he was a thalidomide baby…(for morning sickness???) wt-?

  26. People are mean.
    I just turned 50 last week. I know I’m never gonna be “young” again. But you know, I’m more worried about being healthy now. I’m trying to eat healthy, and do more exercise. I live in Reno where its snowy/cold in the winter. So I’ve invested in a treadmill so I don’t have to drive to the gym in the mornings… I think I just need to feel physically better, and that will do lots for me. I think feeling good about yourself is more important than what those bozos who wrote about you think. Hoping to move back to Anchorage after my youngest daughter is done with college. I want to be healthy and happy.

  27. Adherence to a cultural norm for appearance has been a sore spot for all my life. When I was a child, my mother would comment about how I was “the smart one” and my sister was “the pretty one.” Ugh! My poor sister thought she was dumb for about 30 years! She finally has realized that she is an intelligent person and given herself the credit she deserves.

    I never was bothered by not being called pretty at a young age, at least. I just didn’t understand the point of all the fussing with appearance. But, I had no issues with finding dates and boyfriends despite the fact that I stopped wearing makeup every day when I was 16. (My mother was horrified that I didn’t put on makeup and style my hair every day of high school.)

    I’m 45 now and I won’t dye my hair when the grays start filling in. I used to put on makeup about once or twice a year for dress up occasions, but have stopped doing that, too. Lipstick I’ll do, but the rest of the stuff feels awful on my face.

    Why do we allow ourselves to fall into this trap? And why do we reinforce it in our daughters, sisters, friends, and peers?

    Excellent post, Donna. You know how to write about your vulnerabilities in a way that we readers can really connect with.

    • Donna Freedman

      Thanks, Linda. Glad to know there are more out there who don’t do the makeup thing. (Does lip balm count as lipstick?)

      • a bit of blush and some shadow (neutrals) for me…

        great post, Donna

        fr. Donna ;-)

    • I repeat, Amen…

      ladies get out your lighters and bras!!! LoL…

  28. I will turn 60 in two months, so I can totally relate. It was so funny after our Christmas get-together with family that my husband commented to me, “where do your brothers get their white hair from?” I laughlingly told him mine would be white too if I didn’t dye it. He gave me an appraising look and said, ” you might look good with white hair.” Sixty might not be so bad after all.

  29. I take some comfort in the fact that as time decreases my youthful appearance it also gives me a greater appreciation for who I am on the inside. Ying and yang I guess. Great article.

  30. Donna,

    Thank you for sharing this with your readers. While I am
    certain all of us would be hurt by such rude people, you at
    least are in the drivers seat here. (Well, where writing is concerned)LOL! Sorry couldn’t resist,….truly I would hate
    to have to take a written driving test myself. Insurance?
    No, I wouldn’t pass it.

    I am in awe of your accomplishments!

    I have enjoyed reading the comments here. I am 51 today.
    I too have struggled with many of the issues discussed here.
    It is reassuring to read that I am not alone.

  31. Donna,

    In the sentence “you are in the drivers seat here” was
    meant to include your writing at MSN too. :)

    I really can’t imagine productive intelligent people making
    comments like those above. Clearly, they are not where they
    want to be in life. I think feeling powerless themselves, they
    desire to take your power away.

  32. You are the best,Donna! Don’t let those snarky Internet trolls get to you-they have nothing better to do. You have helped and inspired so many people-and I will always give you 100 per cent credit for showing your readers the joys of the scratch and dent food store as well as gift card granny!
    Also, with age, I think we tend to focus more on those things that are truly important, such as our relationships with friends and family. Having recently gone through 2 deaths of close family members in 6 days as well as cancer surgery for both my mom and sister in the space of 12 weeks, I am learning not to sweat the small stuff or let careless remarks get to me as much as they used to.
    Beth in South Jersey

  33. Great article.
    I am in my 60′s, gray haired, fat, don’t wear makeup, but do wear glasses, and work at a high school. I was already going gray 20 years ago when I started working there and was told, by people working in the school system, that I needed to dye my hair and wear contacts or the kids wouldn’t respect me.
    I have not found that to be true. Because I treat the students with respect, listen to them, and tell them the truth (as I see it),I
    have the the respect of most of the students. I have heard that I am “real”. When there is a comment on my age, weight, gray hair, ect. I answer it calmly and factualy. Example: “Yes, I’m fat. I do not watch what I eat the way I should. I was as slim as you when I was your age so be careful about your diet.” “Yes,I have gray hair and you gave me a lot of it.(LOL)
    If you accept yourself others will too. I can’t think of a tougher bunch of critics then high school students.
    Margo

  34. Go get ‘em, Donna! Life is more than appearances. I am 57, and while I actually enjoy makeup and getting my hair done, I also know that the world won’t stop spinning if I stop doing these things. My 21-y.o. DD, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, doesn’t “do” hair, makeup & fashion (she’s strictly jeans and T-shirts), and I could not care less. She is an awesome person who is intelligent, caring, and funny. (Gee, sounds like you!) Let’s all pledge to ourselves and to each other that we will live as we see fit!

