Holiday Art Tour – Year 4
“Aging is a Triumph, Not a Tragedy”

Mean (Old) Girls

Perhaps you are familiar with the decade-old film “comedy,” Mean Girls, about a high school clique of rich, pretty teens whose self-esteem derives from the psychological torture of every other girl in school who is not pretty or rich or both.

I place the word comedy in quotation marks above because to about 99 percent of all women who ever attended high school, the movie is an all-too-real reminder of the taunts, exclusion, negative judgments and, sometimes, bullying from those self-appointed queen bees in our pasts and their sycophants.

If your life has been anything like mine, that was then and everything since is now and being the object of mean girls' sneers and jeers is one of those things we're glad to have left behind.

A week ago, I published a story about Non-Existent Elder Fashion that drew many more comments than posts here usually do. It definitely hit a chord.

Whatever our body shapes – tall, short, thin, lumpy, fat – no one is happy with lack of attractive clothing available for elder women.

Among a variety of individual complaints and preferences, there was general agreement about too many sleeveless tops and dresses; flimsy, cheap fabrics; poor construction; horrible prints; necklines cut too low along with short blouses and tees that ride up to show off less than trim midriffs, etc.

Then, suddenly, toward the end of the day, the mean (old) girls arrived – one after another. Their haughty, stuck-up tone hasn't changed an iota since I knew them in high school:

Plus sizes, elastic waist bands, men's tee shirts...” wrote Barbara Klein. “I find this so sad! So many overweight and obviously under active (sic) seniors. My friends and I are in our early 70's (sic) and dress very stylishly.”

Well, I guess that puts us slobs in our proper place.

Following Ms. Klein, Claudia chimed in apparently having trouble understanding that my notation about sleeves disappearing from women's garments when Michelle Obama became first lady was a dig at designers, not the president's wife:

”Blaming fashion statements on the First lady is wrong. I am 60 plus and honestly speaking i (sic) do not wear elastic waist pants. In addition i (sic) love to showcase my arms.”

Your choice, Claudia, about elastic waist bands and it's nice for you, those comely arms but you can lose the superior attitude.

The mean (old) girls are particularly harsh toward those who have put on some pounds. Courier piped up:

”Being jealous of those who made a dedicated effort, sacrificing for decades, to maintain a height to weight ratio, was an unexpected response.”

I'm not sure where Courier picked up any jealousy (I can't find it in the comments) but you can't miss her self-absorbed point, right? It's all about her, not the topic at hand.

Ms. Klein (again) is brutal about anyone carrying extra weight. Referring to her friends:

”We have not let our bodies become obese through watching what foods we eat, walking, doing yoga, kayaking, cleaning our own homes, etc.” she writes. “I just returned from a trip to Russia where women are dressed attractively no matter their age and I am ashamed to say the fattest people were those from our boat.”

Just who does she think in the crowd at this blog hasn't been cleaning their own houses. The assumptions among the mean (old) girls are as breathtaking now as they were then.

They reserve their greatest scorn for those of us who don't wear bras and/or do wear elastic waists. Courier again:

”As a woman, common sense dictates, in public, a bra is to be worn. It is sad to do otherwise. This DOES mean you aren't dressing well. What a powerful description of shameful.”

That sounds exactly like the mean girls I knew in high school with their "dictates" of personal preference aimed at everyone else, and without a half second of self-awareness. Barbara Klein too:

”Yes, our bodies sag but to go braless especially as we get older is shameful. We can put on a lovely blouse and yes, they are out there, a nice pair of slacks minus the elastic...”

Because personal attacks are not allowed on this blog, I stepped in with my own comment about Ms. Klein's offensive statement and yes, I said she was being pretentious.

Someone named Margy Houtz responded with an ad hominem attack that makes no logical sense:

”I'm curious as to why acceptance isn't a 2-way street...if those of us who work hard to maintain our bodies and to find clothing styles that are attractive AND comfortable are deemed "pretentious and self-satisfied", how is that different from the judgmental tone you take with clothing available on the market now?

