Wednesday Bubble: celebrating Women…a reprise of my conversation with chef/author Mollie Katzen

Posted by on Mar 9, 2011 in women's health | 0 comments

I know that yesterday was International Women’s Day. So I’m one day late reprising this post from last year. And ever so grateful for the women whose company I keep. So far as I am concerned, every day is women’s day. So here’s to all you ladies I know and love. And to you, my dear readers, without whom, this blog would not exist.


It’s International Women’s Day. A day to celebrate women of all ages, races, ethnicity and religion, to celebrate women as essential and relevant beings. Yet, as I write today in a post onWomen Grow Business, although women are more engaged and successful than ever, the woman in the mirror might not have much to say about the fact that her image is likely disappearing right before her eyes — just as she’s reaching the pinnacle of her career.  In fact, in a ‘visual culture’ like ours’, where youth and beauty are often valued more than experience and ‘foundation,’ many women find that they eventually cease to exist.

The Woman Grow Business post primarily focuses on how ageism affects our careers and the steps we can take to overcome inherent societal challenges. My friend, chef/author Mollie Katzen,played an important role in shaping that post.  In fact, it evolved out of an initial conversation that we had when we were discussing women, food and aging.

However, I’d like to share some additional insights that Mollie lends to concept of the disappearing woman. Let’s face it: although we live in a society that is “no country for old women,” [Credit for tag – Sadhbh Walshe,] perhaps we can shift the societal gaze to within and not without. Like Mollie, I know a number of middle-aged women who feel the need to adjust their physical appearance in order to compete. The gambit runs from hair color and botox to face lifts and labiaplasty. The question is, are these things taking time and focus away from our work (or who we are)? Granted, I color my hair and have been doing so for decades. I am not ready to embrace my gray. Does this mean that I am not ready to embrace myself or that I am somehow exacerbating my disappearing act?

Mollie is fortunate in that her chosen career is one of the few where, she says, “women are not only allowed to age but that [age] is seen as an enhancement to credibility.” However, she suggests that the more women are out there looking their age, the likelier it is for older women to do so.

However, here’s the rub: What does your age look like?

Mollie says that throughout her life, she’s been greatly helped by Gloria Steinem’s famous quote when told she didn’t look 40: “this is what 40 looks like,” said Steinem. “That phrase has been my mantra,” explains Mollie; “this is what I look like.”

For me personally, this gives me permission to dress in ways that make me feel good about myself, and perhaps even color my hair to reinforce that feeling. Mollie concurs:  “instead of hoping to look 35, try looking your best for who you are. Emphasizing that she dislikes and tries to avoid platitudes at all costs, Mollie agreed to share a few strategies that she and her friends have created. “They seem like small things,” says Mollie, “but they make a huge difference in how you come across:”

  • Posture! The first sign of “older” is often stooped shoulders. Standing tall conveys confidence and strength. “Anyone who is not attracted to that is someone you don’t need in your life.”
  • Keep a focused gaze. “Looking sharp sharpens, Mollie explains. “Glazing over glazes you over.”
  • “A smile is the best and cheapest face lift. Especially when it is genuine; your smile, not theirs.”
  • Breathe deeply. Then speak. “When you do speak, let your voice come from your abdomen and be fueled by that deep breath.” (This isn’t easy, btw.)
  • “Don’t ask your sentences unless they are questions.” (Remember Valley Girl by Frank Zappa?)
  • “Try to find the love in all situations.” (I need work on this!). Mollie explains that in most cases, this needs to come from within. “Recognize that sometimes that love can take the form of putting up a boundary. Recognize also, that putting up that boundary can be cloaked in warmth and humor, even while you are being assertive.”  She adds that “true personal power can be a warming and loving representation.”

Additionally, perhaps we need focus more on playing up our strengths and working on self-acceptance.  “Develop your own style of centering and use it to solidify,” advises Mollie. “Change or leave bad relationships.” (This could also refer to bad business relationships.) Seek support.

Platitudes or reality? As middle-aged women, can’t we create (or redefine) our reality. Most successful revolutions start with small steps. Our evolution as women depends on it.

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