Why Are Insults A Side Effect Of Aging?

Half Truth: Women are resistant to aging.

Whole Truth: Women are engaging in ego protection, to build thick skins against the many insults and disrespect that come hand-in-hand with aging.

A few months ago I was shopping for sexy evening shoes, a Rorschach test for any woman’s mojo. Ballet flats are practical for everyday, but stilettos keep a woman in the game.

All around me, 20-something shoppers were picking out the most gorgeous and painful-looking styles, while I kept looking for the perfect pair of great but not too high sandals. But suddenly I spotted them. I picked up a pair of superhigh, sparkly Stuart Weitzman pumps and asked the balding salesman for them in my size. (I only mention ‘balding’ to give you a heads up where this is headed.)

He brought them out and I slipped them on (or rather tried to stuff my toes inside) and gingerly stepped to the mirror, feeling not quite like a Vegas showgirl but darn close. I asked casually if he had the next bigger size and he said no. But I was smitten, and I couldn’t take them off. I said to him, ‘Maybe I can make these work.’ And he looked at me, shook his head, and whispered, ‘When you get to be our age, you don’t do dumb things the second time around. You need to order a bigger size.’

Our age? Second time around? But I’m only . . . ! Somehow the shoes had lost their shine. Ego-shattering moments lurk just around the bend for women of every age and at every stage of life, like being asked when you’re due when you’re not even pregnant, or being called ‘ma’am’ for the first time (yes, we know it’s a courtesy, but not when you’re only 32).

In everyday life, women dodge the slings and arrows hurled their way in the form of left-handed compliments or unintended disrespect. It’s bad enough when a teen son rejects his mom’s friend request on Facebook; it’s unforgiveable when women feel dissed or underestimated by the products they buy and the people they buy from. So it’s not surprising that women adopt the coping mechanism of Ego Protection, the fourth Half Truth, to shore up their best beliefs about who they are.

Want to learn more about half and whole truths? This post is straight from our book, What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It. Read the first chapter online HERE, and grab a copy for yourself from Amazon.

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Hey Marketers, Age Up!

Last week I read “In a Graying Population, Business Opportunity”  in the New York Times. This smart primer on the state of our aging union examined “gray marketing” now that the first boomers are turning 65. At MIT, they’ve invented a special suit to simulate the physical deterioration. Creaky knees, anyone? Ken Dychtwald, an indefatigable advocate of rethinking aging points to all the opportunites to redub retirement as “rehirement.”

I was hit with three simultaneous reactions:

The Ego Protection Fault Line: In “What She’s Not Telling You,” we exposed five reasons women don’t always do or buy what they say they will. This article exposed one of our Whole Truths, Ego Protection: if products are overtly designed for boomers in a way that gives away their age or uncool factor, like obvious big buttons on phones, they fail. Boomers still see themselves as younger, so if a young person is turned off to a boomer feature, so are they. The GAP learned that lesson the hard way when their concept store for midlife apparel, Forth &Towne flopped by assuming ‘older’ women wanted to look well, older. The Whole Truth? They do want to look their age, but the age in their heads is about 15 younger than the age on their ID.

DejaVu All Over Again: I feel like I have read this article for years. This age resistance issue just won’t die with marketers. No matter how old they are, marketers are blind or at least averting their eyes to the reality of their aging customer base. Dare I admit that in 8 years, I could be featured when they rewrite this again in 2018? Like many women my age, I pass for a lot younger. I think young, I feel young and I like Lady GaGa’s music and I don’t wear pantyhose. But I generally keep my digits under wraps because I think that fellow marketers instantly marginalize anyone over 45…and in some environments, take that down to 40, 39, 38.. Media targets still cling to the dream team of 18-34, 25-40. Even older-suited categories like financial services and healthcare prefer to pursue the ‘peri-retirees’. Are we afraid of our own mortality? Are we in denial of our own mirrors? When will marketers younger and older, start facing the truth and chasing the big money in the marketplace?

The New Age Defiance:  I loved that the piece featured an 86 year old redhead who had her place wired to monitor every move, support her positive health behaviors and keep her at home. My redhead Mom lived at home till 82, still keeping up her crosswords, her high celebrity IQ and her calorie counting. At 91, my Dad relied on his Jitterbug phone, his Lifeline (which saved his life multiple times) and his at-home exercise bike which he pedaled while practicing speech therapy on his tape recorder. My parents were from a generation that aged with spirit and dignity. I think that our next generation of boomers will age with defiance and wishful thinking that will keep them younger longer. If it’s Ego Protection that preserves their youthfulness, so be it. I just hope that the marketers who are smart enough to recognize their power get over their stultified attitudes toward what’s old and what’s beautiful. Like her or not, Grandma ain’t going down easy.

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Facial HALF TRUTHS: Botox Bunnies and Parantheses Lines


Reading The New York Post on my train ride is sacred.  While I disagree with their politics, I live for their gossip and lifestyle coverage.  Today’s Pulse Section takes the cake.  They outed a tell tale sign of Botox and called them Bunny Lines.  Picture scrunching up your nose like a rabbit and that is what happens when your forehead is too paralyzed to move when you smile.  A plastic surgeon explains that “The muscles on either side of the nose become hyperactive with smiling to overcompensate for the lack of movement in the forehead and around the eyes.”  My other favorite half truth facial phenomenon is the Parantheses smile lines that Juvederm promises to solve. We aren’t even allowed to have a genuine smile.  I’m all about doing the best with what you’ve got (even if what you got is a great plastic surgeon or dermatologist) but I think it is a little creepy to be face to face with someone who looks airbrushed in person.

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May 23, 2024
by Mary Lou Quinlan

A look at an early production of WORK


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The God Box Goes Global!

“The God Box” has grown to include an app, audio book, philanthropic venture and solo show performed by Mary Lou across the US. Now The God Box Project goes global to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
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