wOw’s Question of the Week

What’s the best and worst thing about being a woman over 40?

Sheila Nevins: Being over 40.

Joan Ganz Cooney: Over 40 is pretty general … there’s nothing bad about being 41 or for that matter 50. The best thing about those years is that you’ve usually accomplished something by then and begin to know who you are. Over 70 is when the music begins to slow down and from 80 on is unspeakable.

Candice Bergen: Joan! How can it be unspeakable for you?? You have defied age at every turn. You are great-looking, insanely slim and fit, and whip-smart in all things! You are redefining it single-handedly. I don’t want to hear it from you! Xoxo Candy

Liz Smith: Best thing? You become a realist and not a romantic. Worst thing? You know that in forty years you’ll be eighty.

Candice Bergen: Haven’t we extended the age deadline by ten to fifteen years already? Fifty is the new forty. Forty for me was a non-event. My daughter had been born six months before, and I had not spent a night away from her. My then-husband pried me away to take me to D.C. on the train. I cried the whole way there I missed her so much. Then we had a great weekend. Forty, for me, was when most of it started. My child. Murphy Brown. Recognition. At fifty, I noticed that I no longer registered as a woman on The Chart. Zippo. At 53, I met my husband Marshall, who was the only man alive who preferred age-appropriate women. I am, at 65, happier and fatter than I have ever been.

Mary Wells Lawrence: If you are lucky and healthful, every age can be great. You have to be agile. You can’t be 50 and woe-is-me-I-want-to-be-30. 50 is nifty, so be a nifty fifty. Joan is kidding us. She knows she is a star woman. But her answers are always fun to read. The amazing wonderful and even sometimes thrilling fact about aging is that every day you get a little bit smarter. If you’re willing.

41 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Briana Baran says:

    Why, o why do we even ask these questions? For each woman, every passing year holds changes and continuations, passions and ennui, revelations and mysteries…and for each and every woman, these will all be different. Why should being over forty be any different from being over twenty, thirty, fifty…or eighty, ninety or one hundred?

    To find being over eighty and still fully in compos mentis and flourishing “unspeakable” is, well, unspeakable to me. I plan to live forever, or to die trying. I want to preserve my love of humanity, and my cynical iconoclasm, and my unique flair for making others want to wring my neck intact for decades to come…and to have fun doing it. I will wear platform shoes and heavy silver jewelry and dye my crew-cut violet and show my ink and hope my grandchildren, should I have any, love their odd grandma as much as my sons love their odd mom. I hope I can still see to read to them…the biggest problem with growing older is my incurably, and constantly worsening congenitally far-sighted and disunited eyes.

    Phooey and big florid bulging purple baboon’s butts on WoW for posting these ageist and moronic questions. Can’t you think of anything better to do than dun your readers about growing older? This is pure negativity mongering and misery-wallowing.

    • avatar phyllis Doyle Pepe says:

      Briana: In the good old days when Wow was young and frisky we had a segment where readers submitted their own questions of the week. Now granted, Wow has certainly not reached the ripe old age of forty but the emphasis on age/looks/ attitude/ and fortitude has taken hold and questions like these are part of the package. Many of us are decades past this magic number, been through the wars, and are now interested and consumed by far more pressing subjects. And Joan GC knows of what she speaks––she is 81 and apparently has experienced what we all have/ will as we age which is a breakdown of body parts since that is part of this whole aging process. If we are lucky and can retain the sharp wit, the wise repartee, the zest for the good days, then bravo, but to pretend, as some do,that degeneration is not taking place is folly and to use forty as some kind of jumping off place is even sillier.

      P.S. I love your “and dye my crew-cut violet”–––your eyes may get dim, but you’ll be outstanding!

      • avatar Lila says:

        You may love the violet buzz cut, but I was quite taken with the curse of the “big florid bulging purple baboon’s butts.” I vote for Briana Baran as most expressive WoW blogger! She makes me think and she makes me laugh.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Phyllis, at 52, my body is already paying the price for the somewhat extravagant excesses of my occasionally misspent youth…and later, too. I rode hunters and jumpers, and ruined my back in various tumbles involving contact between my spine and immovable objects. I smoked for ten years, off and on, and am a 26 years sober alcoholic and addict. I ruined my knee in high school PE gymnastics…and then finished the job by taking tae kwon do in my forties. I also completely blew out my other knee. My legs are congenitally misshapen, bowed, with misaligned joints, and my right hip is loose and sometimes likes to play amusing little practical jokes on me. And I had countless occurrences of head trauma (I have a dent in my skull that is quite fetching) because the only head gear I wore while riding was my father’s fatigue cap.

