Reflections On Aging From 18 Remarkable Women

We're a publication written by and for women of an uncertain age and particular attitude—and these incredible women embody all that we stand for, especially their thoughts on the nuances of aging.
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Image of Kim Gordon by Mark Abrams for Harper's Bazaar

Image of Kim Gordon by Mark Abrams for Harper's Bazaar

Where does it all lead? What will become of us? These were our young questions, and young answers were revealed. It leads to each other. We become ourselves.

Patti Smith

Aging is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength. 

Betty Friedan

At 81, I don’t feel guilty about anything … There’s nothing inside that’s 81. It’s just the changes in the body. And the memory. I don’t remember where the keys are. Or as my son says, ‘Ma, it’s not that you don’t remember where you put the keys, it’s when you pick up your keys and you don’t know what they’re for."

Toni Morrison

There is this giant void in the culture about women in that age group as heroines, as romantic beings, as sexual beings and as creative beings, and there’s not that void for men. Women don’t stop being all those things as their lives continue into those decades. 

Naomi Wolf

The exhausting effort to control time by altering the effects of age doesn't bring happiness.

Diane Keaton

It is commonly thought that time is the particular enemy of women. Because we supposedly have so much to lose: our ‘looks’, our fertility, our cultural capital… But there are other ways of looking at it. That women have timepieces built into their bodies – ‘primarily biological clocks’ and the menopause – signs that must eventually be heeded, signs that are, finally, impossible to ignore, seems to me as much a gift as a curse…It strikes me that one consequence of this bodily awareness of time is that adulthood – with all its complex responsibilities and demands – often seems to come as less of a surprise to women than it does to men (there’s a reason our folk tales are full of ‘wise old women’).

Zadie Smith

Some people are old when they’re 18 and some people are young when they’re 90. You can’t define people by whatever society determines as their age. Time is a concept that human beings created.

Yoko Ono 

Fifty was a shock, because it was the end of the center period of life. But once I got over that, 60 was great. Seventy was great. And I loved, I seriously loved aging. I found myself thinking things like: ‘I don’t want anything I don’t have.’…80 is about mortality, not aging. Or not just aging.

Gloria Steinem

Here’s what I know: I’m a better person at fifty than I was at forty-eight … and better at fifty-two than I was at fifty. I’m calmer, easier to live with. All this stuff is in my soul forever. Just don’t get lazy. Work at your relationships all the time. Take care of friendships, hold people you love close to you, take advantage of birthdays to celebrate fiercely. It’s the worrying — not the years themselves — that will make you less of a woman.

Patti LaBelle

I wonder whether one of the benefits of getting older is being able to shrug off criticism.

Ana Maria Pacheco

I’m not interested in being perfect when I'm older. I'm interested in having a narrative. It’s the narrative that’s really the most beautiful thing about women.

Jodie Foster 

Listen, the best advice on aging is this: What’s the alternative? The alternative, of course, is death. And that’s a lot of shit to deal with. So I’m happy to deal with menopause. I’ll take it.

Whoopi Goldberg

I am convinced that most people do not grow up … We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias.

Maya Angelou

You have to keep yourself youthful. And I don’t mean looking 22 and going to plastic surgery and looking like a caricature of yourself, a stranger that nobody recognizes so that you can’t even get a table at a restaurant because you really don’t look like Stevie Nicks anymore. I wear the right clothes, age-appropriate clothes. But I can still do some of the things I could do when I was really young and pull it off as a 65-year-old chick … But when I’m 90 years old and sitting in a gloriously beautiful beach house somewhere on this planet with five or six Chinese Crested Yorkies, surrounded by all my goddaughters who will at that point be middle-aged, I’ll be just as happy.

Stevie Nicks 

I’d love to not have to talk about it anymore. I don’t think the men are talking about it at all. Aging is just normal! That is all there is to it. I don’t think the public is shocked by the fact that women get older. It is pathetic, and it looks pathetic, when I hear some 55-year-old actor won’t play opposite a 42-year-old woman because she is too old for him. People aren’t buying this anymore. They didn’t buy it in Magic in the Moonlight.

Patricia Arquette 

Better to be a young older person than an old young person.

Kim Gordon

We live in a youth-obsessed culture that is constantly trying to tell us that if we are not young, and we’re not glowing, and we’re not hot, that we don’t matter. I refuse to let a system or a culture or a distorted view of reality tell me that I don’t matter. I know that only by owning who and what you are can you start to step into the fullness of life. Every year should be teaching us all something valuable. Whether you get the lesson is really up to you. 

Oprah Winfrey

Every so often I read a book about age, and whoever’s writing it says it’s great to be old. It’s great to be wise and sage and mellow: it’s great to be at the point where you understand just what matters in life. I can’t stand people who say things like this.

Nora Ephron

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