  35. priskill

    So So appreciate this, Donna, I am nodding my old gray head and jowly 55 year old face! I do SO get why women feel the need to spruce up and meet makeup, hairdo, clothing, etc. standards set by — not sure who, probably other women — and the insecurities that drive them. I just never learned all that stuff at the proper time since i came of age in the earthy crunchy 60′s and 70′s — remember,we looked down on unnatural things! And there is a narrow window for figuring all this stuff out, apparently, since i am helpless. My 23 year old daughter is a MASTER of these arts and feels that it really helps her in her job, and I do respect that. As a teacher of young children, I can get away with casual clothes and grey frizzy hair and, ahem, generously cut pants and tennies. Make-up? I spit it it’s general direction.

    On the other hand, you are clearly beautiful, charming, smart, and a smacking great writer. Ignore trolls, as BethC says! These are the same morons who tried to say that Michelle Obama’s tush is too big (WHAT?) and Hillary’s ankles were whatever and basically any women with half a brain needs to be cut down somehow. Thank you so much for this — we all feel these things, but we know our worth. And do not let the b——s get you down!

  36. Donna,
    You are a great writer! I’m 44. I understand exactly how you feel. I remember spending large quantities of time studying magazines and trying my darndest to be “beautiful.” I look back at pictures of myself and realize I was, even though I didn’t feel that way at times. (I was married before too.) Sometimes we judge ourselves by the way others judge us or treat us. And it is unfortunate.
    Remember, God made you the way you are, beautiful, the way you are. You are an amazing writer. I look forward to your writing every day I get a chance to read it. I too, have felt hurtful comments from people who frankly aren’t very pretty inside. But I’m happy to say that I have worked through the hurt and find myself happier now that I realize that God made me who I am. I am now married to a man who sees the “whole” me. One day when I was feeling a bit down he told me, “Tammy, I wish you could see yourself the way I see you.” Some people might call me fat. But I prefer the word “voluptuous.”
    Honestly, I had to find contentment within myself before I could be happy… nevertheless, occasionally I find myself comparing myself to models, which only torments the mind… until I remember all the gifts that God has given me.
    You have a great personality and are a great writer Donna and it sounds like you have family that loves you. Don’t listen to the hurtful people who are ugly inside and hurting themselves too. I look forward to reading more.
    When you are feeling down. Remember, God made you beautiful.

    • Tammy,
      You have an awesome husband.

      Everyone, my sister explained to me one day that this system is set up this way to make us feel like we are ? if we don’t? (you fill in the blanks) so write YOUR own story, and let the system go down in flames..

  37. Nicole Berry

    Hi Donna!

    I agree with everyone here: you are an a amazing writer! And the next time you here from one of those degenerates, give them a dose of your wicked signature writing! I could just see it now: : Dear So-And-So, Thank you for your pointless and shallow remarks. I always appreciate those without ingenuity and general brain activity. I’ll pray for you, your superficial soul, and your small penis. God Bless. Unleash the holy terror!!! :D

    • Donna Freedman

      Ha! Would you like a job answering my e-mails??? ;-)

      Recently someone left this comment: “You and your daughter are boring and pathetic.” Channeling Miss Manners, who says you can never be rude in response to rudeness but only more polite, I replied, “How kind of you to share your thoughts.”

  38. I ummmmmm, color my hair too. I’m not going gray, I’m going blond.;)
    I love you and I find you to be one of the most influential people in my life. Your words and soul make me want to achieve more. And I don’t give a rat’s butt about your grays. Remember that when one of those ugly idiots slings a hurtful word. And yes, they are ugly-your words makes a person ugly or stunning. And you my dear, are the most beautiful.

  39. The people who leave these awful comments are probably jealous of your rapier wit and intelligence.
    I used to sell handpainted clothing at craft shows. I had a following. But occasionally,a person would stand right in front of me and say things like, “my mom gave me one of these. I didn’t like it.” Or, “I could get that cheaper at Wal-Mart.” After awhile, you develop a thick skin, even though I think it’s the commenters who should develop some common decency.