We'll just have to let that confused notion pass and instead give my personal shout out to Ajay for speaking up about the mean (old) girls:

”I see a lot of internalized misogyny, fat bigotry and self hatred in some of these comments," she wrote, "and send some loving kindness to those who are struggling.”

Let me be clear about the most important rule regarding commenting at this blog:

  1. Disagreement is allowed and encouraged as long as it is about the point, the idea, statement, opinion, etc. and not an attack on the person(s) writing it.

  2. No bigotry, intolerance or prejudice may be expressed against other commenters' ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status or other characteristics including body size and clothing choices.

  3. Anyone who breaks these rules is banned for life from commenting at this website.

  4. Everyone gets one, and only one, chance before being banned. No exceptions. No recourse.

I did not remove the comments I've quoted from here because I wanted them as an object lesson for today's post.

It has been many years since I have needed to enforce this rule and then it was only one person. Today, four mean (old) girls have been banned.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sulima Malzin: I Wonder Sometimes

Comments

Thank-you Ronni for this excellent post. I can't express how much this means to me. I believe in the Golden Rule, it works as we all know.

Wow! This is a fabulous post. I didn't comment about the fashion post because I had nothing to add, but I want to compliment you on both.

Thanks, Ronnie, for your words. It's really disturbing that instead of addressing the subject (lack of attractive clothing for elders), so many feel the need to point out how superior they are. I think that the term "affordable" should also be included in the lack of clothing topic. To be mean-spirited enough to gloat over being more than others has always been, and shall always be, rude and insensitive.

It should read more (insert appropriate adjective here), but the server thought it was an html code. Oops! :)

Hear, hear! How lovely to see such self-satisfied, judgmental persons receive their come-uppance!

I think they were from Scottsdale! (If you lived in Arizona, you would understand!) Of course, some of my best friends live in Scottsdale...

I felt really sorry for the old mean girls when I first read their comments. How awful to not recognize that the earlier female elders were offering comments on fashion that dealt with their personal daily challenges. They were not seeking to restrict others apparel choices or to criticize those with slim body shapes and non-elastic pants and bras in their wardrobe.


I wonder what the mean girls would say to me and other stroke survivors. Elastic waists are a must for me if I want to get my clothing arranged in time for disaster-free toileting. And even though I have reached the point I can zip and button, sometimes, it takes so long, that I prefer to spend that time in other more stimulating pursuits.

And I AM slim through minor effort on my part due to metabolism that I can't take credit for. But even with a favorable metabolism, after my discharge from more than a month in the hospital after my stroke, I had gained more than 10 pounds.

Poor old mean girls, to be stuck in an immature world view and to miss out on appreciating the variety of wonderful people out there of all shapes, sizes, colors, cultures and faiths.

I wasn't rich or pretty, but as a self-centered, socially awkward eighth grader, I can remember some instances of meanness that I delivered. I thank my Lord and people who loved me in spite of myself for growth beyond what could have become a recurring and destructive pattern.

Thank you, Ronni, for this forum and to your readers for articulating many of our elder fashion needs and connecting with the young designer.

I've expressed many times to my daughter whenever she herself has been on the receiving end or has witnessed some other person's victimization of such rudeness that at 71 I'm aware, unfortunately, that rudeness and ignorance does not go away with age"...

Great column, Ronnie. One additional thought that I had on keeping fit, etc., is that many of us have physical problems that limit our movements. When I was younger, I had few problems with weight; as arthritis crept in, it became more and more painful to exercise--even to walk. We never know the personal struggle of those around us. Judging should be left to the criminal justice system.

Nasty young people become nasty old people (my mother's words)
and those of us less "perfect" must keep the faith that we really are just fine, any weight, any disability, we are O.K.

I had not read the comments, or all of the original post, as I have no interest in fashion, so skipped most of it. I will say that it seems to me that some people who come off sounding haughty and superior as these commenters you have quoted have, are often not aware of how hurtful they can be. I hope your post today has provided them with some helpful feedback that may result in their being more considerate and thoughtful in the future, regardless of when and where they comment. Thank you for taking the time and effort to use the comments to remind us all of our manners and the need to be mindful of other people's feelings.

