Judgment keeping up appearances

Judge Not: Keeping Up Appearances Past a Certain Age

During our younger-adult years, who hasn’t judged–or outright mocked, or at least surreptitiously questioned–the style choices or leisure activities of our elders for being “age-inappropriate”?

My supervisor at my first job after college was a middle-aged woman–probably about as old then as I am now–who rode motorcycles with her husband on weekends, and I could not make sense out of doing such as thing at her age. But at least she kept her hair short and skirts longer than knee-length, because the opposites would also have been unsuitable for her age.

I was passing these judgments before I was 25. A pitfall of judging appearances at 25 is that it’s hard to picture who you’ll be 25 years later. It’s also hard to picture that you might still enjoy doing, and want to do, many of the same things you were doing at 25 and plenty more that you won’t try until you’re well beyond the age of 30.

I was past my 50th birthday when I first rode a motorcycle.

Birthday motorcycle ride

A pitfall of judging appearances at 25 is that it's hard to picture who you'll be 25 years later. Click To Tweet

I have gained and lost and re-gained pounds over the last couple of decades. My weight now is roughly the same as it was in my late thirties, but I wear it a little differently. I would have described my shape as “matronly” at 35, and my style pretty well conformed to that. At 35, I was a management-level worker, a faculty wife, and the mother of a high-school sophomore–my life was matronly.

My thinking now is that 35 is much too young for “matronly,” and although it’s probably a more age-appropriate descriptor for my shape at 52 than it was then, I don’t see myself–or dress myself–that way. I’m a management-level worker, a wife, and mother and stepmother to two adult children and one near-adult–my life now may look just as matronly as it did then, but I wear it differently now.

My son put red and yellow streaks in his hair while he was in high school and college. My stepdaughter began coloring hers a popular shade of deep red when she was sixteen. She lost most of that hair during chemotherapy last year, but as soon as enough of it grew back, she began dyeing it purple.

I didn’t color my hair for the first time until I was forty…and I stopped after I turned fifty. I appreciate that hair color can be a fashion choice now and does not have to resemble any shade occurring in nature, but I’m going to let mine be itself for awhile. However, I reserve the right to re-evaluate once the grays take over and colonize my head.

I got my ears pierced when I was sixteen, and the holes closed over six months later thanks to an infection from some cheap earrings.

I got my ears pierced again in my early forties. By then, I could afford better earrings and I have had no problems this time. I’m not comfortable with earrings that are too big or heavy, but I like a variety of shapes and am rather partial to hoops of various sizes.

I still have not had anything except my ears pierced.

We’re nearly fifty years past when someone first said “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” People under 30 have been judging those over 30 for at least that long, and people over 30 have resented it. In the age of the internet, those judgments go public quickly…and so does the backlash.

Inevitably, the under-30s will become over-30s, and the judges may become the judged. But the beauty of being over 30–or over 40, or over 50–is that with luck and life experience, you become comfortable enough with your own style, and in your own skin, not to care about anyone’s judgment but your own.

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  1. I love this post! Just because we’re older doesn’t mean we’re dead! I’ve been thinking of having my ear pierced again but haven’t acted on it yet.

    1. I was OK with turning 30. 40 was my big-hurdle birthday…but then my 40s turned out to be a great time for doing things for the first time. I’m glad this was a worthwhile read for you as you count down to 30 :-).