I have always been inspired by women with the sort of confidence and natural effortlessness that only comes with experience. I am truly grateful for all the age-defying women who have nurtured me, both in my career and throughout my life. Mature women are allergic to the petty. They know better than to waste their time on things that don’t provide sustenance. Or joy. Or at least a good laugh. Today I know to walk into a party and look around for the “woman of a certain age” instead of the latest Instagram star or middle aged man in his fitted jeans and blazer. But it wasn’t always this way…
Over a decade ago I started my first company Guest of a Guest. It was a new media site, which back then was just a fancy term for “blog.” I went to SXSW and had one of the first accounts on FourSquare. I tested the first prototype for the Square payment system and sat around listening to various boy-men talk about which new operating system they were learning to code on. I sat in on countless panels on the future of the world. This was before the iPhone existed and you had to text a 6 digit code into your phone to tweet what you were eating. It was all very exciting and new! It also left me feeling empty and sad.
Everything back then felt so competitive and soulless. We had millions of followers and a giant article in the New York Times, but where was the joie de vivre? I asked one well known male contemporary how he grew his female focused media site to the katrillon monthly page views they had in such a short time. The answer – duping Google by plugging in algorithms to see search trends and then instructing writers to pump out that content – left me depressed. No, frankly, my job and the industry I was competing in left me with a full blown anxiety disorder. I struggled to find meaning in anything. When you know the inner mechanics of companies that are controlling our daily narratives, when you are a small part of one even, it makes one feel empty.
I have not met a single woman over 50 who has made me feel empty inside. This is just the truth. In fact, they seem to always do the opposite. Hanging out with a woman in her later years would leave me with a sense of calm. Like there was something reassuring up ahead for me. The world was filled with beauty and meaning and soul, I just had to get past that giant hill I was climbing on – the hill of self doubt and daily struggle. I find relief in the idea of getting “over the hill.”
Cher – “I do think that when it comes to aging, we’re held to a different standard than men. Some guy said to me: ‘Don’t you think you’re too old to sing rock n’ roll?’ I said: ‘You’d better check with Mick Jagger’.”
Growing older is a fact of life. It’s hard for any human, but women in particular are forced to stay relevant in a world that seems to constantly want to cast them aside. Older men get to be leaders, they get to be presidents and CEOs and VCs. Older women, if they even get a chance to pursue those positions, will find themselves scrutinized on every single physicality of aging. If companies were smart, they’d have a decent percentage of women over 50 on their teams and leading their board meetings. But they’re not. And we are all suffering because of this. And, well, that’s a shame.
It’s a shame because once I started finding these women, my life truly changed.
Older women listen. They laugh often, they want to learn, they are excited by things. They actually have your back, they don’t just say that they do. They are open about what they have learned and generous with their sharing of this knowledge. They want you to succeed, they don’t take pleasure in seeing their contemporaries fail. They care. A lot. They are confident enough to know who they are and be okay with it. They speak their truths. They’ve already marched in marches for freedoms won and taken for granted. They have gifts to share. They are powerful. They would never take pleasure in building a company based around an algorithm that dupes the system. They are authentic AF.
And btw they exist – just start looking for them.
“When you’re young, there’s so much now that you can’t take it in. It’s pouring over you like a waterfall. When you’re older, it’s less intense, but you’re able to reach out and drink it. I love being older.” – Sigourney Weaver.
p.s. For all of the women in my life that are from the generations before me, thank you for your support, your guidance, your wisdom and encouragement. Thank you for giving me a model to mold my own life after and offering up a path towards growing older with grace and style.
Find out more about Lingua Franca here.