I'd add one more thing I wish I could find more of: long-enough stretch belts to wear around the hips for those of us whose wasp waists have vanished. I have one of these belts and love it. Alas, I haven't been able to find more.

When I was in jr. high & high school, the mean girls picked on me for being too tall & too skinny. I was delighted to discover the words of the Duchess of Windsor when I got older: "One can never be too rich or too thin." Any woman who can get a man to give up the throne of England for her knows something I don't. I'm still to tall & too skinny and I still get ragged on about it and I don't care. I'd like to be too rich but truth be told, I don't really give a damn -- I'm doing just fine.


Phrases I taught my daughters and granddaughters:
"Your opinion of me is none of my business"
and of course:
"What goes around, comes around"
Great post, Ronni!

The mean ones in high school too often do not change, never outgrowing their self-centeredness, narrow-mindedness and arrogance.
Luckily the rest of us grow up and learn to deal with, like and appreciate ourselves and others for who we are without the judgmental attitude.

Yikes!

A most intriguing article. However I think you have been missing some positive developments in "elder" fashion. Haven't you noticed the many catalogs of regular fashions now feature most of their short sleeved Tees and blouses with elbow length sleeves? It's taken a few years but it is here. And why blame Michelle Obama because she has obviously worked hard to maintain arms we'd all like to have. As to the elastic waists, they are annoying because they won't stay smooth in front, so many designers have kept the front smooth and placed the elastic on the sides. Even pants with front zippers often have the side elastic too. Shoes too have become a problem for some of us, so I see many, many well designed shoes with lower heels (even the old 3" heels are too much for most "elders") or wedges. All the beautiful shoe designs have come too late for me, probably you too.
So it is not as dark as you have painted. And I have noticed at the women's dressing room at my Y that most of the younger women do not wear bras (though they do wear thongs which I'll never understand).
But the supercilious voices of the "mean girls" comments is repugnant.
P.S. I loved hearing John Denver again!

to Jean,
I found some great stretch belts just by googling something like elastic stretch belt. I don't remember the company but I found two kinds, one just a plain belt in all colors on Ebay, and one really nice design made of small beads string on stretch stuff from Serengetti though I think they are now available from imported clothing shops cheaper. I like them for covering the elastic waist skirts.

The point is, you must be ashamed of your body and work as hard as you can to make it acceptable to others. God forbid you should just go about your business, working, carrying out worthy projects and enjoying life.
These "mean girls" suffer from extreme social insecurity which they try to hide by concentrating so hard on their physical appearance and putting people down who don't meet their standards. They tend to have no friends, because who likes critical people? I imagine them raging at the way some comfortable and pleasant woman has more friends than they do when they are so slim and trim.
I had one of them show up on my blog to tell me that I needed to find a good hairdresser. Yep. People would like me so much better if only I'd pay better attention to my hair!

I really enjoyed this post, Ronni. I just wanted to add that it's not just women by a long shot. All those Big Men On Campus, the jocks, the genius A+ers, they could be just as mean and cruel as the mean girls back in high school and many of them, just the same way as these four (old) mean girls are, still are.

It's the way of the world, unfortunately.

Judy...
Now it is two of you. I did not blame the first lady for anything. I blamed designers for using the first lady's preference for sleeveless clothes as an excuse to remove sleeves from too much of women's clothing.

In addition, elastic waists may be annoying to you, but do not assume they are so for everyone. I have no trouble keeping elastic waists smooth in front and don't care if they are not; I don't tuck shirts and blouses into elastic waists.

You may find the mean (old) girls repugnant but perhaps you don't realize how uncomfortably close to them you sound in your comment.

I hope all those perfect plastic women out there always have the time, money, motive, and good health to stay as perfect as they are. We all age at different rates and in different ways, and no one gets out of this life alive. They need to remember that.

