Friday, August 28, 2009

An Age Question

What constitutes “old” or “older”? Older seems sort of relative. When I was younger, I looked at my mother and aunts and thought, they’re old. Now, I realize they were probably in their forties at the time. That’s not old. But what is old?

A friend of mine and a great author, Sylvia Dickey Smith, now writes for Examiner.com as the Austin Writing Examiner columnist. Her niche is writing about older women writers. When she asked if I would write a couple of paragraphs about how it’s a plus or an advantage to be an older writer, I thought, hmm, I’m not old…but I am older…and being older is an advantage. (Thus, totally skirting facing the question, am I old? I can duck questions with the best of them.)

So I wrote the paragraphs and she took what I wrote and made me sound smart and coherent. (I told you she was a great writer.)

The article is now up. It’s called, “Helen Ginger Goes from Mermaid to Wonder Woman.” (Sylvia is also witty and prone to hyperbole.)

Also, if you’re an older woman writer, Sylvia is looking for authors to interview.

But back to the original question. When it comes to writers/authors, what age would you consider as “old”?
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42 comments:

  1. I remember having a student teacher in junior high who we thought was pretty cool for an old person. When I look back on it now, he must have been in his 20's!

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  2. Great article! And it's true--you seem to have boundless energy.

    In my experience, most writers ARE older. In fact, I was at a workshop recently and called myself a "young writer." I stopped cold. Young? I'm going to be 40 in another year and a half. But to me, 40 IS young for a writer. But not in any other respect! :)

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  3. You're right, Helen. It is a "relative" sort of thing. My 13 year old son thinks of me as old (nearly 47) yet my 84 year old father-in-law thinks of me as a young man (despite all the grey hair). It was only just recently that I thought my parents were starting to get old (64 and 67 years old). Ask 10 people, you'll probably get 10 opinions on what old is...

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  4. I know US lifespans are decreasing slightly, but in general, worldwide, people are living longer. I don't think 40 or even 50 even qualifies as "older". Sixty is "older", 70 or 80 would be "old", but I bet you'll find plenty of 70 and 80 year olds who'd disagree with even that definition.

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  5. Gosh, I struggle with this a lot. I am 32 so anyone over 50 seems a little...dare I say it...old. But I am sure when I get to 50 I will think I am a spring chicken :)

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  6. I've been struggling to determine what "mid-life" is. Is it 40 these days? 45? Perhaps anyone on the other side of mid-life is older :-)

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  7. My Uncle Wheeler is 95. He's only just beginning to think he might be getting old. He certainly doesn't act old. He still tends his ranch and huge garden.

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  8. I once told my mother I thought 35 was "middle aged". She reminded me of that a lot as I approached 35. We laugh about it a lot now that I have passed middle age by a couple of decades and Mom's certifiably old, but neither of us "feels" old. Despite gray hair, wrinkles, tri-focals and hearing aids, I'm still a young girl at heart, kind of wandering through life marveling at the beauty of it all and, occasionally, being terrified of those damned flying monkeys.

    I just happened upon your site for the first time. I guarantee, "I'll be back!"

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  9. Hi Meredith.
    It is funny how our perspective changes as our age progresses, isn't it? I love your "being terrified of those damned flying monkeys" comments.

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  10. Ah. I've thought about this question a lot, since I turned 60 this past April. When I was in my 40s, 60 was old. Now that I'm there, I don't think it is anymore. I feel so young inside. I have friends in their 80's. They look, sound, and feel "old." But one who's 87, doesn't. I think it's all in our attitude.
    Karen

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  11. It's all perspective, of course. I can remember as a young Hippie thinking (as all Hippis did) that anyone over the age of 30 was of the "old order" and not to be trusted. When I was IN my thirties, I was once driving with my Dad through a college town. I commented on how young college kids looked to me now. Dad laughed and said, "Well, Marvin, the older you get the younger they will look to you."

    And that's the crux of it. The Baby Boomers are now all in their late 50's & 60's and we are the majority generation still, so the perception of "old" has gotten pushed way back from what it was a few decades ago. Now we say we are "fifty years young" (wink)

    Me? If you're ten or more years older than whatever age I am, then you're "old." Ha!

    Marvin D Wilson

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  12. Okay, here it is, folks. Since I am evidently the resident authority on age...LOL

    As far as the question about when does middle age begin--these days, with the baby boomers--that guesstimate has taken on a whole new meaning. "50 is the new middle-age" I've read. Okay, that still puts me over that top.

    But the way I figure it, at least for women (we'll have to let the men give us feedback from their side) You are an older and WISER woman when you discover the folly of spike heel shoes and mini-skirts. It's a conspiracy again women, put upon us and embraced by women too young to see that folly! LOL

    Whoever came up with the idea of shoes for women where they walked around all day on their toes should be shot with a blast of wet noodles.

    So, if you are wise enough to not succumb, you are old enough to be considered wise. My story, and I'm sticking to it! LOL

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  13. "Old" is that spot just beyond whatever current age you are. :) I never could understand why my grandmother picked such an old age to cling to...39+.

    As Karen said, it's all in our attitude.

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  14. Oh my gawd, Sylvia. I am an older and wiser woman. I was just ranting about heels yesterday. They're torture devices created to cripple women. I want to yell at every young woman on TV walking around on 6 inch sticks, stop that! You'll regret it when you're in physical therapy.

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  15. Writing-wise, I think writers sound old when they cling to outdated ideas or styles of writing. Some writers sound old at 20. Other writers in their 70s or 80s still don't sound old.

