25 Famous Women on Getting Older

Photo: Lennart Preiss/Getty Images, NBC/Getty Images, Samir Hussein/Getty Images, Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Dewy, un-creased twentysomethings have long been held up as the essence and ideal of womanhood in popular culture. But you know the mania for youth has reached new heights when glossy magazines allow no more than three wrinkles on the faces that grace their covers and people — Kim Kardashian, for example — go so far as to retouch their selfies before posting them on Instagram. Sure, there are frequent stories about how “30 is the new 20” or “50 is the new 30,” but rarely do we see women over a certain age — unretouched, unapologetic, not medically intervened upon — held up as desirable or admirable, or even held up at all. (Meanwhile, silver-haired men abound in movies and on TV in seats of power.)

But plenty of women have the guts to face the music — and the mirror — with grace. Here, a collection of thoughts on the woes and delights of aging from 25 famous women, including Meryl Streep, Toni Morrison, and Betty White. The power of wrinkles, how sex at 60 beats sex at 16, staring down chin hairs — it’s all here.

1. "I wouldn't want to be 20 now. I know so much more, and I'm much more comfortable in my skin, saggy as it is ... When I hear young girls complaining about superficial things ... You're at the peak of your physical beauty right now! Just enjoy it and stop worrying about your thighs being too big ... If you're upset with how you look at 25, life's going to be tough." —
Susan Sarandon, V Magazine, winter 2010/11

2. "We live in a youth-obsessed culture that is constantly trying to tell us that if we are not young, and we're not glowing, and we're not hot, that we don't matter. I refuse to let a system or a culture or a distorted view of reality tell me that I don't matter. I know that only by owning who and what you are can you start to step into the fullness of life. Every year should be teaching us all something valuable. Whether you get the lesson is really up to you." —
Oprah, O, the Oprah Magazine, May 2011

3. "I will never retire unless I have to. As long as I'm able to get up in the morning, get that makeup on and my high heels on, and even if I can't wear high heels, I'm going to do like Mae West, I'm going to sit in a wheelchair with my high heels on." —Dolly Parton, Nightline, November 2012

4. “I am convinced that most people do not grow up ... We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias.” —Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter, October 2009

5. “I haven’t done any [cosmetic surgery], but who knows ... When you’ve had children, your body changes; there’s history to it. I like the evolution of that history; I’m fortunate to be with somebody who likes the evolution of that history. I think it’s important to not eradicate it. I look at someone’s face and I see the work before I see the person. I personally don’t think people look better when they do it; they just look different ... And if you’re doing it out of fear, that fear’s still going to be seen through your eyes.” —Cate Blanchett, Vanity Fair, February 2009

6. "It’s horrible getting older, I have to tell you. I mean, it’s wonderful because you see the circles of life get completed, you know. But it’s horrible losing your looks. Horrible. If you’ve been a pretty woman and always pursued by lovers, losing that and not having that — it feels like a great loss ... I’ve always had men pursue me. I’ve always had that ‘it’ thing. God knows why. Maybe it’s pheromones, I don’t know." —Erica Jong, The Believer, October 2013

7. “Old age ain't no place for sissies.” —Bette Davis, The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: Bette Davis — A Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler, March 2007

8. "I'm very f*cking grateful to be alive. I have so many friends who are sick or gone, and I'm here. Are you kidding? No complaints!" —Meryl Streep, Vanity Fair, January 2010

9. "Best thing about being in your 90s is you're spoiled rotten. Everybody spoils you like mad and they treat you with such respect because you're old. Little do they know, you haven't changed. You haven't changed in [the brain]. You're just 90 every place else ... Now that I'm 91, as opposed to being 90, I'm much wiser. I'm much more aware and I'm much sexier." —Betty White, People, February 2013

10. “I do think that when it comes to aging, we're held to a different standard than men. Some guy said to me: ‘Don't you think you're too old to sing rock n' roll?’ I said: ‘You'd better check with Mick Jagger’.” —Cher, Fifty on Fifty: Wisdom, Inspiration, and Reflections on Women's Lives Well Lived by Bonnie Miller Rubin, November 1998

11. "Yeah, f*ck you, I'm 50. That's what I'm going to say when I turn 50." Madonna, Nightline, 2008

