Friday, June 26, 2009

A Woman of a Certain Age

I was kind of weirded out the other day shopping with my daughter. We were in Chico's looking for a summer dress, and when I glanced up, all the women in the store were, let's say, grandmotherly. I couldn't help thinking I needed to get out of that store. I did not belong here shopping with these "older" women. Don't get me wrong, they were well-dressed, coiffed, seemingly affluent (this is the chi-chi mall in the 'burbs), but they were of a certain age, i.e., grandmotherly. Not in looks, but in age. My age!!!

I've found myself using this phrase lately, so when I googled it, an article by William Safire, appearing in the NY Times, popped up. Here is what it had to say about a woman of a certain age..

Safire quotes a woman who offered, "...remembering it from my more youthful days in France as an insulting kind of polite elocution but one that remains rather wonderful and precise." Back in the early 1800's, the poet Byron used the phrase with regard to spinsterhood. Its long history with the French suggests the opposite. It has nothing to do with marriage, but with French, femmes d'une certaine age.

In 1979, Lillian B Rubin used the phrase in her book Women of a Certain Age: The Midlife Search for Self. Is this certain age bumping upward as we baby boomers age? Rubin offers that back in the late 70's when she wrote the book, late 30's to early 40's described these women. Now with longer lifespans, and too, the sway (and say) of baby boomers, these women have added ten years. Now we are, say, 50 or 55.

With July just around the corner, I'll be 56. So, am I post-certain age? Or just settling in.

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