— Relationships —

JEALOUSY BETWEEN WOMEN OVER 50

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Recently a woman I’ve known most of my life and I were on the phone, talking about things like bunion surgery, life, and how difficult it is to make new friends when we reach a certain age. By the time our children are adults and have lives of their own, many of the friends we made when we were in parent/teacher groups have scattered. Or maybe we’ve gotten a divorce, or our spouse or partner died, and we no longer fit in with our old crowd. Then again, maybe we’re running with the wrong crowd.

My friend, let’s call her Patricia, has given me permission to share a couple of threads from our conversation.

“I feel like I’m living in the aftermath of Sherman’s march through Georgia,” Patricia said, a reference to when General William Tecumseh Sherman burned nearly all of Atlanta during the Civil War. “My old friends are gone, and I no longer fit in with a group I’ve belonged to for almost twenty years.”

“What makes you feel that way?” I asked.

“It’s not any one thing. Maybe I’m being too sensitive. Some of their recent comments caught me off-guard, so I may not be relaying the exact words, but the gist of it was something like, ‘Patricia looks younger than the rest of us. She wears makeup and she’s always so put together.’”

“I don’t think she meant to offend you,” I said. “It sounds like a complement. You’re attractive, and you’ve always worn makeup and looked nice.”

“It wasn’t that. It was the tone and the catty response from another woman who said, ‘Well… She won’t always look that way!’

She wasn’t trying to be funny. She was dead serious, and they were having this conversation like I wasn’t even in the room. Would they feel better if I didn’t wear makeup and just schlepped around?”

“No, don’t do that,” I told Patricia. “That’s not you.”

“Then there’s the comment another member made to me a few months ago: We were all saying our goodbyes, and she was saying things like ‘Have a great weekend’ and ‘Enjoy your time with your grandchildren,’ but when she looked at me she said, ‘Go be beautiful.’”

At that remark, I let out an audible gasp on my end of the phone. “Does she know you? Does she know what you’ve accomplished and how difficult your life has been?” 

“Yes! We’ve been in this group for nearly twenty years. I feel like how I look is my only value.”

Other than suggesting the usual “join a church, become a docent at a hospital or a museum, and you’re running with small-minded women,” I was at a loss for what to tell her about making new friends, but I know how she feels. Someone who’s different makes people uncomfortable. I’ve led a big life, and I don’t always fit in. I’ve also been widowed twice, and I’ve learned single women of a certain age aren’t always welcome, especially if there are spouses involved, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on with Patricia’s friends. 

Maybe I’m feeling bad for my friend, but it occurred to me those women might be jealous. At the very least, thoughtless in their choice of words. By now, I’d hoped we’d be more considerate of one another.

Love, Brenda

48 Comments

  • Reply Suzanne Ryals March 19, 2022 at 5:13 am

    I, too, encountered such a sentiment….but from a much younger woman (in her 30s) who remarked that, even at the end of the day after working 10+ hours, I still looked like I was ready to go to an event (I was wearing a gingham shirt, blue jeans, and tennis shoes). Her words, “Oh, please, you look like you are ready to go to a party.” I have reflected on this comment and I was somewhat shocked. By that time of the day, I look like shit. My make up has been scrubbed off my face, my very short hair is standing straight up from me pulling on it in frustration. I thought, “Maybe I do not see myself the way others see me.” And, I also thought, “Is she jealous?” Whatever it was, I decided that (1) I need to be gentler with myself and maybe I do look better than I think I do, whatever the time of day and circumstances. And (2) I need to be gentler with her and other women and thank them, either overtly or covertly, for complimenting me. It is only catty if I take it that way.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 11:45 am

