Are women over 50 living the "Fear of Flying" life that Erica Jong wrote about years ago?
In 1973 Erica Jong wrote the controversial and generation changing, Fear of Flying. I was 11-years-old when the book was published but managed to get my hands on it a few years later when I stole it from my mother’s book shelf. The book was a true coming of age story for adult women taking ownership of their own sexuality and their independent, self-sufficient lives. I read Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique not long after my Fear of Flying induction. Both solidified my desire to live a life different from the one of my mother’s generation and to eventually choose women’s issues as my life’s work.
Yet this year as I turned 50 and looked around to other women my age and older, I fear that maybe we are still very much afraid of flying. Is it our destiny to be the generation of women who looked younger at our age than previous generations? Is that truly the goal to which we aspire? Every magazine or book that I see about middle-aged women focuses on looking and acting younger. Why is our premier goal to turn back time? Why aren’t we reveling in the beauty, wisdom, and energy that come with life experience?
How is it that the most educated generation of women in our country’s history is destined to spend their time on salon treatments and botulism shots to our foreheads? What exactly are we afraid of? Are we really afraid to be the first generation of women who celebrate our age, own our strength, and take on middle age and beyond with a power and fearlessness never seen before? Shouldn’t we be the generation who says enough is enough to a culture that has focused endless obsession on our appearance? Aren’t we intelligent enough to know that “Growing old gracefully” is some bullshit euphemism for “Go home because we only like to look at 25-year-olds?”
Why aren’t we a major force in running this country yet? Why aren’t more of us in the CEO position when we have the education and skills to be there? When did we get so quiet and fearful of flying and what’s it going to take for us to get on that plane? When are we going to share the old cliché’ work/life balance with the other half of the population and thus find something that works for all of us? What legacy do we plan to leave the next generation; the best tips on how to look twenty years younger yet have no time or energy left for changing the world?
Women, we need a revolution! I meet so many people who have thrown in the towel on a life of passion. They’ve accepted an “adequate” existence of quiet misery because the fear of taking the big leap feels overwhelming to them. A client told me the other day that she’s come to terms with “not being happy in this lifetime.” It’s easier to work on an external, societal definition of beauty than it is to dig deep and do something utterly terrifying. To you I say, “Don’t accept adequate.” Do something scary and wonderful today, right now. Write a book, give a speech, start a movement, raise your voice, and fly.
I have absolutely no scientific evidence to prove this but I’m guessing that not one person at the end of their life says, “I wish I’d had more plastic surgery so that I looked younger.” Or “I’m not at all sorry that my life was mediocre and boring.” End of life regrets are nearly always related to doing that one thing that they’d always wanted to try or achieve, more time with family, and living a life of authenticity. So what’s that one thing that you’ve been putting off because it terrifies you?
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