    I agree with Sylvia on those heels. The only good thing that came out of me breaking my ankle a few years ago was the doctor told me no more heels ever. I love that man!

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  16. Hey, I'm a member of the same campaign! It is truly pathetic, what industry standards and marketing have done to torture women. And women--girls--still get trapped in it. When we are old enough to see through that, we can pat ourselves on the back and claim to be "more adult."

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  17. And I agree with you, Carol, that we can be young and write old, and vice versa. As my mom loved to say, "You're only as old as you feel," and she didn't FEEL old until in her later 80's, shortly before she passed over.

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  18. Laura, I'm going to have to steal your grandmother's line - "Old" is that spot just beyond whatever current age you are." Love it.

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  19. I saw a commercial last night for clothes for pre-teens. One of the young girls modeling had on high heels. Excusssseeee me!

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  20. That's great! I will go check it out.

    And you are NOT old!

    L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”
    www.circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com

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  21. Great article! I always wanted to get older. Somehow, I found it fascinating. Now that I'm getting there... well, the magic is starting to break.

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  22. I agree with much of the above - 'old' is always older than you are right now. I guess I fall into a large category of female writers - my at-home kids are now teenagers so I can write and not worry that they're off gargling bleach. I can't imagine being able to write when you've got young kids racing around the house - I was always pleased when everyone was still alive at the end of the day.

    As for fashion, I heard somewhere that if you're old enough to remember whatever when it was fashionable the first time you're too old to wear it now.

    I'm on the fence with the high heels. I don't wear them every day, but they do make me feel pretty!

    Elspeth

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  23. I used to own the small local newspaper and I had a reporter who was always describing people he interviewed as middle aged. He brought a photo with one of his articles and I asked him "When was this taken?" His answer: "Yesterday." The photo was of a young man about 23 years old. Apparently that was middle-aged in his mind.

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  24. I think my kids think I've always been old. But now my kids are the age I was when I got married. That certainly makes me feel old.

    My Dad said you know you're getting older when all the policemen get younger, but that was ages ago...

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  25. Great post. Found your wondermous blog via Kreativ Award bloggers... all roads lead to Hel!

    Age. Old age. I think old sets in at the same time as rigidity sets in (no, not rigor mortis). Rigidity in terms of no longer stretching intellectually, spiritually, physically. When you feel you know it all, done it all, then you're 'old'.

    Myself, I keep learning so I'll always be 'young'. After all, 50 is the new 20-something. Glad I found your digs. Peace, Linda

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  26. I think I won't embrace 'old' until my body starts failing on me. I study pain for a living and people in pain feel old very young because they are constantly reminded that our bodies won't last forever, but I knew a woman who bowled in a league until she was 103--she never DID get old.

    When I was a kid I asked a Ouiji board how old I'd live and it said 87, so in December, as I reach 43 1/2, I will officially be middle-aged.

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  27. I'm almost 39. I remember starting out when I was 24 and thinking I was almost too young. Writers groups were made up of 40-ish women...I felt way out of place. But now I'm thinking I feel old!

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  28. I say, if you're young enough to surf the Internet and comment on the blog from Hel, then you're young indeed, not old!

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  29. As a writer, you are old only wheN you're dead.

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  30. Well, Diane, thank goodness we are not old!

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  31. Since most of my writer friends consider me a youngster, I'm probably not qualified to answer this question. I've always found that I tend to get along with my elders better than contemporaries. Not sure how that will work when I'm 100. Lonely?

    How about this? You're only as old as your current main character.

    And I'm a fan of high heels, although personally I rarely wear them. :0)

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  32. lessee...hmm. 80 or 90. yah that's old. Unless you talk to a spritley 90 year old. It is all relative, that's true.

    I certainly don't consider someone just starting their 4th decade as old, or even the 5th or 6th. I'm inclined towards the French view of age. A woman of a certain age. The phrase is all positive, no negatives. Vive le France, lolol!

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  33. A wonderful article she wrote about you Helen!

    Thanks for sharing it. :-)

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  34. In my opinion a writer/author is an old writer/author if she or he remembers typing on an IBM typewriter (pre-Selectric) and checking galley proofs, ozalids, chromolyns (sp?), and page proofs. The implication is that if you're 80 and you start writing today and you use a computer, you are not an old writer/author!

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  35. I'm sort of thinking age is in your mindset. I started to say it also is in your body, but I know people who are disabled or have restrictions, but who are young inside. So, I'll go with mindset.

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  36. It is partly mindset, I think, but also how rapidly our bodies age. If we're lucky enough to have good genes and take good care of ourselves, we might not age as fast as others. I've known some very amazing ladies who were still bowling in their eighties or bopping around like social butterflies well into their nineties. They might have been "old" in years, but they sure weren't old in spirit.

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  37. A lady I knew in the UK, celebrated her 90th birthday by walking in Peru. I want to be that old!
    I think I am older and non the wiser LOL.

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  38. Patricia and Glynis - those are women I want to have as role-models. Seriously.

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  39. I don't think of old in terms of numbers, rather ability to keep functioning. As long as my mind and fingers allow, I plan to keep writing until I drop dead at my computer. :-)

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  40. By that time, Maryann, they'll have voice activated computers for us. We'll just have to speak, not type.

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  41. What's old? My answer keeps shifting. It varies by individual, I think, and is based on attitude as much as on age.

    I like Maryann Miller's answer.

    Bob Sanchez
    http://bobsanchez1.blogspot.com

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