      Great comment, Suzanne! Jealousy comes in all ages and sizes, but the root cause is a feeling of inadequacy. It sounds like you were well put together to begin with and the younger woman was not, so even if your makeup was gone and your hair was mussed, it didn’t make a great deal of difference. I love your two takeaways: Be gentler with ourselves and be gentler with our critics. A lot of what comes out of their mouth is just crass and unplanned, but there are others who deliberately jab us to bring us down. The best thing we can do is to stand tall and not let them know their arrows have hit their intended mark. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Tissa March 19, 2022 at 5:41 am

    Let me count the ways!! I so resemble those remarks/scenarios aimed my way. I have been single for 20 plus years and so very sad but true how other women treat their own gender.
    Remarks (catty,hidden in a ‘compliment) about how I look how I dress how great this or that is. Even in church! “ you look too young to be in this class “……and being left out of social happenings. Jealousy, small minded etc. Unfortunately, some women never mature beyond their “mean” girl mentality of high school. Jealousy/GREEN doesn’t look good on any woman but especially over 50. They should know better!!

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 11:55 am

      Tissa, I’m sorry other women have gigged you. I know how that feels, and I hate to say this, but the “church ladies” are good at it. I’m not sure why, but some feel they have a green light–no pun intended–to tell you what’s wrong with you. “Mean” girls/women do know better, but it’s who they are. When they hit us, I hope we can remember to feel sorry for them and realize their barbs are their defensive weapons against how they feel about themselves. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Tara Dillard March 19, 2022 at 5:55 am

    Those comments are all about the person making them. Not who they are spoken to.

    Sad layer exposing their lack of critical understanding of self. Worse, admitting a dislike of their own body/dress.

    In the South, there’s always the perfect response to those type comments, “Bless your heart.” Not as easy to translate as Sherman’s march. ‘Bless your heart’, covers a lot of terrain.

    “It is precisely a modality of what Pascal saw: the war between violence & truth.”

    A dear friend, in her 80’s, dropped a decades long Friday lunch with girlfriends. Why? She said they all got ‘old’, talked about illness and others. In my 30’s she became a dear friend, amongst a tribe of us aged 30’s – 60’s. She lived to 100. Her garden, during that time, was in magazines, books, on TV, and visited by gardeners across the USA. We, in a group, took many field trips far from home, attended gallery openings, symposiums, garden tours, etc………………

    Suzanne Ryals, you’re rocking the gingham shirt, blue jeans, mussed hair, and tennis shoes…………..in my head !!

    Godspeed those needing scapegoats for their own ‘lack’. Great joy when some make the crossover to understand, and partake looking good; merely from acquaintance and ‘getting it’. More than looking good, health improves.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 12:02 pm

      Tara, LOL!!! You’re a gem! I can think of a number of times I wish I’d returned mean comments with “Well bless your heart” and a smile on my face. My 94-year-old friend died recently and like your friend, she was younger than all of us. I want to be like these women! And here’s to the gingham shirt club! I nominate Suzanne Ryals as president. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Barbara March 19, 2022 at 8:26 am

    Go be beautiful? I’m stunned! I don’t want to know any of the women in her group. Small minded doesn’t begin to explain such catty crassness. If they say things like that when she’s in the room, imagine what they say when she’s not there. Those women are not her friends. Xo Barb

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 12:08 pm

      Hi Barb, Yes… What do they say when she’s not there? I hope if she continues to be in that group, the next time someone says something untoward about another woman, my friend needs to step up and say, “Well, bless your heart.” (See Tara’s comment and my response.) xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Lois J Ewing March 19, 2022 at 8:39 am

    Eat your heart out ladies, I am who I am and feel comfortable in my shoes. Scottish Grandma’s favorite adage “Walk Proud”

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 12:11 pm

      Yes, m’am, Lois! Walk proud. Stand tall and be who you are. I wouldn’t be anyone else, would you? Reminds me of a series of texts with another girlfriend yesterday who was commenting on this blog post. She wrote: “I do not want to be you but can appreciate and admire.” xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Dolly March 19, 2022 at 9:02 am

