Why women need to ignore societal messages about growing older


When she hit her 40s, Wendy Euler — model, writer, podcaster, blogger, influencer — had her fill of all those societal messages women get about aging. “You’re invisible.” “You’re past your prime.” “You’ve expired.”

And so she created the “Goodbye Crop Top” website (later expanding to a podcast and to her popular @goodbyecroptop Instagram) to encourage older women to feel good about themselves.

“There was a profound absence of material regarding positive aging,” she says. “No one seemed to grasp the fact that not all of us were ready for sensible shoes, baggy clothes and average hair styles. We don’t lose our sense of style after 40. As a matter of fact, I think it’s the best time to tap into it, once we really — and finally — know ourselves.”

Now 54 and the mother of three daughters, she calls herself a “pro-age” advocate who got tired of the derogatory message about aging women and decided to offer a positive and empowering alternative for women of all ages.

“I believe I have a responsibility to give younger women something to look forward to instead of something to dread,” she says. “If you’re going to be here on this planet, embrace it.” As she declares in one of her podcasts: “Fifty is not the new 40. Fifty is the new 50, and this is the point.”

The Washington Post spoke to Euler recently about women and aging. Her responses have been edited for space and clarity.

Q: So, how did all this start?

A: I was seeing women in their 40s and 50s thinking “I don’t want to look my age” and trying to look like they were in their 30s. That’s toxic. It’s not humanly possible, and it’s psychologically damaging. At the same time, they were dealing with all the things that happen when you age: menopause, death and illness, losing friends and family, empty nest, divorce. I felt like there was this huge chasm in the middle where no one was saying: “This is the greatest time of my life,” which is what I was feeling.

Q: You never experienced any midlife crises?

A: I did. I had to make some hard choices. I got out of a bad marriage. I ended some toxic relationships. But then I started hanging out with people I felt good being around, who I learned from, and who were mostly my age. They validated who I was, and I validated them. I was with women who were comfortable with themselves at this stage of their lives. I felt like I was finally shedding the insecurities I was feeling in my 20s and 30s.

At any age, a healthy diet can extend your life

Q: But, still, the negative media messages directed at aging women continued to annoy you?

A: The patriarchy preys on women, selling them things to prevent aging, like anti-aging creams, anti-aging supplements. I hate those words “anti-aging.” I am anti anti-aging. The only alternative to aging is to be in a box or an urn. There is a psychological manipulation going on with big business. It’s all about moneymaking. What they sell is never going to make you look younger — and you shouldn’t care.

Q: So, these feelings prompted you to start your website?

A: Yes. One day I went on a trail hike in the mountains with a friend my age and we were talking about this stuff. She said: “Wendy you need to talk about this [publicly]. Not every middle-aged woman feels as good as you do about aging. I’ve been starving for this content, and I’ve looked everywhere.” So, I decided to combine writing and style and put some content out that would resonate with other women. And by “style,” I don’t mean fashion. Fashion is a business. Style is something that comes from within.

Q: Describe some of the messages that you think can help women feel better about themselves as they age.

A: One thing I tell them is go back to basics. A woman who reaches the boiling point where she feels terrible and thinks “I’m going to buy that $500 face cream, or $1,000 sweater because it will make me feel better” needs to realize that nothing in a bottle or clothing will make you feel better. Instead, ask yourself: Are you drinking water? Moving your body? Practicing something spiritual? Are you eating well? First, get back to basics. Then, if the cream feels good, put it on.

Also, the company you keep is everything. It’s not about looks, it’s about a feeling. What’s important is not what you put on your face, but what goes into your ears and eyes, and how you nourish yourself with everything that goes in: what you are reading, hearing, eating — everything that goes in.

A: I really believe it is important to laugh and to have fun. I often ask women: What is the most fun you have had recently? When is the last time you laughed until you hurt? And they are stumped. I’ve recently rediscovered laughter. I’m never again letting it go. I believe, for most things, it’s a cure-all.

Q: What kind of responses do you get from women who read your blog or listen to your podcast?

A: You should read them. I cry every day. I got a direct message on Instagram from a woman who said she’d been feeling so bad about getting older — she’s 52 — that she stayed in bed for eight weeks. She never got out of bed. But then she wrote: “Today I got out of bed and got dressed. You’re the reason I got out of bed.” That’s the reason I do what I do.

Q: You look great, but probably not everyone who follows you looks as good. Some women might feel it’s easy for you to give advice considering your appearance — do you ever get that? How do you respond?

A: I used to get that a lot more, but now those comments are few and far between. I think I’ve now gained peoples’ trust. I’m a model. I work hard to stay fit. But there’s no guarantee I’m going to look this way in 20 years. I’m not going to stop feeling good about myself, no matter how I look at 75. I’m still going to try to be the best version of me that I can. I’m a real person. I’m not a famous person. I don’t have a team of people around me to make me look good. I am who I am.

She was ambushed by searing leg pain that struck without warning

Q: So do you dye your hair? And what about cosmetic surgery? Have you had any?

A: I’m a unicorn here. I do not have one gray hair. I think one should always understand the why around cosmetic fixes. If the goal is to look 30 (at 50), that’s never going to happen and the outcome might be frightening (not to mention psychologically damaging, I hear). If the goal is to look bright and rested and let’s just say “good for one’s age.” I say go for it … and keep your secrets to yourself. I’ve definitely tried Botox … but I like the lines in my forehead. My 8-year-old has them, so it seems unnatural I wouldn’t have them at 54.

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