Ah, the horrors of matronly!

by midlifecrisisqueen on January 8, 2013

First of all, what does matronly even mean?

The more forgiving definition comes from the Free Dictionary: “A married woman or a widow, especially a mother of dignity, mature age, and established social position.” 

The British English Dictionary is far less forgiving: “a woman, usually one who is not young, who is fat and does not dress in a fashionable way.” 

What comes to mind for you when you hear this word?  Something along these lines?  Now remember this is probably somebody’s mother…

The reason this word came up for me this week, is a friend of mine who I consider to be the definition of tall, lithe and in-great-shape mentioned that for the first time in her life she was seeing “matronly” in the mirror.  My immediate thought was, so what does that make me?

This friend has hiked the Alps, the Andes, the Himalayas and Denali… recently!  And  yet even she is beginning to wonder about the “M” word!

I guess it had to happen sooner or later.  Most of my friends and acquaintances are pushing 60, BUT how did this ever happen?  I see plenty of blog posts by 40-ish women fearing the day they might suddenly appear old, frumpy and unstylish, but my friend was NOT talking about her clothes!

Who can forget Aunt Bee?  Wasn’t she just the perfect image of matronly, with that up do and always an apron?  Pearls seem to be required too, but such a loving woman!

Can we age beautifully, happily and gracefully… or is that just a midlife fantasy?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Chloe Jeffreys January 8, 2013 at 2:12 pm

This is a tough question without a one-size-fits-all answer. We live in a time of high expectations and it’s every woman for herself to decide that “aging gracefully” will look like for her.

midlifecrisisqueen January 8, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Yes Chloe:
We do the best we can because none of us get out of this alive! – LLC

Haralee January 8, 2013 at 3:44 pm

You pose a tough question. How often do we see a woman wearing age inappropriate clothes but when we see a woman looking unnecessary frumpy do we make the same judgments?
This is where a good girl friend comes in to tell you, ‘no longer or let’s update’!

Pam@over50feeling40 January 8, 2013 at 5:00 pm

There is another teacher at my school who is the same age as me…I will be 60 this summer. She has not updated her wardrobe or hair. My students are always shocked to hear that we are the same age. For right now, it is important to me to look my best and update my style. I enjoy it…it is fun for me. She has said it is not important to her and she will just look as she looks. I am not into Botox and things like that, but I do want to give my appearance my best effort for now and follow an aging with joy plan! If anyone wants to avoid matronly, you might enjoy my blog!

BigLittleWolf January 8, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Okay. This one gets my panties in an uproar. I’m so glad you raised this issue.

I can’t help but think that “matronly” is code in this country (not just Britain) for “fat.” And we all know that “fat” isn’t acceptable in the Good Old U S of A – if you’re a woman.

Young and fat? Bad enough. Old and fat? Fuhgettabouttit!!!

That said, old is used as a pejorative adjective. Fat is used as a pejorative adjective. If a woman manages to age and not be fat, and retain any element of her style or femininity, she is not in the least referred to by the M word, as matronly.

I will give you an example – a woman I know well who is, in fact, quite a model for me in some regards. She is nearly 85 years old. She’s about 110 pounds and 5′ or 5’1″ tall. Her posture is remarkable (she walks about 5 miles a day), and she has long silky white hair.

She can (and does) still wear a 3″ heel. Not every day mind you, but for special occasions and shes appears to have no problem doing so.

(Pop over to my sight and read “Grey Heels” if you like. I think it’s still on the main page.)

So, this woman is elegant, strong, and though she shows her age, her grace and femininity absolutely shine through. She laughs easily and a lot, she’s lived through a lot, and she’s physically strong though she suffers from Alzheimers.

Every line on her face, every spot on her arms and hands, everything about her is her story. Her long hair, about shoulder length? Gorgeous. I’m a believer in older women with longer hair – if they can – because I think it does something to assist us in retaining our sense of the feminine and even our girlishness.

I will also mention that she is French, and I cannot help but think that her French upbringing has something to do with the fact that even if she weighed 50 pounds more she would still not come across as the dreaded M word.

We should take a lesson.

We should rethink our childish and unhealthy obsession with body shape, weight and wrinkles.

We should realize that growing older is a privilege, and if we say NO to the disrespect of inflicting all this crap on ourselves, maybe we’ll become models of something dignified and elegant and REAL as well. And part of that reality is retaining the ability to laugh, to sing, to stay open, to walk, to realize that more is behind rather than ahead, but to see this as the natural progression of things.

Ellen Dolgen January 8, 2013 at 8:20 pm

I think age shouldn’t define one’s style but everybody has the choice of choosing her own look. Great post!

Donna Highfill January 8, 2013 at 8:47 pm

I’ve always thought matronly was a state of mind, and the outwear is the result. I swear I knew “‘matronly” girls in third grade. I’ve also seen very fashionable women who still seem matronly. Maybe I associate it with energy and spark. Great blog.

midlifecrisisqueen January 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm

“We should realize that growing older is a privilege…” Wiser words were never spoken, and those older than us know the wisdom in these words even more so! -Laura Lee

Jan January 11, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Matronly? A title from the past that women have to get over so they can do what they need to do without judgement of other women…..If you are living life on your terms then you ARE maturing with grace.
Lovely for the woman who is 80 and can still wear spiked heels and speak her native language. My mom (84) wears flats and runs after great grandchildren. It is not a competition…both women have aged with grace.

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