Meryl Streep just turned 60 last weekend, and Vera Wang’s seventh decade begins next week. Bonnie Raitt and Sissy Spacek and Anna Wintour and Jessica Lange will soon follow. But these elderly geezers are not exactly going gently into that good night; instead, they have gone from zero to 60 with engines roaring. Streep just picked up an honorary degree from Princeton, Lange starred in the HBO hit Grey Gardens, Wang is about to twirl on Dancing With the Stars.
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Like them, I can remember the days when 60 was very, very old, the days when women over 30 were expected to retire from the arena of good looks and slinky clothes, and women over 50 were rarely found in good jobs if they had managed to get them in the first place. The new 60-year-olds are a bunch of high-jumping, glamorous-looking, Grammy-winning, curvaceous and sexy ….um…..grandmothers.
Sixty-year-old women have seen it all—the sexual revolution, the political revolution, the Cuban revolution—they have gone from women’s lib to women’s rights to civil rights.
These bodacious adventurers have lived through some of the most interesting times in history. Sixty-year-old women have seen it all—the sexual revolution, the political revolution, the Cuban revolution—they have gone from women’s lib to women’s rights to civil rights—when they were young, all women were expected to get married and be supported by their men. Now look! They wept when JFK was assassinated and sang in the mud at Woodstock. They protested the Vietnam War, and their daughters joined the army and fought in Kuwait. They mourned the dead of 9/11 and celebrated the inauguration of President Barack Obama. But these are the women who broke the mold, who showed the way to being a new kind of woman and blazed the path to a new kind of old.
Power is an aphrodisiac, Henry Kissinger famously said, but it is clearly also a great skin cream. These women glow with a confidence that comes from accomplishment, from experience, and from having beaten the old odds. Sixty is the age of looking back with satisfaction and forward with delight—a delight compounded by the fact that after having lived a lifetime there is much more life to live. Happy birthday, girls!
Susan Cheever is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction including American Bloomsbury, My Name is Bill, Note Found in a Bottle, As Good as I Could Be, Home Before Dark, and Treetops. She is a Guggenheim Fellow, a director of the Corporation of Yaddo, and a member of the Author’s Guild. Cheever teaches at the Bennington Writing Seminars and at the New School.