Getting Over Getting Older

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May 14, 1996 EvaS: Letty, why the title for this new book, "Getting Over Getting Older"?

LettyCP: Actually, I haven't gotten over getting older. But I like the title because suggests an ongoing process.

EvaS: Yes, it does that, for sure. Letty, did you find it depressing to turn 50?

DXSMac: <---------recently turned 40.... AAAACCKKK!!!!!!

LettyCP: Depressing is an understatement. I went into a real tailspin. Started keeping notes at 49 for this book. Decided to watch myself age because I couldn't find a book that described what I was going through.

EvaS: And did you feel the same at 40? That's a big marker, too. And some go through hell then.

LettyCP: I was absolutely miserable, not just because of what was happening to my body, but because of the clear sense that I had less time left than I'd lived. Hated that. Hated mortality. Had to deal with it -- and when I did, I was able to come out the other side a much stronger person. Have others found that the main thing at this phase of life is time, not age?

BVonhull: Yes, it is the time left factor.

NancyRhine: That is definitely it.

EvaS: Letty, was it the same at 40, too? Or different?

LettyCP: I hated 40, but only because of the number. I still looked about the same as I did at 30 and felt no difference in my body, stamina, mind or memory. This however, is different!

EleanordeW: Did you find that you felt more powerful as a woman when you got into your 40s, and did it get better when you turned 50?

LettyCP: I felt as if I might get more respect as I got older, but I discovered that it wasn't youth that prevented me from being taken seriously, it was being female.

Limn: Was your mother still alive when you reached fifty?

LettyCP: No, my mother died when I was 15. She was 53. That was a good part of the problem for me. Knowing that I might have only 3 years left. When I turned 54, I heaved a sigh of relief. And when my daughters turned 16, they did, too.

EvaS: I would imagine so.

Limn: Mortality is much more startling when one is 'next' and mother is gone, no?

LettyCP: Yes. There are many such markers. When the last person in one's parent's generation dies. When one's mentor dies. Etc.

JAHeitmann: I feel younger at fifty then I did at 40 because I am delightfully feeling young.

Limn: I've been asking about the absence of mother and the way that makes one more constantly aware of being next--mortality.

EvaS: Limn, and a good question, too. We turn into orphans, in a way, then.

LettyCP: I agree. I think the challenge is to use one's realization of mortality to enhance time, to sweeten it and make it more precious.

Eloriel: Recently read most of Gail Sheehy's, "New Passages," and saw myself or people I knew on every page. Have you read it? Any comments? I found it very invigorating and uplifting.

LettyCP: Oddly enough, I've found the most comfort in May Sarton's diaries, even though she is much older than I. Journals, poetry, diaries seem to reach me on a more spiritual level. What I tried to write in, "GETTING OVER GETTING OLDER," is the experience of aging in one's 50's from the inside out. The angst, the fears, the incredible body changes -- more than we've experienced since puberty.

EvaS: I found those diaries of Sarton's worked for me, too. Letty, and you did succeed in doing just that --- writing of aging from the inside out! :)

LettyCP: Have all of you found gray pubic hair? That's a killer. Nobody warns you.

Eloriel: LOL!

EvaS: Letty, right, and balding, too. ;)

LettyCP: Ditto. It's great to be able to laugh about this stuff and not be so alone with it.

EvaS: For sure, Letty. :)

NancyRhine: As we reach our mature years, in the corporate world, women can often be discriminated against for simply aging. Have you found any tips from women dealing with that discrimination and if so, would you share some of them? Thanks.

LettyCP: Unfortunately, women in the workplace still suffer disproportionately from ageism. Most of the women I know in major corporations try not to let their age be known. They finesse it. They say it would marginalize them with all the younger colleagues. When asked they say, "older than I use to be" or some such. Many have had plastic surgery.

NancyRhine: Wow!

