The Queen Herself: Reframing Our Thoughts about Aging

author/source: Randye Kaye

A few minutes ago (okay, several decades ago, but…you know) I was standing on a Broadway stage,  auditioning again for the part of Rizzo. I’d gotten a callback, which is a pretty big deal on Broadway, even for replacement roles.

I didn’t get the part that time - hey, that’s show biz, kid - but a few months ago I did get cast in Grease at last. As Miss Lynch.

Miss Lynch is the “old maid English teacher” (character description straight from the script). It’s a perfect example of a small part with a lot of great comic opportunities.

Photo Courtesy of Randye KayeBut yeah. My days of playing a teenager are over, for sure.

So I’m there in rehearsal, then in the dressing room, watching all these young bodies do splits and leaps and complaining that at 26 they “feel so old.” Ha ha ha!

It’s a reality check. Just saying.

All the girls are carefully applying their make-up with great precision, obsessing over the color of the lipstick, and I'm trying to NOT see the lines on my neck that are suddenly so glaring in the mirror.

Photo Courtesy of Mohammad MetriBut then - I get a handwritten note that changed my perception of my role in that play, in that cast, and as a woman of a certain age.

The girl playing Rizzo writes thank-you notes to all her cast members on opening night (bless her heart), and mine starts like this:

“Dear Randye,

The queen herself!” - and goes on to say how much she values my wisdom, advice, and perspective.

Suddenly, I remember that I am exactly where I am supposed to be - in the third act of my life, learning still, and passing on whatever wisdom I’ve gotten so far.

I am not “the old member of the cast”. I am The Queen!

And, yes, I belong in that cast, in my way, at that time, in the role I’m playing onstage and off. After all, who can model how it is to age gracefully, gratefully, and powerfully, with self-esteem shining?

Miss Lynch, that’s who. Thank you, Rizzo 🙂

So - what can we do, as we move on up in years?

As I write this, we are 3 episodes in on The Golden Bachelor, and I’m getting a little pissed off. I love that this incarnation of the reality show is showcasing wisdom, age, experience, and kindness - not to mention faces in their 60s and 70s with no filters on the camera.

But in episode three they’re trying desperately to create “drama” by showcasing the tiniest bits of pettiness and need.

No, thank you.

I like the show better without the manufactured drama.

What’s wrong with just letting us see the chance to be loved again, the value of wisdom, the difficulty in making the right choice, but also the beauty of friendship and new lessons learned?

Photo Courtesy of Nickolas NikolicWomen of age don’t need to show the insecurity and pettiness that we see in Bachelor in Paradise. Some dignity, please. Show us more of the kindness the women share. I love it when they do each other’s hair. Let me see them cook meals together. Let the women keep wearing sensible shoes. I’ll watch that.

We have earned it. Dignity, please

And we owe it to ourselves as well.

What can we do?

  • Be aware of the negative messages we might be sending ourselves and change the vocabulary.
  • In our workplaces, we can stop apologizing for being older. We can say our ages out loud and proud. Maybe, someday, we'll do the same with our weight too. (Hey, I can dream).
  • We can look up to our own role models. Julia Louis Dreyfus has a great podcast, WiserThan Me. Check it out for inspiration.
  • We can stop judging other women - and ourselves - by whether or not they “look their age.”

I’ve lost a few peers in the past year -cousins, friends, co-workers, all around my age. Every single one of them told me the same thing when I visited them in the hospital:

I just wish I had more time.

If you’re here, wrinkles and all, you’ve got that precious thing: more time. Let’s not waste moments of it wishing to go backward.

Because I’ll never play Rizzo again. Been there, done that (well, almost).

But I can sure be a kickass Miss Lynch.

Randye KayeVoice Talent/Actress/Speaker/Author -

Past President, National Speakers' Association, CT Chapter

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Author of the #1 bestselling book, Happier Made Simple: Choose Your Words. Change Your Life.