As women, when we enter various life stages and age ranges, we do so with flair and celebration. Becoming a teenager is exciting yet hormone and drama ridden, and the world is ours to conquer. Going into our 20’s is a major rite of passage, ushering in our young adult years. Moving into the third (and in my humble opinion, best) decade is a fun combination of being young enough to have fun yet learning how to “adult”. The 40’s are for some reason a major milestone, requiring surprise parties and festivity as we pretend-groan about being “old.” After that, however, the transitions get a bit more muddy.
And somewhere, somehow, when we aren’t paying attention, we start to all get lumped into that mysterious group of “women our age.” What does that mean? What is “our age”? Is it something that happens when we walk across some invisible line, like some sort of Star Trek portal? I feel like it could go either way – good or bad. Perhaps we have become part of a secret society, like a wink-wink-nudge-nudge that’s only for us special women of “our age”…. OR there’s the bad connotation that all goes to hell when we hit “our age”. The other day I had a great conversation with a woman at my workout class – she was telling me about her amazing journey back to health after serious open heart surgery a couple of years ago. She asked if I had been doing these workouts for a while, and when I said yes, she said “oh, that’s good. These strength training sessions are really good for women our age.” What did she mean, that these workouts are our only hope of continuing to be able to walk upright or bend to tie our shoes? I had overheard her talking to someone else earlier, and after doing the math I knew she was 10 years older than me. More muddying of the borders. Mature women get lumped into “our age.” What gives us away to others in our sisterhood? Our wrinkles? Our muffin tops? The fact that our knees make noise when we get up off the floor? Is that why she assumed I’m part of the O.A. group?
This of course is closely related to the similar phrase we start to hear from medical professionals…. they are sneaky too, making sure we don’t notice when they start saying “at your age.” The difference of course is that when they make that reference, it is never followed by something positive. Failing eye sight, looking forward to a colonoscopy, the need for calcium supplements, the joys of menopause – those are all apparently some of the secret passwords needed to be part of the club.
What also becomes apparent as we morph our way into this life stage (which apparently spans at least three decades of women) is that the previous age range clubs have dismissed us with nary a “buh-bye”. It is obvious to the youngers that we are no longer one of them, even if we feel like we are. After all, we still see ourselves in our minds as being young enough to pass ourselves off as one of them. Nope. Sorry. Not long ago I was chatting with a co-worker, and I mentioned something about hot flashes. She giggled and compared me to her mother. Her mother. This is a co-worker. Not a friend of my son’s, or a local college student. Wait a minute. When did THAT happen? When did I get to be “that age” at work?!
Teens, 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, all big and bold and obvious. After that? The shift is subtle and almost secretive as we become part of a pack. As startling and disconcerting as it can be to become aware of the change that’s been happening while we weren’t looking, I’m starting to believe there are benefits. In the O.A. Club, numbers don’t matter. Neither does our economic status, perceived beauty, grey hair, or weight. We welcome new members with virtual open arms, sharing inside jokes, commiserations and a level of understanding that seems to be missing in our younger, or shall we say less experienced, years. The key benefit of the club is camaraderie. We laugh, we cry, we just get each other.
We are just women our age. No secret handshake needed.