        I have lines, but I’ve had them since my early twenties when I started squinting out at the light from my very dark place. They are not much worse now than they were back then. I am very aware that I am not a sweet young thang (wait…I was never that sweet young thang. I was a bad girl who played in the men’s leagues, who never backed down, and who refused to give up. Sweet? No. I never did paint those pretty pictures mom always wanted…) but I can’t look at age 40, or 30, or 50 and say, “Hey! This is where the rot set in!” Or, come to that, “Hey! This is when all was revealed and I had my epiphany of wisdom and mature womanhood!”.

        Degeneration does take place. People keep telling me to take up riding again. I love horses (not showing, competing, or the wretched, avaricious, entitled, cruelty-ridden, loathsome world of professional riding), and I would love to own one. A small (I am barely 5’2″), tranquil, mellow sort that I could coddle a bit, and spend time grooming and caring for, and perhaps ride a little…at a slow and serene pace while watching the world go by. In an arena with lots of deep, soft, poofy sawdust. Because 52 year old bones don’t bend, they break. And a 52 year old spine might not take well to a hard fall across a massive cordwood wall. In some ways, physical decrepitude is inevitable, if one lives long enough, and depending on a plethora of factors both within, and outside of one’s control. All of the (highly recommended and endorsed by this website) cosmetic procedures currently available cannot change this. But as long as we can remain curious, learn, laugh, love and live…why must we measure the time?

        40, 50, 60…all of them are just numbers…not milestones, and not magical. I find it terribly dreary that WoW keeps trying to quantify its readers with these numbers…and then present us with qualifications regarding make-up, clothing, style…well, everything, based on the meaningless ten-year increments between each imagined chronological signpost. Let us live free of these conventions of ageist restraint, and I do believe we’ll all be the better for it.

        • avatar phyllis Doyle Pepe says:

          Wonderful! You and I have always been the ones who despair at Wow’s insistence at youthful obsessions and have had a lot of fun doing so. There’s nothing like uncovering the reality behind the tailor’s dummy. Both our pasts, it seems, have been fun filled and filled with renegade tenancies and, of course, one always pays a price one way or the other. It’s the old Millay poem of having a candle that burns at both ends that won’t last the night, but “oh, my foes and oh, my friends, it gives a lovely light.” I wouldn’t trade that for anything, and if the knees give out and the spine gives way, it was worth it, wasn’t it? And yes, the numbers are just numbers and we each have our own history, our own varied story, our own “stuff” as we continue to plow through the rest of lives with the ability to laugh at our frailties and enjoy what we can. And such memories! Oy Vey!

  2. avatar Manuel Da Silva says:

    Mary Wells Lawrence has always the most intelligent answers to almost any question. Age doesn’t matter, is how young you feel inside and how your brains perceive life. Live your life to the fullest and disregard the age factor. Be happy and your age doesn’t matter.
    We love you Mary,
    Manuel and Teresa

  3. avatar Briana Baran says:

    O, and the worst thing about being my current age of 52 is being the same age as Madonna for any length of time…as in, “Aren’t you the same age as Madonna? (gasp!) She looks so fan-TAS-tic!”.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah.

    — The chopped liver girl

  4. avatar Linda Myers says:

    The best thing about turning 40, was just being thankful for the years before and glad I did not have to repeat them. Too tired right now to think what the worst was, so I will reserve that answer for later.

  5. avatar Joan Larsen says:

    The grand thing of being 40 is — though you don’t know it yet – – that the best of life is yet to come.  I found the 40s pretty wonderful but had no idea that most of us don’t fully come into our own until after we are 50 and then some.  I call it “coming into our own”.  We are not flounderiing any more, feeling confident in our abilities.  But in all those years before, we were learning and growing.  My Lord! we began to notice that we had a wisdom we hadn’t seen in us before.  . and an acceptance of who we are.  People stopped to listen to us — and instead of being around for laughs, we found we had something rather profound to say (well, at least once in a while).

