It is pretty much an unspoken rule between women that we don’t age-shame each other — don't call someone old, or say they “look old," "mature," or "great for their age." Honestly, I don’t know the real ages of half my female friends. I don't ask.
There’s the pressure to maintain the toned bod from your 20s, and keep your face up in the clouds with Botox, fillers and lip plumpers. So, when a friend comes at you with an age diss, it cuts as deep as an actual face lift. The Real Housewives of New York City's Bethenny Frankel knew exactly how to throw down during that bitter fight with Carole Radziwill in the Berkshires, screaming “I know you wanna be 45!” at her, Carole's age apropos of nothing they were actually mad at. So what was that about?
For the record, Carole is 54, yes fifty-four years old, and she looks incredible. She’s fit, fashionable, and dates younger guys. Would you have a problem with any 54-year-old man who did that? Of course not. Carole kind of ignored that whole part of the argument, instead focusing on a disagreement about her ex, Adam, and Bethenny’s “whining.” Smart. So she got new clothes? Who cares.
The Real Housewives of Atlanta’s NeNe Leakes was also a victim of age-shaming. Back in February, she modeled a see-through dress from her storefront, Swagg Boutique, on Instagram, and was met with negative comments. Not that she was hearing any of it.
But one commenter wrote the dress was not "appropriate for someone of her age." *Eyeroll.*
In response, NeNe wrote, "I’m very comfortable in the skin I'm in, which is why I’m letting you see it. Umm do you make these comments on Kim K’s page?"
Age-shaming is a way to “lash out,” says relationship advice and etiquette expert April Masini. “It’s a barb in the arsenal that people who lash out carry. It’s just a personal way to get at someone…Bethenny Frankel is quick-witted and sharp-tongued. It’s not a surprise that she would age-shame someone.”
Women are obsessed with age and youth, she adds, because it’s valued in our culture, more than most other things.
“People cling to age and youth because we equate negative feelings with old age and death,” Masini says. “Other cultures honor the elderly and feel that they carry special value. Our culture doesn’t follow that so much. Looking old, when you are old, is not a compliment in most circles. Looking young is considered an attribute…Women have been valued for their beauty for so long, that it makes sense that they would focus on their own age and youth a little more than men do theirs.”
But, Masini says, that’s changing big time, because men are going in for “beauty treatments” more and more these days.
“I hate to label women as more vain than men because often, it’s just not true anymore,” she says. “Men opt in for treatments — whether they’re products or surgeries — that may give them a youthful appearance, often way more than women do.”
With all this effort trying to stay young, like Carole’s new wardrobe and chic haircut (also things Bethenny brought up in their fight), what do you do when a friend hits you in your gut by saying you act too young for your age?
“Shame sticks when you feel badly about yourself,” Masini says. “If someone age-shames you, and you’re unsure of yourself and feel badly that you look old, then you’re going to be upset.”
Remember to laugh — we all get old in the end.
“The insult that Bethenny dished out, that Carole acts like she’s 45, is only hurtful if you don’t find the humor in it. Carole looks great, and her style is often very unique and special. She should laugh it off. When someone slings that kind of an insult it usually reflects more on their own insecurity than anything else,” Masini says.
There’s hope, too. In 2017, Allure magazine decided to stop using the term “anti-aging,” which was revolutionary for a fashion bible.
“Whether we know it or not, we’re subtly reinforcing the message that aging is a condition we need to battle. If there’s one inevitability in life, it’s that we’re getting older. Every minute. Every second,” wrote Editor-In-Chief Michelle Lee. “Repeat after me: Growing older is a wonderful thing because it means that we get a chance, every day, to live a full, happy life.”
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