Aging in America isn't always easy, especially when we're bombarded with messages trying to convince us that youth equals beauty. 'Old' is something we should avoid at all costs, they seem to tell us, and if we don't . . . well, maybe it's time to just step aside.
It's enough to make women run for the hills, or to the nearest plastic surgeon.
That's not what I chose to do after turning 50. Instead, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, interviewed experts on just about everything, followed the programs and advice, and wrote The Best of Everything After 50. As I inch my way toward 56, I feel way better now than I did a decade ago, ready to take on whatever is next.
But, that's only part of the story.
While I was trying to figure it all out, I erroneously imagined I was the only one who was scared and confused by aging. But, little by little as I started talking about it, doing interviews, writing, and connecting with other women on social media, it soon became apparent that I was not alone. We all -- with very few exceptions -- have many of the same concerns and the more we reach out to each other, I discovered, the more empowered we become. Sure, I learned a great deal from the amazing experts I interviewed. But it's the real women in my life (some I've never even met) who continue to sustain me with their support, encouragement and wisdom.
According to Ann Baker, founder of Women at Woodstock, that makes me an official crone.
Huh? Isn't that an insulting term for older women? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary called a crone an ugly, withered (and usually wicked) old woman. I was mystified why this lovely woman on the other end of the phone -- whom I'd never even met -- would call me that with such glee in her voice. Ann quickly explained that women across the country have been embracing the concept of the crone as a 'wise woman' and the movement is growing.
The crone, according to legend, is part of a sacred trio -- Maiden, Mother, Crone - and because she is the oldest, the crone is also the wisest.
Furthermore, Ann told me, there's a ritual called the croning where women, usually those who are at least 50 and have gone through menopause (but women of any age can celebrate their croniness!), claim their cronehood very often by throwing a party and inviting all their girlfriends to join in the fun. Or, it can be a more solemn, serious affair. Women all over the country are embracing the concept of the crone in a positive way. It's all about the act of becoming a wise woman and accepting your rightful place in the world, but it's also about sharing your knowledge and wisdom with other women of all ages.
Ann had her own croning ceremony to celebrate her 50th birthday, even though she didn't have any idea what "croning" really meant. She invited women friends to a rented cabin in the country for a weekend, asking each to bring a favorite photo, CD, or DVD. They listened to the music each had brought while cooking together, hiking, and talking. Oh yes . . . there was A LOT of talking going on, especially focusing on what they all still hoped to achieve in the future.
The experience was so incredible she decided to create an annual event for all women over 50, where we could come together, and celebrate who we are now. A few years later, Women at Woodstock was born, an event she hopes to host every year.
I'm proud to say that I was one of the first crones Ann invited to speak at this first Women at Woodstock event, which takes place October 7th through 10th. Click here for the details. Other women who will be croning right along side me include the first editor of Ms. Magazine and best-selling author Suzanne Braun Levine, Robin Plaskoff Horton, founder of Urban Gardens, writer Amy Ferris, cosmetic entrepreneur and former model Cindy Joseph, and many other amazing, accomplished women, uh ... crones.
While I didn't have a croning ceremony when I turned 50 (not complaining: it was a trip to Rome with my husband and two daughters), I've been croning ever since. I rely on the solid network of women I've built these last few years and every encounter I have with them -- face-to-face or virtually -- makes us all more powerful.
Celebrating and reveling in your aging self is nothing short of revolutionary. Yes, our society may be tiptoeing into this new way of engaging with post-50 women, but change is most definitely in the air. The cynical side of me thinks marketers see the immense opportunities that the post-50 demographic represents. We are, after all, a large and quickly growing group with lots of disposable income, especially compared to other age groups.
The idealist in me believes that we -- those over 50 -- have finally gotten our message across, and it's this:
Embrace your age, engage with life, take control of your future, and live. Care for your body, exercise your mind, be a part of the world, stay connected with people who are supportive, and you'll discover a secret that many women over 50 who are doing these things already know: If you feel good, you look good. And if you feel and look good, age will be the furthest thing from your mind.
So . . . are you ready to embrace your inner crone?
Keep me posted on how you're doing by subscribing to me on Facebook and "tweeting" me on Twitter at @BGrufferman. Check back next week for more tips on living your best life after 50.