    I truly think Joan Cooney is pulling the wool over our eyes – kidding – as she — as well as the other women here — can easily say “I am not getting older.  I am getting better.”  I see what they do, read what they say — and they are.  Health issues aside – as they can blunt our older years – there is no reason to slow up, step aside for younger people.  We continue to make it happen for ourselves and our own excitement shows in how we interact with other people.  People tell me that romance begins to take a back seat or is non-existent.  And I say “WHAT?”

    Life may begin at 40 but after that – for me – it is uphill all the way!

  6. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    By the time that most of us have forty there is no doubt in our minds about what is important to us. We are past the stage of doing something to please others while letting our own dreams sit on a shelf. We’ve developed confidence in our abilities so we don’t second guess the decisions we make. I’d much rather be older than go through the years of youthful insecurity again with all the mistakes that they generate.

    The only drawback I see in being over forty is not having the youthful bodies we had when younger. Aging isn’t a disease it is merely a stage in life. We should be celebrating our capacities not the number of years that we have lived.

  7. avatar Laurie Deer says:

    The best about being of 40 is coming into yourself. The worst is coming into yourself and realizing all the crap I put up with, lol.

  8. avatar J Holmes says:

    Best thing -I became me.  Have loved every moment of my life process, positives and negatives included.  I have always taken the attitude the best is still ahead, if not why continue?
    I too am getting a little tired of all the emphasis on the #’s.

  9. avatar Miss Lee says:

    I am 56 and age has had it’s good moments and bad.  Overall, my life has gotten better, especially since turning 50.  I would never go back as some of the earlier years were dreadful.  I have found what I am good at and an employer who treats me well.  I have a good living situation although, like all the years of my life, missing a paycheck or two would spell disaster.  I really don’t expect that to change until I have social security for a safety net and can supplement it with part time work to maintain a moderate life style. I am already positioning my skill set to be able to find high paying seasonal employment (tax prep) that is a natural extension of my present position.   I am more confident in myself and take better care of myself.  I can eat what I want to and need to maintain a healthy weight without having to cater to anyone else’s desires or dictates and I have the time to exercise without having to schedule it around someone else’s “needs”.  I finally have the personal freedom and independence to live my life as I chose; something I never had before 50. 

  10. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Sadly, I could list all the aspects that “should” come with being over 40, but there is an abundance of evidence that countless women reach this age and beyond, and still think, act and live as if they are a lot younger. At 40 it is widely believed this is when you gain true self confidence and awareness. Speak your mind without fear of being judged, and see the world in a broader context. I’d like to say all of this happens when we reach 40 but its not true.  It is for some but certainly not all, not even the majority.

    The BEST part is all of the emotional baggage you gained from your teens, 20’s and 30’s becomes less important. Easier to put down…so to speak. You understand why there were “mean girls” in high school. You finally comprehend why you slept with your college professor or begged that hot Bohemian guy with the dreadlocks to love you, even though he was a serial cheater. That job you took in your attempt to climb the corporate ladder, the late nights in the office, constant traveling and lack of a social life….now you see how balance was missing. And your family.  Now you see your parents and siblings in a new light. A more forgiving light. All their flaws make sense.  Now at 40 you can allow them their insecurities and self doubt. You see how their issues became your issues.

    The WORST part is the lack of time. We wake up in the morning and head off to work and in a blink of the eye the weekend is here again. A month is gone. A season has come and gone. And you’re left wondering where the Summer went? Life begins to seem really short as you try to cram as much life into days that fly by. Almost like grains of sand in an hourglass. Except there is no ability to turn it over and start over. Once it’s gone, its gone.

    I don’t want to be young again, I really don’t. I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for all I have seen and experienced. Yet I do wish I had more time to live the life I know I can live….was meant to live. I wish my days would slow down……         


  11. avatar Lila says:

    Dunno – I sort of liked my mid-30s because that’s when you are old enough to really be taken seriously, have some experience under your belt, but are still seen as “young” at the same time.

    My biggest fear is that as I age, I will be increasingly invisible. I am small and female, which leads to much underestimating even now. Occasionally it is to my advantage. More often, it is not. And being small and female, I am inexorably on the path to “little old lady” status, obnoxious personality notwithstanding. Not something I look forward to.