    This is very interesting. Over my lifetime I have had many women remark that I always look so put together regardless of where I am . I am in my 60th decade and I have do my best to keep healthy and take care of my appearance. It’s all about respect for myself. Women who behave in this manner are unhappy. This is sad, but is no excuse for such pettiness. My response to the woman that said, “Go be beautiful” would have been, “I’ll do my best!” with BIG SMILE! I’m going shopping now for a gingham shirt. 🙂

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 12:14 pm

      Dolly, What a great response: “I’ll do my best!” Yes!! Several women like the gingham shirt. I think we should form the Gingham Shirt Club!!! Brenda

  • Reply Arlo March 19, 2022 at 10:07 am

    I’ve never had a lot of girlfriends for this exact reason. I don’t want to gossip and make digs at other women. Instead I’d rather talk about things of substance; what’s going on in the world, art and books and things that bring joy into the world. It’s sad to say but I prefer the company of men because they have more interesting things to say and yes, I know not all women are that way. I just haven’t met any.

    • Reply Stella R March 19, 2022 at 10:58 am

      I’m 39 and I completely agree with your comment, Arlo. I have a few close girlfriends whom I treasure but I find many women, no matter what age, are competitive and catty and they try to make you feel bad about yourself. Especially if they see that you are making a genuine effort in all areas of your life. I also agree about having better and interesting conversations with men about different topics. Actually, I have found that men are more interested in my opinion and what I have to say than women are! (And no, the men weren’t trying to hit on me or anything like that). Go figure!

      • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 12:31 pm

        I understand exactly what you’re saying Stella. For most of my adult life I found myself in a male dominated world, and I liked it because men don’t put one another down unless they’re bullies, and bullies don’t have a lot of friends. Like you, men weren’t threatened by my ideas… unless they had little bitty dicks, which may explain why they’re bullies. At the end of the day, I think most of us have things we feel we need to compensate for. Some of us just do it better than others. Loved your comment. Thank you! xoxox, Brenda

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 12:18 pm

      Arlo, I’ve not had a lot of women friends either but mainly because I knew most other women wouldn’t be able to identify with my life. It’s all in the memoir I’ve been writing. Now that I’ve spilled all my secrets, Covid and age is making it difficult to find new women friends, but I’m looking! xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Mark March 19, 2022 at 10:16 am

    Hi Brenda,
    With (probably) unfounded trepidation for injecting my perspective here, I will be brave.
    Your blog (such an oddly unsatisfying word) provides an opportunity of insight for the complimentary gender. Even at 67, I admit to not really understanding women, probably never will and, even more likely, don’t particularly want to. Women are mysterious creatures, and I’m good with that. I don’t particularly understand men either, but that’s a different conversation. You seem to be a person with whom I could talk for hours on end, and that’s comforting. I can’t thank you for who you are, but can for what you do. So, thank you.
    -Mark

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 12:44 pm

      Great to see you again Mark! I, too, dislike the term “blog.” It’s an ugly sounding word. As far as figuring people out… male or female… There’s a school of philosophy that says everything can be traced back to ego: money, power, the jobs we have, how we treat people, etc. While it doesn’t always hold true, more times than not, when I run things back in my mind, it does. I always enjoy your comments. See you again! Brenda

  • Reply Colleen March 19, 2022 at 10:19 am

    It can be difficult to determine if a remark is rude or if you are too sensitive. One of my friends mentions to other people when we are out and about that we are two old ladies. I am in my seventies, but never think of myself in that description. I love clothes, jewelry, makeup and care about being healthy and active. I feel she’s being catty but maybe I’m too sensitive. Perhaps I need a gingham shirt!