12. "I actually have better sex — which is the bottom line, is it not? At 60. Because you learn how to, you know, work the vehicle better.” Lauren Hutton, on her website

13. “There is a saying that with age, you look outside what you are inside. If you are someone who never smiles your face gets saggy. If you’re a person who smiles a lot, you will have more smile lines. Your wrinkles reflect the roads you have taken; they form the map of your life." —Diane von Furstenberg, The Woman I Wanted to Be, October 2014

14. "The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” —Lucille Ball, People, January 1996

15. “If you take care of yourself, 60 is nothing for women these days. In today's world you can be the kind of woman you want to be ... Of course, I've aged a bit in the face, but not enough to worry about it. I've common sense enough to know that if I'm nearly 70 something has to give." Tina Turner, The Mirror, February 2009

16. "Listen, the best advice on aging is this: What’s the alternative? The alternative, of course, is death. And that’s a lot of shit to deal with. So I’m happy to deal with menopause. I’ll take it." Whoopi Goldberg, New Jersey Monthly, May 2013

17. "I see myself on TV and I say, 'Oh, I wish that weren't happening to my neck. And your face is falling down, and your eyes are so puffy ... I don't want to look old and worn, but what can you do? My real focus is being an actor. I care more about having the opportunity to play roles that I haven't played than I care if my neck looks like someone's bedroom curtains." —Sally Fields, Good Housekeeping, March 2009

18. "My 40s were pretty great, but now, in my 50s — oh, just saying that sounds so ancient! — there comes this wonderful self-knowledge. You're not trying to be somebody else, or do something else with your life. You think: Here I am. I've gone through this, I've survived that, and I know who I am now. There's still the part of me that wants to leap at every opportunity, but now there's the other side that says, 'Let's just wait a minute and see what happens.' That's intuition, and it comes with age and experience. I'm grateful for that, for knowing that I don't have to put my heart out there all the time and can just listen to that inner voice." Kim Cattrall, Good Housekeeping, July 2014

19. "At 81, I don't feel guilty about anything ... There's nothing inside that's 81. It's just the changes in the body. And the memory. I don't remember where the keys are. Or as my son says, 'Ma, it's not that you don't remember where you put the keys, it's when you pick up your keys and you don't know what they're for'.” Toni Morrison, The Guardian, April 2012

20. "I refuse to think of them as chin hairs. I think of them as stray eyebrows." Janette Barber, Better After 50

21. "Here's what I know: I'm a better person at fifty than I was at forty-eight ... and better at fifty-two than I was at fifty. I'm calmer, easier to live with. All this stuff is in my soul forever. Just don't get lazy. Work at your relationships all the time. Take care of friendships, hold people you love close to you, take advantage of birthdays to celebrate fiercely. It's the worrying — not the years themselves — that will make you less of a woman." Patti LaBelle, Fifty on Fifty: Wisdom, Inspiration, and Reflections on Women's Lives Well Lived by Bonnie Miller Rubin, November 1998

22. “The maturing of a woman who has continued to grow is a beautiful thing to behold. Or, if your ad revenue or your seven-figure salary or your privileged sexual status depend on it, it is an operable condition.” Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth, 1990

23. "I find my emotions are way more accessible than they were when I was younger and I've come to feel it has to do with age. I have become so wonderfully, terribly aware of time, of how little of it I have left; how much of it is behind me, and everything becomes so precious. With age, I am able to appreciate the beauty in small things more than when I was younger perhaps because I pay attention more. I feel myself becoming part of everything, as if I bleed into other people's joy and pain." —Jane Fonda, on her blog, February 2014

24. “You start out happy that you have no hips or boobs. All of a sudden you get them, and it feels sloppy. Then just when you start liking them, they start drooping.” Cindy Crawford, Huffington Post, February 2013

25. “I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be ... Far too many people misunderstand what ‘putting away childish things’ means, and think that forgetting what it is like to think and feel and touch and smell and taste and see and hear like a three-year-old or a thirteen-year-old or a twenty-three-year-old means being grownup. When I'm with these people I, like the kids, feel that if this is what it means to be a grown-up, then I don't ever want to be one. Instead of which, if I can retain a child's awareness and joy, and *be* fifty-one, then I will really learn what it means to be grownup.”Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet, 1971