    • avatar KarenR says:

      Have you seen Liza Minnelli’s latest magazine spread?

      just depends how you work it!

      …and have a sense of humor…

      …and a good neckline…

      …and great legs…

      • avatar Lila says:

        *Sigh* Unfortunately, I don’t have Liza Minelli’s looks or panache. Or fame or talent.

        My plan is to have a smokin’ hot body well into my 80s but let my face go to hell, and go around scaring people. May as well get some fun out of it.

        • avatar KarenR says:

          The fame and talent don’t matter. The looks and panache you can develop for yourself if you want to. Just have fun with it.

          • avatar Lila says:

            Oh… this is going to take a LOT of eye liner…

          • avatar Miss Lee says:

            Love the plan!

          • avatar KarenR says:

            There’s a .pdf of the article available on Liza’s website. You can download it and then zoom in on the photos to see how her makeup is done. Her eyes are deep-set and brow is kind of hawkish – that’s why I think always going so dark on the eyes really works for her but notice where the dark starts, stops, and switches to light to avoid the raccoon effect. I think she doesn’t color in her entire bottom lip, either.


            (click on the LOVE Magazine (PDF) link below the photo once you get there)

          • avatar Lucia de Jesus says:

            I agree with French Heart and Linda Myers. I’m 56 and loving it. Age is only in the mind and not in the soul. My mother is 82 , living alone and very active.

  12. avatar D C says:

    The worst thing about being a woman over 40 is the earth’s gravitational pull. 
    The best thing about being a woman over 40 is perspective. 

  13. avatar flyonthewall says:

    To me, age is just a number. I strive to be the best me that I can be at any age. The longer we are here the more experience we have with life. So it follows that with experience I gain knowledge and perspective. I try not to get caught up in the I have to have accomplished X by the time I am a certain age mentality or the “yikes, what happened to my beautiful young body” mode of thinking. That is just asking for trouble. Instead I aim my thoughts at how I can be the healthiest or accomplish my life long dreams in the here and now. No one knows for whom the bell tolls, and I would like to make every effort to achieve my goals before it is my time to go.

  14. avatar Rho says:

    40 was great, 50 was great, now I am way over 40 and 50 — my body is feeling it,  Wish I was 40 or 50 again.

  15. avatar Deeliteful says:

    As I approach 60 next month, I wonder what the hell happened to the last 20 years. I mean, just last week I was about to turn 40. Worst thing about being over 40 is that time seems to pass too quickly and I didn’t seem to notice until so much of it had gone by.

    The best thing about being a woman over 40 is perspective. Yes, DC, I stole that from your post, but I couldn’t think of a better way of stating it…:)

    • avatar LandofLove says:

      Dee, you’re absolutely correct—it’s shocking to realize how quickly the time has gone. I turned 58 yesterday and feel as though I’ve skipped years of my life. Where did all that time go?

      The good thing is that I no longer care what people think, which has freed me to a great extent. 

  16. avatar anneh says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Briana…women are our own worst enemy in terms of ageism…you know why men aren’t more interested in women of a certain age…it’s NOT looks folks…it’s the attitude.  Enough with the woe is me I’m a wrinkled invisible mess…it’s so disheartening.  Thanks for setting us straight Briana.

  17. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    Of course, this question is not for me. However, I would like to weigh in with something I have observed over the years. The absolute best, most charming, intelligent, witty dinner partners the Count has had through the years have all been women over the age of 40.

  18. avatar Tobe says:

    I’ve stopped thinking of myself as 40, 50, 60 or whatever….some days I wake up feeling 28, some days more like 82, but as long as I KEEP waking up, this old broad will be the same smart-ass I’ve always been, but with the wisdom only living can give.  Getting older may not always be the most fun….but it sure beats a dirt-nap!

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Dirt nap…hee, hee. Yes, I’d rather be any age than keeping the wormies company. Always that to consider…

  19. avatar French Heart says:

    Have loved every age. Grateful for everyday alive. Intend to love and ‘own’ every age in the future.

  20. avatar Linda Myers says:

    I would say the best thing about being over 40+ is having the wisdom and focus in which the years before I seen as being much more limited in thinking – and maybe the worst have been the times of having to deal with the reality that life really is not a given or can be taken for granted.

