Monday, February 16, 2015

The Awkward Years

At the end of January,  Buzzfeed posted a list of the "15 Amazing Senior Style Instagrammers You Should Follow Right Now" featuring a number of women I know, and the majority of whom I was already following on IG.  If you haven't seen the list, check it out - you'll find some of the bloggers we've always known were cool like Judith, The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas, Ariane, and Desiree.  I was thrilled that the women (do stylish older men not have IG accounts?) are receiving the recognition they deserve although I was rather puzzled as to what criteria was used to determine who qualified as a "senior" - the ages of the women ranged from late 40's to 80.   It reminded me of when I met blogger Ari Cohen on a trip to New York when I turned 50, which at the time felt old to me, only to be told that I was too young to be on his blog, Advanced Style

Shortly thereafter, Sylvia, the author of 40+Style posted a list of The 40 Most Stylish Midlife Women on Instagram You Should Follow Right Now  (on which I am honoured to be included).  I believe "midlife" is a term to describe those of us not old enough to be considered senior (which according to Buzzfeed I'll be in two years).    

It's a weird stage of life, your 50's.  You can't fool yourself (or anyone else) that you are "young" anymore, realistically, you're not middle-aged, as few of us will live into our 100's.   Technically, you're not a senior (no pension, and no senior's discounts), even though some days it may feel like it.  I'm nowhere near being able to retire, yet I am bombarded by messages from the media (and our HR department at work) reminding me that I have to think about it, NOW!

During a conversation with Melanie,  she coined the term Middle-Aged Tween, or MAT for short, and I'd have to say that's pretty much how it feels.   Your hormones are wonky, your body is changing, and suddenly it's like you're 12 all over again.  You're too old for some things, and not old enough for others, and you're not really sure where you fit in anymore.   The majority of my close friends are either a decade younger than I, or a decade older.  I'm the 53 year old in the middle, without children or grandchildren to worry about, no house to renovate, and still working full-time for many years to come.

I never had any specific ideas of what I would wear when I was in my 50's.  Growing up, the only women I knew personally who were in their 50's were my mother and her friends,  I knew I would dress very different from them when I was their age....and sure enough, I do.

1980's sweater - May Court Shop
Leather and Fabric pants - Danier 
Dress - Talize
fur collar - The Sentimentalist

(left) Melanie and (right) Ariane (images from their blogs)
Thank goodness I have these two 50-something dames in my life as style inspirations.

 Tilda Swinton (source)
This woman, also in her early 50's, will always be a style inspiration for me, whether as a blonde, brunette or redhead, full makeup or none, dressed as a man or a woman. 

 My hair is certainly unlike that of any woman I knew when I was growing up, but that is mostly due to the time period.  Women did not shave their heads and colour their hair orange and pink in the 1970's.    Most of them don't do it now, at least not women my age.  I've asked myself more than once if I colour my hair like this for the visibility factor - after all, my friends are able to pick me out of a crowd with no difficulty - but there's more to it than that.  My natural hair colour is mousy brown, and I've been colouring it most of my adult life to reflect a personality that is anything but mousy brown.  My hair has kind of become my thing - and is often seen more as an art installation on my head instead of hair.  I think if it wasn't a vibrant colour and styled like this, I wouldn't feel like me.

And then there's the attitude, which I have been told is definitely not that of most 50-something women, which I'll take as a compliment.  I take the things in my life that are important to me seriously, but myself, not so much.

Most amazing googly-eye shirt - made by the most amazing Melanie
jacket and skirt - thrifted

The back of the shirt, featuring this patch with a wonderful cartoon rendition of yours truly (wearing my favourite Docs).  I think Melanie has captured the 50-something me perfectly.


  1. Your hair is fantastic! I love all the ladies mentioned---whether middle aged or senior. I always considered middle age 30 to 62 or 65 (retirement!). I guess everyone has a different take on it. I really feel like us women are still cracking things wide open---progress/feminism! It's still going. Not being pigeon-holed or cast as invisible or less valuable as we age is a big part of it. Also, I am sort of in love with Tilda. Isn't everyone?

  2. Oh goodness, why are we as a society so fixated on age as a means of categorising people, especially women? It doesn't much matter to me - and at 50, almost 51, I am apparently a senior, since Desiree was included in that first list and she's 46! The thing is, I'm not a... anything. I don't want to be reduced to my age, it says something about me, but not much - I have other things to say which are far more interesting!
    Like you, my sense of women in their fifties when I was growing up was that they were old. And I think there has been a shift, as women work longer, are fitter and healthier, and hopefully live better, longer.
    You are an amazingly cool, stylish and intelligent woman, Shelley, and your hair and your sartorial choices reflect YOU, not a number or what the media deems suitable for a woman of a certain age. And thank heavens for that!
    Mel's picture of you is wonderful! xxx

  3. What a FAB Friggin' Wonderful piece of art you are wearing! Lucky you! I LOVE it! Melanie is so damn talented.

    It is so funny you wrote about this because my first thought was...what the heck? When did 50 something become senior citizen??? Honestly that frightened me.

