In which a headline from the Washington Posts irks me….

Yesterday, I returned from trying on possible Mother of the Groom lehengas to read this crap headline from Washington Post: At 59, I needed a fancy gown. Should I go for sexy or mother of the bride?

So. Much. Ugh.

This is an article about a lovely woman who, when her husband won a Nobel Prize, had to find a floor length gown. In her prose, she asks this question:

Would it be a sheath to divert attention and hide my perceived flaws, or could it, possibly, serve to showcase a 60-year-old figure, still sexy and sublime?

Her phrasing makes sense to me. Most of us, when we will be in the eyes of others, do wonder what would look flattering on us and whether or not we plan to follow fashion rules. Those of us hurtling towards elderly are often wont to fret over our sags and bulges, even if we’ve made a happy peace with our older forms.

That is not what this headline says, at least not to me. It screams 1) somehow approaching 60, sexy clothes are a risk and/or 2) mother of brides (or grooms) should not be sexy. And what even is sexy here? The word doesn’t only mean erotically arousing. It also means generally attractive. This headline poses age and parents as somehow in contrast to sexy.

To which I say, as my mother so wonderfully got it wrong, READ BETWEEN MY FINGERS. (She meant, of course, to say Read between the lines!)

Age discrimination combined with sexism means that older women often feel invisible. And, for many, that’s fine–they are tired of the male gaze. But for others, being treated as though looking hot is either no longer an option or, even worse, inappropriate, well, that is extremely irritating. I wore a bikini this summer–with my family’s encouragement–and, guess what, no one cared. In a way, even in a bikini, I was invisible to most and that was just fine.

It’s also out of touch with the world we live in. At this month’s Golden Globes, Julianne Moore (63), Sheryl Lee Ralph (67), Naomi Watts (55), Angela Bassett (65), and other women over 50 looked powerful and sexy. Jennifer Lopez is 54 and she is wearing underwear on the red carpet and looking sizzling. Jean Smart at 70–I love that she is still winning awards and snarking away–is the bomb.

So, the idea that women of a certain age (gags) need to look like a dowd or dress like Aunt Bee is, well, offensive.

I was pleased to see that Rachel Zimmerman, the woman in the WaPo article, picked a a dress she felt this way about:

 I was the matriarch, elegant, but still alive — hot, even — and photo-ready.

She looks great, doesn’t she? And I bet her husband thought so too!

What do you think? Is there an age after which sexy is a no go? If so, why? And, if you are a woman of a certain age, what’s your comfort level with sexy clothes?

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