“I’m Aging Boldly by….leaving my husband.”
“I’m Aging Boldly by…jumping right into the fire on the dating apps.”
“I’m Aging Boldly by…uprooting my entire life, moving back to New York City and starting my passion job.”
These three statements by three separate women were further evidence of something I already knew going into our Out Loud event last week in New York City. I already knew that so many women our age are going through the same thing, and that there’s nothing more uplifting than connecting with them, comparing experiences, feelings, paths forward. But these statements were kind of eerie because, really, they exactly mirror my own life, what I’ve been through over the past year. Talk about like-minded!
These statements were kind of eerie because they exactly mirror my own life.
As part of our Out Loud events that we host in various cities (L.A and Austin are coming up in the fall), we ask guests who are enjoying an “Age Boldly Elixir” made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka during the cocktail hour to fill out a small piece of paper with the prompt: “I’m Aging Boldly by….” Then they stick them on a back drop so others can read and be inspired. We pick a few to read out loud between speakers during our program; those whose comments are chosen win prizes. (This year, one winner received the full line of products from Hair Biology, one of our sponsors.)
A staffer chose the 10 comments to read, so I didn’t see them until they were handed to me on stage. “Me too!” I shouted when I read about the woman leaving her husband. “Yep, just getting started with that,” I said to the guest who is doing the online dating thing. “What? No way,” I exclaimed when I learned one of our attendees had also just moved to the city. “Are we twins?”
The point of our Out Loud events is to hear how others are creating meaning and excitement in this stage of life and to gain strength, perspective and momentum from each other. Our speakers always have incredible stories of finding success, purpose, and satisfaction, but just as often we derive our encouragement from people we meet who aren’t on the stage. From the Tribe at large. This makes me so happy.
Nothing to Lose
Age Boldly is a motto I try to live by everyday. It makes me want to try everything possible. For me Aging Boldly is living with optimism and without fear. (Though sometimes I probably need a little more fear, like when I’m riding my bike in Manhattan. Note to self: I probably shouldn’t ride on the streets with my music turned up in my earbuds. I learned that when I ended up on the pavement the other day, but no harm.)
We’re perfectly poised to squeeze all the juice out of life.
My feeling is at this age, we have little to lose. We’ve paid our dues, made our marks, had our kids or not, gained wisdom and confidence that no one should be able to shake. We’re perfectly poised to squeeze all the juice out of life.
But of course, Aging Boldly means different things to different people. At our last Out Loud in New York, one woman shouted out that she was aging boldly by having sex for the first time in 16 years. Everyone hooted and hollered, “Yeah baby!!” You never know what you’re going to hear.
Grit, Guts and Gratitude
Our first speaker was Amy Ferris, who we named as one of our Women of the Year for 2021. We chose Amy for that honor because she is such a fierce advocate for women and so generous with her time and energy. She has written for us, and introduced NextTribe to Marta Kauffman, the co-creator of Friends and Grace and Frankie. Marta and Amy did a virtual interview with me about friendship, especially during COVID, and Marta went on to conduct a TV writing workshop for a group of 12 NextTribers. This is how the Tribe works—supporting each other, connecting each other.
A horde of followers on Facebook check in with Amy to hear her from the heart about the issues of the day, about her personal joys and challenges, and about acceptance of yourself, of others, of the messiness of being human.
We show up and shine up and shine a light on others.
Amy, who is the author of two memoirs, Marrying George Clooney and the upcoming Messy Love, started off by naming the women whose “shoulders I stand on.” Some of the women were in the audience that night, which was especially poignant. “We women are made of grit, guts and grace and fortitude,” she said. “We are made of greatness and beauty. We show up and shine up and shine a light on others. We nurture and we nourish. We carry babies and the weight of the world on our shoulders.”
Our second speaker, Carol Jenkins, happens to have been a key mentor for Amy Ferris. She worked with Amy when she was grasping for help during the tumultuous menopause years. Carol’s support and encouragement led Amy into a life of writing and creativity.
Carol’s message to us was one of perseverance and overcoming obstacles. Born on a farm in the South, Carol rose to become a formidable news anchor in New York City, an author, and the CEO of ERA Coalition. “We are still working to get equality,” she said. “The only thing the [ERA] says is you can’t be discriminated based on your sex. And this has been a century-long fight…but we are close.”
The message she sent without actually saying this is that you should never stop looking for fresh challenges. At age 78, Carol is starting a new project, a political podcast called “Lady Liberty is Very Pissed and So Should You Be.” “You never know what you’ll be doing next,” she said.
Cathie Black is a legend in the publishing world. She was president then chairman of Hearst Magazines for 15 years, overseeing titles like Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and O, The Oprah Magazine. She was also publisher of USA Today. She has been such a bad-ass that she was named to the Fortune list of Most Powerful Women in Business for 11 years in a row. But I know another side of her. Cathie Black came to our trip to Marfa and Big Bend Texas last December, and brought two friends along. You can’t imagine how nervous I was knowing that Cathie Black, this well-known and incredibly accomplished executive, was going to be with us. But I didn’t need to be anxious at all, Cathie was so easy-going, such a joy to travel with, and all of us on that trip became good friends.
At Out Loud, Cathie talked about the different junctures in her career when she had to stand up for herself and women in general. Most memorably, she told us about winning over reluctant advertisers in one of her early jobs selling ads for Ms. Magazine when it began publication in the `70s. “It was an incredible experience for me personally,” she recalled. “It made me think what’s really happening to women in this country. What do we want? What can we get? God knows we weren’t asking for much. We were underpaid and overworked.”
We opened up the barn door and we were going for it.
She remembered that once women got a taste of what they were capable of there was no stopping them. “We opened up the barn door and we were going for it.”
The idea was to end the night on a light note, with the well-known comedian Maureen Langan, who, before the comedy gods came calling, was an award-winning broadcast journalist, radio talk show host, and documentary producer at PBS.
And she certainly delivered laughs, about Botox, cougars, bladder leakage, sexism in Hollywood. “I hold up a mirror to ridiculousness,” she said of her comedy. “I have a friend who says dating men in her 30s makes her feel so young. And I said, but yeah it makes you look so old.”
But she stunned us all with a story that had overtones of It’s A Wonderful Life. It as about a woman who impacted Maureen deeply but alas who never realized how much value she still had to contribute, how much of a difference she could still make in the world. I found it amazing that Maureen could be just as touching as she was hilarious.
I shouldn’t have been surprised; one of the great strengths I’ve seen in so many women our age is that we’re extraordinarily multi-faceted. We are Aging Boldly by hitting not just one note, by doing not just what’s expected of us, but by defying stereotypes at every turn and firing on all engines. And always, always, helping other women do the same.