Pardon my laughter, but I couldn't help but think, "Don't mess with Ronni. She has all the comebacks and she won't take crap." As the current phrase goes, "You go girl."

I think most of us were victims of the mean girls in High School and that's why our memories of that time of life are ones we would like to forget. They can no longer hurt me and I just feel pity tinged with a little contempt for their shallowness.

I have loved elastic waists ever since I had surgery that required several incisions in the waist area, and left scars that do not tolerate waistbands!

Judge not, mean girls.

Next year is our 50th high school reunion and I have found that as we got older, we all have become more accepting and tolerant and kind because of all the crap we have lived through. Yup, even the "mean girls." Although I went to an all girls' Catholic school and don't recall too much of that.But in elementary school, I got teased terribly for being smart, tall and skinny! No longer tall OR skinny! Hee hee!

Great post Ronni, thanks. Also I'd like to add that the treatments for some chronic diseases can cause serious weight gain. Insulin dependent diabetes and prednisone for antother. Some people can't live without them. Nor can you exercise pounds away if you have serious arthritis.

Bless you for this. I was so hurt by those harsh words as I am sure were others who have struggled with weight and self-esteem. I could not have written a better rejoinder. I was also so glad to read Ajay's wonderful post about loving kindness. Your post was the icing the cake (although heaven forbid that a somewhat plump elder ever eat cake). ahem...

I guess what all the brouhaha over the elder fashion column demonstrates is that most women are never too old to be completely disinterested in the subject! At some risk of offending, I will state that in my opinion the "mean girls" may not have been entirely off base in SOME of their remarks, although the tone of their comments certainly makes the case that people don't always change for the better as they mature.

Like many of Ronni's readers, I was a target of mean girls during 4 miserable years of high school. I've never set foot back in that school (or town) during the ensuing 60 years. However, partly because of their merciless verbal hazing and ostracism, I went on to lose 80# of excess weight in my early 20s and began to take a more active interest in my health--and appearance. These results can't be all bad.

Still, Ronni "took 'em on" for all of us and, even though in my view a lifetime ban from TGB is perhaps harsh punishment for relative newbies who expressed highly contentious opinions, her rules are clear and she sticks to them.

The greatest challenge, for me, is to find the styles I like and wear them regardless of the dictates of fashion. I'm doing pretty well at that, now that I'm a grown-up. I refuse to kowtow to commercial efforts to make me feel bad so I'll enrich clothing makers, or bow down to insecure broads who don't have the self-confidence to dress for themselves.

Please don't ban "the mean girls". Blogs for older women and also for groups like fat-acceptance, can be routinely boring because they tend to do this a lot just quash all dissent. It becomes a parody of nicey-nice and self congratulations like Facebook where everybody says how nice you look in that awful picture. I love to read the comments particularly the nasty ones. These women are a particular subset of society and it's better to know your enemy and just add your rebuttal.

The "mean girls" never go away, especially if one works in a politically-charged corporate environment. Almost every day I experience women being nasty,picking on other women...senior VPs included.

Irene

Vera...
The only reason this blog still exists after ten years is that I have always patrolled the trolls unmercifully.

If trolls and bigoted statements are allowed to stick around for a second, their numbers grow and multiply until they take over, no conversation is possible and people - always the most interesting ones - leave in droves.

I lost the smartest forum that ever existed to troll takeover 14 years ago and miss it still.

Since then, I've seen dozens of blogs either shut down or stop accepting comments for the same reason and I will not let that happen to this one.

Most important in this case is that I would ban anyone who used the N word and it's no different when people are nasty about other people's size.

As anyone who has been here awhile knows, dissent has not been quashed, conversation is quite lively.

If that's not enough for you, there are hundreds, maybe thousands places on the web that cater to bigotry and intolerance.

Three cheers for Ronni!

Go Ronni, GO!

Yes Ronni...Thank you!!!!