LettyCP: Since it is considered illegal to discriminate on the basis of age, companies are pretty careful about what they ask in job interviews. But they also know how to glean information. Watch out for questions about when you graduated or how old your kids are, or whether you remember Nixon's presidency, etc.

NancyRhine: I see. Yes, and I am beginning to see more.

EvaS: I should dye my hair tomorrow, I guess. :)

NancyRhine: Time for cosmetic surgery! :)

LettyCP: Nancy, fight it. If we don't rebel when we're safe enough to do so, it will never change for other women. If you feel vulnerable on the job, of course, don't commit hari kari.

NancyRhine: I'm sure trying, Letty. Thanks for the encouragement! I appreciate that!

MedicalDog: At last! someone dares to say the one thing that completely surprised me! But I find decline worse than mortality. Mortality comes once, decline is ongoing.

LettyCP: Right, MedicalDog, right on.

EleanordeW: Do you mind if I ask a question about your child raising book?

LettyCP: Sure, Eleanor.

EleanordeW: I gave it to all my friends with kids ... after about 15 years, do you think your methods worked the way you wanted them to?

LettyCP: They did with my kids who are now 31, 31, and 28. I can also vouch for the hundreds of readers who have written to me, but I have no hard data to support the merits of nonsexist childrearing. Only the logic and power of common sense.

EleanordeW: Excellent! It would be fun to do a follow-up!

Eloriel: Speaking of corporations, I have NO patience left for 30-something males. What a scary, scary breed. Come to think of it, I find the 20s and 30s of both sexes to be like aliens. Is that normal for this age phase?

LettyCP: I think it depends where you are and what sort of 20-somethings you're talking about. Most of those I know strike me as very much like we were, only more scared, confused and economically insecure. However, I do find them all outrageously ageist.

NancyRhine: Me, too!

LettyCP: Let's face it. We haven't succeeded in changing the meaning of the 40's, 50's and 60's.

Limn: I must be unusual. I never felt stronger, more resolved as a whole person and insist that my experience be valued. I'm about to be 65.

EvaS: Limn, you did beat me. ;>

LettyCP: There are still egregious stereotypes out there that prevent us from being seen as we see ourselves. It's great that Limn feels that way. I hope I will at 65. But the culture still puts older women out to pasture, assumes we are asexual, and often treats us as invisible.

EvaS: There is a feeling of becoming invisible, in many ways. What did you mean, Letty, that you never felt like a grown-up, no matter how old you were?

READ MORE ABOUT IT: Women and Aging (rev. 4/29/96 - jlc)

[NOTE: These brief bibliographies are not intended to be an exhaustive treatment of a topic .... instead they are intended to provide a starting place for reading on the topic.]


Greer, Germaine. The Change; Women, Aging, and Menopause. 1992.

Kerns, Virginia and Judith K. Brown In Her Prime : New Views of Middle-Aged Women. 2nd ed. 1992.

Lock, Margaret M. Encounters with Aging: Mythologies of Menopause in Japan and North America. 1993.

Pogrebin, Letty Cottin. Getting Over Getting Older : an Intimate Journey. 1996.

Ransohoff, Rita M. Venus after Forty; Sexual Myths, Men's Fantasies, and Truths about Middle-Aged Women. 1987.

U.S. Congress. Senate. Special Committee on Aging. Elder Abuse and Violence Against Midlife and Older Women. 1994.


Coney, Sandra. The Menopause Industry : How the Medical Establishment Exploits Women. 1994.

Notelovitz, Morris and Diana Tonnessen. Menopause and Midlife Health. 1993.

OTHER BOOKS by Letty Cottin Pogrebin:

How to Make It in a Man's World. 1970. Getting Yours; How to Make the System Work for the Working Woman. 1975. Growing Up Free; Raising Your Child in the '80s. 1980. Stories for Free Children. 1981. Family Politics; Love and Power on an Intimate Frontier. 1983. Among Friends; Who We Like, Why We Like Them, and What We Do With Them. 1986. Deborah, Golda, and Me; Being Female and Jewish in America. 1991.

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