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Being a woman of ‘a certain age’.

March 13, 2009

madge1I’m one… Madonna’s one and chances are YOU’re one! A woman of ‘a certain age’ that is. Now I hold my hands up and admit that I use this term a lot…in conversation, here on my blog and on my website. Well, now I’m considering dropping it altogether after a conversation I had yesterday got me thinking about what this expression actually means to people.

It all started when a young woman asked me, ‘How old IS a woman of a certain age, exactly…?’  When I asked how old she thought ‘a certain age’ was, she said she wouldn’t like to be specific but that it implied an attitude of, ‘I’m of an age I’d rather not define in any greater detail.’ (And…call me over-sensitive, but there was a definite implication that it’s so old she wouldn’t want to know anyway!)

Now I suspect it’s a phrase that means different things to different people possibly depending on your age.  If you consider yourself, like me, to BE ‘a certain age’ then I’d guess you are probably in your late 40’s or fifties.  And perhaps like me, you use the term as a sort of shorthand to communicate the characteristics of a unique life stage…. a time of change and exploration….and NOT simply a way to avoid divulging your age.

When I did a bit of Googling (….a favourite activity of mine,) I discovered that the phrase was popularised in a 1979 book by the psychotherapist Lillian B. Rubin called “Women of a Certain Age: The Midlife Search for Self.”

“When I wrote the book in 1979,” Dr. Rubin says, “the ‘women of a certain age’ were in their late 30’s and early 40’s. I think that has changed with the baby boomers and the lengthening of the life span. I’d say the ‘certain age’ has now moved to the age of 50 or 55.”

So that’s official then – at 53, I AM a woman of a certain age.

But dear readers out there… are YOU comfortable being ‘of a certain age’? Do you think the very expression says that we are still uncomfortable about divulging our age? Does the expression represent or misrepresent you?  Is it a euphemism that offends you?

I’d  really love to know what you think.
Until next time,

K x

9 Comments leave one →
  1. IGrewUp permalink
    March 16, 2009 2:59 pm

    Karen-I guess I am with you on the pro side of using the term “a certain age”. I have always considered it a term describing an alluring, mysterious woman that has her foot in two worlds-still a bit hot, but knows herself. The shock is when we find ourselves in that age-I guess I have 2 years to go! Hope I can live up to it…

    • midlifematters permalink*
      March 16, 2009 3:44 pm

      ….’still a bit hot, but knows herself.’ I LOVE your definition so much I’m thinking of using it as a new midlife slogan! K x

  2. April 19, 2009 12:50 pm

    Karen – it seems that females everywhere measure their own progress, vitality, verve and attractiveness by high profile role models – I love to read articles on older females who still ‘have it’, albeit with more resources avaibable to keep ‘time’ at bay than I have. It doesn’t matter really if, when you look into the mirror you see your mother looking back at you (more so these days), or that you have gained a few pounds from ‘the slowing down’ process of ageing, eventhough you still may be tearing around like a 20yr old. As I have aged I like to believe I have blossomed and developed and that my skill of learning is still growing. It has a lot to do with the ‘fire within’. Yes, I’m still hot in many ways and having just given up (safe) work to concentrate on following another pathway to fulfilment at 62 I am proud of all my achievements so far. Am I a UK woman of a ‘certain age’ ….you betta ya!

    • midlifematters permalink*
      April 20, 2009 10:28 am

      ‘Blossomed’… ‘developed’… ‘learning’ and ‘growing’ with a ‘fire within’ …… sounds like the attributes of an inspirational role model if you ask me, Elaine!

  3. August 2, 2012 9:11 am

    I’ve always thought it was a euphemism for menopausal…

    • midlifematters permalink*
      August 2, 2012 5:31 pm

      Thanks for dropping by Caroline and yes, I think you’re probably right about it being used as a euphamism.

      By the way….Midlife Blogging Matters has moved and you can now find us here: Please come and say hello there too!

  4. Wordwizard permalink
    May 8, 2013 11:41 pm

    What with the reality of agism, the easiest way to avoid it is to refuse to give one’s age, especially if one is an actor, and does not want to be disqualified for a part one could easily play!

    • midlifematters permalink*
      May 9, 2013 8:42 am

      True! And I have enormous sympathy for this pragmatic approach but still saddened that it doesn’t actually do anything to change ‘the reality of ageism’. Thanks for taking the time to add your thoughts.


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