  21. avatar Jeannot Kensinger says:

    40, you ask about 40. I am trying to figure out what 80 will be. That great even will be in about 6 months. My best years in life started at age 36 …..the last decade was a bit bumpy but I am ready to make a very smooth ride again for what is left.
    I never paid much attention to the numbers, I have been feeling young inside that is all that counts.
    At 79 3/4 health is important , so if I can stop falling I will be extremely happy.
    Then again the “bone dr.” is so handsome, I am actually looking forward to tomorrow when I see him for the last time on my last fall.

    • avatar Joan Larsen says:

      Jeannot —  I only go to doctors that I truly get along with — personable and as up-to-date on what I have as they come.  Why settle for less?  But dropping handsome in does not hurt!.  Somehow, I rise to the occasion on doctor visits, hitting the right tone that draws them in personally as they are still closing the door.  I want to be sure I am remembered in a sea of people on appointments that take place rather seldom.  . and have gotten quite good at that. I am primed by looking up my symptoms on the Internet, so I don’t miss a question.  They respect me and feel like they are answering at their level.  The most flattering (well, I think!!) thing that is just about always said is:  how could we forget you?  They throw out mostly the way out travel I do as I insist of having the ability and endurance to do most everything I want to do on a trip.  Then — now a few of the specialists are actually following my head and going to Patagonia or French Polynesia.  That they never are sorry keeps me in good stead.  THEY are going to keep me alive and kicking as I am their resource as well as they are mine.  Frankly, seeing the doctor is one of the fun times – and I make the most of everything I do.  I learn, they learn — and we both are smiling.
      I know the other shoe will drop one of those days.  It is inevitable.  But I hope to have built up doctors who think I am “special” and will give me the extra care at that time.  I will let you know but I hope that time does not come fast.
      I try to find the plusses in everything, make everything I do a learning experience and if I can pull in a few memories, so much to the better.  Sometime – sometime – we will be living on memories so the idea is to make them outstanding.  As for me, I still try to hold at age 27 in my head and its effect on the rest of me is phenonenal!
      Good luck on the bone doctor and regale us on what good looking is — for those of us who have forgotten!

      • avatar Jeannot Kensinger says:

        Joan: If you saw my “doctor handsome” you would try and trip so he could heal your twisted ankle. He is gorgeous and dresses to the nines. We are in a small town and when i went to emergency and they asked who was my orthopedic doctor , I honestly said:”The good looking one”. The nurse laughed and said: Oh Dr Br…” He also treats me like I am a fragile egg but is not so much fun when I told him I had seen the chiropractor before I saw him……I should learn when to keep quiet….

  22. avatar Joan Larsen says:

    I have always been told to get a doctor at least 20 years younger than you so he will still be there when you are on your last leg.  . and WOW! it has worked out big time for me.  My doctors are listed as best in the city so are in demand — but you would not know it when I arrive.  They can’t believe me — they say I am not like their other patients and so full of life — and it attracts them I think.  In my mind I always think I am interviewing them, i.e. I want them to talk and tell me how the profession is at this stage. I am so honest so they are honest in return.  I will try to tell them at least one “blow you away” story quickly — the kind they might pass on — but they remember it the next time which is so flattering.  Perhaps they are like they are with me with everyone, as I do not know.  But they can recall something I said 10 years ago and they are finally at an age where they can go to faraway places and they trust me on choices.  THEN, when I will need them (as I am not fool) this is going to pay off for me I think.

    No fragile egg with these doctors — it looks like sheer delight and it can make my whole months as the people I see all the time don’t have that pizzazz!  It is mentally good for me.

  23. avatar Glambo says:

    I prefer to skip the whole notion of age entirely and make opinions about others based on my perceptions of them as a person, a member of the community, and how they treat me. I admit I prefer to know someone a long time before I know their age. Otherwise its just too easy to form preconceived notions of how they should look, act, and behave. I have many pleasant surprises by adopting this policy.

  24. avatar Linda Myers says:

    What happened to the question of the week segment??

    • avatar Lucia de Jesus says:

      YES, What happened to the “Question of the week?” Here is one: What to do in times of crises?

  25. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    I’m 46 and loving it!