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 12:56 pm

      Colleen, You’re right on about whether a remark is rude, or we’re too sensitive, and Patricia is aware of that. Unfortunately these aren’t the only comments this group of women has made to her. I think “the bloom” is off the rose with what she gets out of the group and feels she can contribute to it as well. I wonder why your friend feels the need to describe the two of you as old ladies? Have you tried laughing when she says that, and in a humorous way say, “Speak for yourself?” If you deliver it right, I don’t think she’d take offense at it. Brava to all of us 70-somethings who still like to look nice! You’re at least the third person to mention needing a gingham shirt! LOL! Too funny! I think we should start a club! xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Marilynn March 19, 2022 at 11:33 am

    I’ve had women from all age groups comment on my face and what I’ve done to it. (nothing) My silver hair (it’s naturally streaked), my clothing choices (artsy). I have always not returned a comment I just do the stare until it gets uncomfortable. At my age I am happy to be with me and a few close friends. If some savvy happening woman comes into my life whatever the age she’ll be welcomed. That said, I recently terminated a 40 year friendship due to disrespectful, uncommonly rude behavior.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 1:01 pm

      Marilynn, There are more attractive women of a certain age than ever before, and some of our peers and the people we meet don’t know how to react. We’re not our mother’s generation who grew old and looked old before their time. Brava for terminating that friendship. Even if it wasn’t a healthy relationship, it couldn’t have been easy. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Joanna March 19, 2022 at 11:45 am

    I find it terribly sad that women feel the need to knock down others to feel good about themselves. And then there are those that are unhappy and take their frustrations/angst out on others around them. But what really surprised me is the Queen Bee mentality. They gather other women around them and shut others out. If your friends are like that, get new friends. I know that’s hard at our age but is it worth it to be belittled or excluded at times? No! Join groups that expose you to new friendships by kindred spirits. Your life will be happier. I hope your friend can take that giant leap.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 1:05 pm

      Joanna, I’d forgotten about the Queen Bee. I know one of those, and she stings the bees around her as easily as she does the ones outside her group. I had no problem flying away from her. Actually she’s a textbook case I’d love to write about… but won’t. My friend has taken the leap and left her group, but she’s not sure how to find a new group. She’s working on it. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Yvonne March 19, 2022 at 11:50 am

    I can certainly relate to your friend Patricia. I had people making comments about the fact that I am petite and telling me that they thought I blew away if I was a little late on windy days and they thought it was hilarious. That stopped the day I told them that they certainly didn’t have that worry. Some women who have weight issues don’t appreciate comments about their weight and understandably so but don’t shy away about making rude comments about smaller women and the same goes about being around women who take care of themselves. All I can say is these women are small-minded and catty and don’t feel good about themselves. It’s sad because women need to support and appreciate each other but I also understand that some of those women have been oppressed by men and unfortunately they oppress other women. I have learned to enjoy my own company and seek like-minded women even though I find it hard to make friends after a certain age, single and no children. I enjoy my animals and books LOL

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 1:12 pm

      Yvonne, I had a woman business partner who was under five-feet-tall, and I was 5 foot eight, and I watched how that sometimes played out. When we were raising investor money, male investors talked to me, not her, and asked me to answer their questions. I can’t count the number of times I said, “Peg, why don’t you answer that one” to give her the opportunity to speak so they could see what a good team we were. It was awful, like they thought she wasn’t as smart as I was. I’m not sure what the deal was, but it offended me as well. Brenda

  • Reply Bonnie March 19, 2022 at 11:55 am

    There’s a woman in my life who’s an extreme version of this, and we’ve known one another for 50 years. She’s an alcoholic and has always been jealous of me and my clothes and because friendship means something to me, especially since we’ve known one another so long, I’ve chosen to look the other way. The day is coming when I won’t do that any longer. I’ve also looked the other way because I feel sorry for her and can’t imagine being her.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 1:19 pm

      Bonnie, I know this friendship must be painful in many ways, but good for you for being the one with integrity in the relationship. It’s easy for someone outside of it to say “don’t put up with it,” or “she’s not being a friend,” but I imagine you see through to the real problem. I’m guessing her drinking is an attempt to compensate for way more than being jealous of you. Don’t own her substance abuse and bitchy ways. She’s lucky to have you as a friend. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Geri March 19, 2022 at 1:23 pm

    “She won’t always look that way!” Patricia, run from that woman as fast as you can! What a “witch!”

