Feminist writer Jessica Valenti recently wrote an installment of her newsletter, All in Her Head, in which she called out the bullshit of ageism. In it, she wrote of how women in our culture are taught to fear aging — all the laugh lines and greying hair, the softening of the body and the slowing of the metabolism — priming us to spend all of our money on hair dye and Botox and skincare that promises to turn back the ravages of time and keep us forever young.
At its core, however, this form of ageism is not just about consumerism, but also about the patriarchal culture in which we live. “Our culture depends on women caring — deeply — what other people think about them,” wrote Valenti. “It’s foundational to American patriarchy and consumerism. The worse we feel, the more we buy. The less we like ourselves, the more we depend on others’ opinions. And the longer women hold onto those insecurities, the better it is for the sexist status quo.”
And on top of all that, this grasping at eternal youth keeps us from what Valenti refers to as the best part of aging: not giving a fuck!
Valenti’s newsletter resonated deeply with me. Though at the age of 41, I don’t yet have any grey hairs, I am very much aware of the ways in which I no longer look or feel young. First, there is the aching in my right hip, the stiffness in my right knee, the persistent, inexorable rounding of my entire body. There is the abundance of hair I am constantly shedding and the saggy pendulums that are my breasts. There are my more frequent headaches, the way things seem to just fall out of my brain, the fact that my bladder seems to be about the size of a thimble.
But despite the fact that one very enthusiastic friend once convinced me that I needed a morning skincare regimen that includes toner, serum, and moisturizer (I have embraced this only because adult acne is real), I have never been happier to be alive, and I have joyfully let myself go in every other way.
Underwire bras? Fuck that! Hard pants? No thanks! Under-eye cream and other makeup-type things? Okay. I’ve never been into those things. Granny panties? Comfort is queen!
And more than that, the magic of no longer giving a fuck is real. I’ve learned how to say no to people. I’ve learned how to say yes to trying new things. Where once I felt trapped in a perpetual quarter-life crisis, I’ve now embraced the fact that, as a person, I’ll always be evolving. Always figuring things out. And that’s a good thing.
So, as we enter the holiday season, how do you shop for the aging women in your life who DGAF?
For the One Who Doesn’t Want to Leave the Couch
OK. So I feel like I’m just writing my own personal letter to Santa here, but for those who are sick of chasing eternal youth and who just want to relax and be comfy (::coughcough::), there are a few essentials one should have on hand. First, there are the pants. They should always have an elastic waistband. Maybe even be fleece-lined. My two favorite pairs of pants are my palazzo pants from Athleta (which my daughter and I refer to as cloud pants) and my fleece-lined fuzzy joggers from Old Navy, both high-waisted. I’m also obsessed with these memory foam slippers that are so comfortable, I’ve accidentally wandered out of the house in them. Other fine ideas include weighted blankets, a full-on cocoon (a splurge I’ve never regretted), thick, high-end socks like those from Balega or Smartwool, bath bombs and body butters, a snarky mug and, obviously, a book bundle from us.
For the One Who Loves the Trends She’s Allegedly “Too Old” For
Or maybe the person you’re shopping for actually enjoys glamming it up. As I was surfing the web for this gift guide, I came upon a post titled “Top 10 Items You’re Too Old to Wear.” I refuse to link to it here because I am outraged at its very existence. Why can’t we rock fashion trends once we’ve passed our 20s? The very first item on this bullshit list was “message T-shirts” and, for that reason, I’d like to direct you to my favorite source of geeky message T-shirts. Here’s my second-favorite source. Another apparent no-no? Bright colors in the form of glitter makeup and plastic jewelry. Screw that. I had to look up what else was trendy now because I am not “with it.” I am pleased to see that “hot goth” and “dark academia” are having a moment (but when are they not?).
For the One Who Wants to Pick Up a New Hobby
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I’ve picked up the ukulele, embroidery, and puzzles all in the past few years. So get a special accessory for that person who’s just starting to learn the uke. Order an embroidery kit or a needle felting kit that’s feminist af. Get them a pair of gorgeous leggings for their burgeoning yoga practice. Gardening supplies. Fancy baking accessories. THE SKY’S THE LIMIT!
For the One Planning Their Encore Career
In 2020, I launched a sex education site, entered a business coaching program for beginning sex educators, and figured out how to edit video on my phone. This after 20+ years as a journalist and editor who didn’t even like hearing her voice on an answering machine. It’s never too late? If you know someone who’s also launching an encore career, show your support by getting them some sweet office supplies, like a chic planner, a notebook with lots of personality, noise-canceling, wireless headphones, a ring light for all of the Zooming, or a combination tripod/selfie stick.
For All the Rest of Your Friends
When all else fails, there’s always the Feminist Book Club box, the gift that keeps on giving. 😉