Thank-you, Ronni.
Aging has made me more humble. I think the "mean" comments are written by people who are terrified of aging.
They think they have control. Aging shows us that we really have very little control over much except our approach to living.

Paula

Pretty snooty ladies, I'd say. They deserve to be thrown out. They'd never make it at the "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel". And, put me on record--nothing wrong with braless, at any age. Ronni, I like your spunk. I think I'll keep coming around this good 'ol blog!

Yes, John, please do--we need some men to weigh in with the man's viewpoint sometimes. And as for bras--I was about to make the same comment. As long as your boobs aren't hanging out, as celebrities are doing more and more, who cares whether they are up where they started out or down around your middle. The only way I could get mine up would be to roll them up to stuff them in a bra. Not only would that feel bad, but would look ridiculous. At 80, if nothing else, I have earned the right to be comfortable in whatever I choose to wear.

Here is what I didn't understand about one of the comments...she said while visiting Russia, the only heavy people she saw were from her own tour group. Well...did they clean up the streets of fat women (babushkas) ....just for her?
http://jillybchronicles.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/babushka.jpg

I'm not a mean girl and I wear elastic waist pants whenever possible. But what I don't understand is, why do you consider clothes for elders a separate category? Except for Plus sizes, which are for all ages, I shop in the Women's departments without any age identification. So I don't entirely understand this whole topic!

I completely agree with you, Ronni, about the trolls and applaud your vigilance, something that requires energy and thought and time that I'm sure you'd be happier spending elsewhere. And as all of your regular readers know, you do encourage intelligent dissent and constructive criticism. (It's too bad - though instructive - that "criticism" has acquired such a negative connotation in general use.)
Thank you for ALL your work for us.

Good going, Ronni! I'm a big fan of shopping carefully, trying things on (including the dreaded bras), doing alterations, etc., etc., BUT I realize this can be a LOT of work. And it is ... for an admittedly ordinary result because, alas, unlike the dazzling Mean Girls, I never was a beauty.

Also, I can see the day when it is less practical and fun.

If I didn't feel well, had recent surgery, or had worse caregiving responsibilities than the ones I have already, I would be wearing my two favorite pairs of yoga pants with (yes!) the dreaded stretch waist, plus a T-shirt, fleece, or hoodie. (Can you tell I, too, live in Oregon?) Oh, and jogging shoes. Period.

I totally get why people do what fashion types disparage as "giving up." It's apparently unfathomable to them that life sometimes has other plans beyond a "pretty blouse." For their sake, I hope they never find out the hard way how that happens.

Thank you, Ronni. Never had liked "holier-than-thou" types, but they pop up every once in a while.

Wish I could afford a trip to Russia. If I had that kind of money, I could probably shop where the "mean old girls" do ... but I sure wouldn't like to run into them when I did. I'm afraid I'd lose it totally right there in the store and get 86'd myself. LOLOL

Love reading your blog and hope you won't ban me, however I somewhat agree with the "mean old girls". This country has a huge obesity problem and elastic waist pants aren't helping. Ronni you have blogged about your quest to eat better, exercise and lose weight. The most important aspect of all of this discussion is health. Eating well, exercising and staying a reasonable weight will have anyone looking and feeling better no matter what clothes they are wearing.

Sure some people might have a medical condition that makes losing weight nearly impossible, but that is like less than 5% of the population.

I'm over 60 and I have friends/family that want to go take an hour walk in the morning and I have friends/family that don't want to walk to the mailbox, who do you think looks better no matter what they are wearing.

Anyhow, this has been a fun and enlightening discussion.

Reading these comments and your replies, Ronni, has been enlightening. I'd been sensitive to what I thought of as "competitiveness" in some of the comments I get on my blog, but your post clarifies my thinking. Several commentors this morning (9/6) use the word "old" as a negative, which is so common. And one preened that she is routinely thought of as younger. I should have conveyed my condolences.

Every excellent group has to have group maintenance and be tended. I thank you so much for tending this group...it does make it a very worthwhile place to surf and learn and ponder. Thanks a million times over for the time you spend.

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