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 1:21 pm

      I agree Geri. Patricia doesn’t need that woman in her life. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Barbara Bergin March 19, 2022 at 2:16 pm

    We are now so limited in the important things we can discuss, like politics. It’s such a rich source of discourse, and yet, we can no longer feel free to talk about it. You can’t discuss a book or a volunteer effort, health, school, or the news, without a risk of bleeding over to the political side. Ergo, we talk about the way we look.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 1:24 pm

      Oooh!!! Bingo! You may be onto something Barbara! It doesn’t explain all cats over the years, but it strikes a chord right now! Brilliant. Thanks! xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Anonyme March 19, 2022 at 4:07 pm

    Friendships sure have changed through the pandemic, or is it that some time away gave us a new perspective?

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 1:28 pm

      Anonymous, I think it’s both. Distance often brings us perspective. The covid stress has upended marriages and jobs, so why not friendships, plus Barbara Bergin left another astute comment: The things we feel safe discussing with one another have narrowed down and our frustration is coming out with one another. Thanks for this! Brenda

  • Reply bonnie March 19, 2022 at 4:52 pm

    i don’t even know what to say to those who would criticize patricia…to her face! she is the one who is making an attempt to feel good in her skin, and not those who don’t make the effort. i wouldn’t be in the same room with them. i will admit, tho, that it amazes me how people don’t take care of themselves. i’m a bit judgemental about it. that said, time does take a toll on relationships…and what one did with that time. jealousy, exhaustion, bitterness, self doubt…

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 1:35 pm

      You’re right Bonnie. It seems as though the ones who don’t take care of themselves skewer the ones who do. That’s jealousy! When I see people who’ve let themselves “go,” I wonder who beat down their self-esteem? It’s sad. And time… it often wedges an unkind distance between people. I’m guessing the Golden Rule–“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”–has gone by the wayside like out of style trendy fashions. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Joan March 19, 2022 at 6:12 pm

    “Jealousy? Makes sense but why not be appreciative of a friend, indeed, why be friends…why say anything if you can’t say something nice?

    “No one can make you feel bad about yourself without your permission” Eleanor Roosevelt.

    One of my long time friends from high school remarked about my cosmetic surgery, “I’m not trying to impress anyone”. I think I answered, “I’m not either”. This from a woman who was formerly slim and daring, but hates to exercise and has become obese over the years, so much so that she is refusing to attend our high school reunion this Fall. My mother used to say, “Beauty is as beauty does”, and I grew up hating to be the focus of attention.
    I may be old but I like to wear make-up, and dress well when in public, and I have had to exercise all my life to not become depressed as anti-depressants do not work for me. Exercise has many benefits beyond what you can imagine.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 1:42 pm

      Joan, Over the years, you’re the one who’s matured while your high school friend has failed to learn the most basic fundamentals of taking care of one’s self. I agree with everything you said except don’t say you’re “old.” If you think you’re old, you will make yourself old, and from your comment, I don’t see an old woman. I see someone who’s engaged with life and taking care of herself mentally and physically. Brava to you, Joan!!! xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Katherine Allan March 19, 2022 at 9:16 pm

    Your friend Patricia sounds like a lovely lady that has a lot going for her. Most of us have not had an easy life and it takes time, effort, and energy to look nice. Some woman because of their own insecurities like to put down a lady that she feels threatened by. It’s really sad, the bottom line is sarcastic britches does not have a song to sing in her heart. When we are the recipient of comments that we are taken back with, what is left is how we respond. I grew up with, “consider the source,” however when you get a curve ball thrown at you it still hurts.
    Sometimes it feels good to put a person on the spot as they did to you. Like, help me understand, what did you mean by that. The first person who talks losses.
    Brenda I love the Itzchak TarKay you have posted. We have his Three Ladies at Tea II from Park West Gallery. I love ours, it’s so colorful.
    Pray for Peace and the people in Ukraine.
    Sending all you of you virtual hugs, and had anyone told you today you are beautiful? Well I have❣️

