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“You Look Great for Your Age” and Other Backhanded Compliments

By Margaret Manning December 14, 2014 Mindset

If you’re a woman over 60, I guarantee that, at some point in the last few years, a young store clerk has called you “dear,” “honey,” or “love.” They are just trying to be sweet, of course. At the same time, they would never call someone their own age one of these names. So, why do we get the “honor” of being pampered with such gentle and obsequious titles?

In some ways, it feels like society doesn’t know what to do with older women. People want to be respectful, but, in their confusion, they stumble into using condescending labels. By the way, I also find it funny when young people apologize when I overhear them swearing… trust me, I’ve heard much worse!

Condescending titles are bad enough, but, even worse are backhanded compliments. Why is it that people say stupid things like “you look good for your age,” or “you don’t look 60.” The next time someone says this to me, I promise I’m going to take a page from Gloria Steinem’s book and reply “this is what 60 looks like.”

Do you ever get “compliments” like “you’re a great dancer… for your age,” or “wow, you have a lot of energy… for your age?” I’ve been around the women in the Sixty and Me community for long enough to know that we are still living life with passion and verve. The last thing we need is aging stereotypes holding us back.

Part of me wants to start fighting fire with fire and saying “wow, you’re pretty smart… for your age,” or “wow, you’re a pretty hard worker… for your age,” but, I’m pretty sure that that would fly about as well as a lead balloon. So, Instead, I think the best approach is to break the stereotypes that surround it. Let’s get out there and create positive examples for each other. Let’s get in shape, pursue our passions and reinvent our lives.

Let’s show the world what life after 60 is really about.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please join the conversation in the comments section below. Here are today’s questions.

Have you ever been called “dear,” “honey,” or “sweetie?” How do you react? Has anyone every given you a backhanded compliment related to your age such as “you look great for your age?” What do you think are the biggest stereotypes that hold women over 60 back? Please join the conversation.

Here’s a short video that I recorded on the topic of backhanded compliments.

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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