    I'm still trying to figure out Instagram. Congrats on making it to the list though. I think more than anything your style insures that you stand out and are noticed. No matter the age. And really...we all want to be remembered.


  4. I don't like being put in any slot either, although I am certain I'm not "young" nor very "old". I'm just what I am, 59 years old and still full of ideas. I do get "Senior" discounts at the movies and I'll take a dollar or two more in my pocket : > Having met you, I perceive you as ageless. And OMG that shirt - so awesome, xox.

  5. MAT, love that! Yes, this decade does feel like one of shifts and transformations, "neither fish nor fowl." I love that women our age and older are getting to define for ourselves what it means: how we act, how we dress, the choices we make in our lives. I'll be 58 in a couple of weeks, and only now feel as though I'm getting the hang of my 50's. That shirt is freekin awesome.

  6. MAT is IT. And Tilda -- Tilda is a goddess!
    The AARP can knock it off with their mailings, however. I think I started getting them when I turned 45.

  7. All worship The Swinton! I love that top from Melanie, she is just the best ever. I adore your hair - you are my role model there and have helped me be more daring. I feel like the hair I have now is more "me" than ever in my life. You are awesome.

  8. At 48 I don't consider myself much different to how I was in my twenties, except with a new hip and no mortgage. It is odd how the Western world is so age-fixated. I'm as interested in the style of younger women as I am by my counterparts, it annoys me when I'm pigeon-holed and masqueraded as some kind of example of how the overs should live/dress/be.
    You are gorgeous, cool, stylish, kind, witty and intelligent. I suspect you haven't changed since you were a teenager. xxx

  9. I have been looking forward to this post and you certainly don't disappoint!
    The topics that tend to dominate 3D-life conversations among women of my age group are often foreign to me for most of the reasons you mentioned. Blogging makes it easier to find like-minded people, not just in terms of style but outlook. Tilda Swindon, she is an icon for me as well, walking all sides of those jiggy lines.
    I admire your style and outlook, Shelley. It's good to know you are out there. And Ariane too, and so many others. I was happy to see you in Sylvia's list! Your hair is art and it IS you. Best bathroom photo ever!
    Gaaa, being a MAT is tricky, it's prickly and sobby by turns and makes me wish my hindsight would move a tad more to the fore, although every year it seems to lag a little more. And I don't even get the DISCOUNTS yet either!!! Soon. Should I be happy or sad about that? Tween angst.
    I'm so glad you like the shirt!

  10. Great post Shelley. I just realized that I'm almost 20 years older than you, but it doesn't feel that way to me. Friends are friends, and age really doesn't seem to be a factor. I'm just happy to have met you and other likeminded women out here in Blogland!

    I was very excited to see you on Sylvia's IG list, right up on the title page where you belong. Your hair is art, along with all of the stunning ensembles that you create, as evidenced by your photos on this post. Melanie's creation is simply marvelous.

    Thank you for the mention and look forward to following you well into your "so-called" senior years.

  11. The definition of middle-aged tween is perfect, and it will make it easier for me to understand how to cope with these changes. At least I'm not looking for acceptance as much as I was at 12.

    You are one-of-a-kind and definitely deserve to be on that list! Your hair, your flair, your intelligence, and you're lucky enough to have a one-of-a-kind Melanie shirt - wow!

  12. wouuu, Yes. I agree with you, mousy hair is not representing your personality!! Love your hair, and love your striped red t-shirt! it's a piece of art! and it absolutely rocks!
    And your post has arrived to my eyes just on time to inspire me to go to my hairdresser and shave my head once more (I've been quite uncomfortable with my hair these days and decided I need some kind of statement hair just now to be Me!).
    Watching this 40+ community looking so vibrant and bright and fabulous, make me feel joyful and happy to get into that glorious middle aged tween!

  13. Great observations, deftly expressed! Isn't Tilda Swinton a wonderful role model?! She's too young to be my role model, but I look forward to seeing what she wears in years to come.

  14. All of you ... timeless and fabulous. I read a brief interview with the etherial Ms. Swinton today from one of the glossies. When asked how to achieve her look ...." Just take off your mascara ..." and when asked why people are continuously fascinated withe her, she replied " Now just stop it!" I paraphrase, but you get the point. Charming lady.
    You could all answer the same ... my heroes! I can only watch and admire!

  15. Oh thank you for posting this! I just turned 40 and have been dying my naturally platinum/white blonde hair a bright, un-natural red for many, many years. I live in China, so part of me does it because I know I'm going to stand out as a curvy, Caucasian woman, so I feel I may as well stand out on my own terms. Recently, however, I started wondering if I ought to "grow up" a bit with the hair, bring it at least to a more natural shade of red like my mama and grandmama had. The thought made me quite sad. So your blog post came at just the exact right time to give me a boost where I needed it. I mean, I still wear my collection of Doc's, and the hair just feels like it goes so well with the footwear! Thanks so much for being you!