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 1:51 pm

      These women who lash out unkindly don’t “have a song to sing in their heart.” I love that and oh so true! You’re a fellow art lover! Yesterday the plumber was here and he said when he looked at the jobs on his list and saw my name he thought, “That’s the woman with the art.” What a love you are, Katherine! I’m sending you virtual hugs right back, and yes, I pray for Ukraine every day. What Putin is doing to this country and it’s people is unthinkable. xoxox, beautiful lady! ❤️ Brenda

  • Reply Leisa Hammett March 19, 2022 at 11:21 pm

    These women aren’t friends. They are jealous and insecure and want to feel better about themselves by bringing her down. Move away from them. She deserves better.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 2:01 pm

      Hello beautiful lady! I always smile when I see you here! Thank you, and you’re so right. She needs to move on. I hope all is well with you and Grace. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply LA CONTESSA March 20, 2022 at 1:20 pm

    WELL, this morning I had a comment on INSTAGRAM that said something like this!”DO NOT TEACH ITALIAN as your pronunciation and words are all wrong!SHE WAS ITALIAN BY HER NAME I ASSUMED!I thought what a mean thing to say and I also told her I guess you have not been with me from the beginning as I stated its been 28 years since I lived in FLORENCE but lets have FUN!I will learn too……….
    Most people are ENJOYING these immensely and from my first video I have had twenty seven thousand people watching it!!
    She was commenting on my last video where I knew I made TWO MISTAKES!As of today I am at 14,000 views and most ALL the comments have been GREAT a few have corrected me which I appreciate but after trying 8 times I said,” TO HELL WITH IT!”
    It’s hard being the photographer, the stylist and the prop person and speaking to a camera all within 60 seconds!
    That video is 8 squares back in case you missed it BRENDA!
    As Diana Vreeland said,”We live through our Dreams and our Imagination.”
    Thats all I am doing……….since I cannot GO BACK TO BEAUTIFUL ITALIA!
    XXX

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 20, 2022 at 1:59 pm

      Elizabeth, Critics are a dime a dozen, but people like you who bring us joy and smiles and teach us things are to be treasured. I LOVE your Italian lessons and your caftans! As a former filmmaker, I can appreciate how difficult it is to be the writer, producer, director, cinematographer and the on camera talent. Brava!!! Keep letting us live through your dreams! Ciao Bella, Brenda

  • Reply Kathy March 22, 2022 at 12:42 pm

    I find great friendships with women,and men, who pursue common interests.Looking outward is healthier.My garden groups bring in a wide diversity of people who are more interested in learning and sharing than judging.Boredom leads to trouble!

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 22, 2022 at 9:22 pm

      You make a solid point Kathy about boredom and trouble, but I think there are other issues with Patricia’s group. Love the sound of your gardening group. I know of another one that also has a variety of interesting speakers and that’s what we hope for when we join. People who give us different points of view and from whom we can learn new things. Brenda

  • Reply Sheila-Merle Johnson March 23, 2022 at 2:17 am

    I’ll have to memorize that phrase “Bless your heart” What a great variety of meanings could come out of that depending on one’s tone. have to keep it living and lighthearted to keep more light in the world. If you come across a great gingham shirt for the over 70 and still glamorous crowd, please post it!

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace March 23, 2022 at 2:51 pm

      Hi Sheila, Love your comments! Women in the south are good at delivering lines like “bless your heart,” and unless you’re watching their eyes, you may miss whether they’re being compassionate or pasting over their ill wishes with a sweet sounding phrase. Just so you know, I got lost down a rabbit trail a few minutes ago, looking for gingham shirts! There are a lot of them! XOXOX, Brenda

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