  40. I think there may be another angle here: Marketing. In every negative sense of the word. It seems that advertisers work to create a culture of age-related fear. “Use our shampoo/hair dye/botox etc. to avoid looking like a tired old hag.” Everywhere you look in our consumption-oriented society you see the age message constantly reinforced. Successful advertising creates a fear-generating threat and then provides the “perfect” solution.
    So I don’t have television, wear only lip gloss, treat my rosacea, maintain a healthy weight, wear glasses, not contacts, don’t dye my hair (which happily is still more brown than gray). I wear comfortable and reasonably attractive clothes, but am no slave to fashion. I prevent invisibility by looking people in the eye and smiling. Sometimes I even say hello to strangers. Shocking! Oh, and I’ll be 55 in March and just got married for the first time. Husband says it was my smile that went straight to his heart. Go figure.
    While I agree with some of the points in this post, it is important to remember that strength, self-esteem and confidence come from within. Can’t buy those magical traits in any store, anywhere.
    I’m reminded of a favorite Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
    So why does the advertising machine go to such great lengths to create or exaggerate our fear? Because it works.

  41. HI Donna,

    Your post reminded me of an article by Ann Friedman I read recently on a similar subject (includes a drawn pyramid of haters) and what to do about the,.

    http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/01/haters-gonna-hate-whats-a-woman-to-do.html

    I love your writing and followed you here from Get Rich Slowly a few years ago. I’ve used your tips and am out of debt. Take that, haters.

  42. Man in the Hall

    Hi Donna, i’m a huge fan of your blog but this is my first time commenting.
    Perhaps it’s a culture thing because where i’m from (Nigeria), most Africans don’t care about the age; if anything, it demands respect. Yeah, most men have a (regrettably) condescending attitude towards women. Here, women are expected to add weight as they age but they’re judged more from the wisdom and experience they ought to have attained, than from their looks. Aging is respected in our parts. Family and friends are more inclined to worry if you’re too thin and questions will be asked as to whether you’re well fed or not.

    However, young ladies are encouraged to get married before the “sun sets on their beauty’ so i can understand where you’re coming from and I see that the human attitude to beauty and youth is a global one. Even my dad dye’s his hair, not because he’s worried about the grey (he’s cool with that), but because he’s tired of older men calling him sir and treating him like he’s older than they are.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Man in the Hall: I like to think that experience adds wisdom to us all. Sometimes it just adds bitterness and regret, unfortunately.
      Even when things go wrong I’m trying to ask myself, “What can I learn from this?”
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  43. Karen Datko

    Hmmm. Guess I’d better update my Facebook photo, which is about 5 years old. My hair now is about an inch long, shorter on the sides, and most of it is white. I wish I had cut it off and let it be its natural color years ago. But I didn’t because of many of the reasons you mentioned. Then I decided that I wanted to look like me. Now I do. My hair looks great. My face is aging and sags. But that’s me. I’m happy with it.

    As for people who present their nasty comments without their real names? They are cowards. Each and every one.

  44. Donna – I’ve been wanting to reply to this post since I read it a week ago – to let you know how important writing about this topic is. As a 59 year old woman, I too am taken aback when I find myself viewed as unattractive, or even worse invisible. I’ve chosen to let my hair go gray, but were I to want a promotion at work or to look for a job elsewhere, I know that one of the first things I’d do is dye my hair and upgrade my wardrobe. I keep my itsy double A’s in a bra (something I often skipped in my younger days) because I’m painfully aware that few people want to be aware that this middle aged woman has boobs.

    There is little that most of us can do about what society says to us. Each of us has to decide how much we want to bend to achieve greater ends. And, believe me, your writing is very important to many of us. But we can and should fight doing it to ourselves. At my age, with a little luck, I could have 30 or more years of life left. That’s a long time to shuffle around baking cookies. Your female readers need a place to go where they can see themselves reflected as empowered adult people. When I found myself divorced with a small child 25 years ago, Jane Bryant Quinn was my hero. When she wrote about money management, she included people like me, who were struggling and single. She helped me to see that I could manage and thrive. You do something similar. I no longer need help managing money but I read your blog for great insights like this – and because you write about enjoying life without spending gobs of money. A world with billions of people and limited resources needs to find ways to have joy without excess. Thanks.

    • Donna Freedman

      Thank you, Chris, for your insight and your kind words. I love the idea of having “joy without excess.”

  45. Francine Thomas

    Great post!

  46. Zelda Lee Hoover

    WOW. I am VERY late reading this.(just discovered it) But all so true. Being a little past the middle age (79), I have experienced all this. When you reach the point where you can say It really isn’t important, you will find you can be happy; content with your life and yourself. (I still hate being invisible!!!) Bless you, Donna

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Coffee: Way too freakin’ early on Monday, Oct. 21. | Surviving and Thriving - […] look for the bottle blonde who seems very tired yet oddly keyed-up. Conferences do that to me. I’ll have …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>