I Miss the Days When Grandmas Looked Liked Grandmas


5/18/20234 min read

I long for the days when grandmas used to look like….well….grandmas. Sadly, that just isn't the case anymore as clearly evidenced by a recent comparison photo showing Jennifer Lopez and Rue McClanahan, both age 50, that the whole internet couldn't stop gabbing about. And while Lopez isn't yet a grandmother, with the majority of American women becoming grandmothers by age 50, she serves an excellent visual comparison to celebrity grandmothers from a handful of generations ago.

But it isn't just JLo who’s making 50 look like the new 30. It’s everywhere! Women over 45 these days are more often than not looking as fresh and appealing as their 15-years-younger peers. And while a small percentage of this is winning the genetic lottery, many of these seemingly age-proof women are achieving these results thanks to a myriad of skin care options becoming much more accessible in the last 50 years. And let us not ignore the miracles of plastic surgery

(I’m looking at you Sharon Osbourne).

Demanding Respect

Remember Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies, Mama from Mama’s Family or even Marie Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond ? Those ladies were classic grandmas. Completely comfortable in their own wrinkled skin and white hair, often with a few whiskers peeking out over an upper lip, they sashayed around the house knowing their place as rightful queens and demanding respect- which they got!

And it wasn’t because they still looked fantastic in a mini-skirt. It was simply expected.

(Although Mama did pull off the rolled down knee-high stockings look with an astonishing amount

of sensuality.*)

Furthermore, none of these ladies had a problem maintaining their feminine allure. In fact, Blanche had more sexual escapades in her "golden" years than most coeds have in their Freshman year of college while Mama had to fiend off advances from an old boyfriend, and even Frank Barone let down his guard on a few episodes and reminded Marie of her natural beauty.

I remember being in elementary school going to my memaw’s house, and it didn’t matter what time of day or what day of the week it was, she would be barefoot, smiling, wearing a mumu, no make-up on, and waving a Virigina Slim perched between two fingers while offering to fix me “sumthin' to eat.”

The All-Mighty Mumu

While the mumu’s name itself might inspire thoughts of female cows, bellowing loudly while their tired udders drag the pasture, the article of clothing itself is quite appealing! For those too young to know what a mumu is, just imagine the most shapeless piece of loose cotton or a silky polyester blend, almost like a pillowcase, that comes down about mid-calf and is wide as it is long. They’re made to slip right on and off with merely a button or two at the neckline rendering the need for undergarments essentially useless!

Sounds luxurious right? I think so too!

And if that’s not appealing enough for you, they also come in sleeveless! So there’s nothing to chafe that loose skin on the back of your arm that one insightful child in my family onced called “mama’s mashed taters” as he stroked it softly while falling asleep at night. But I digress….

Letting My Body Be Who She is

Ladies, can you imagine that kind of freedom? Being over 40 without the worry of keeping your hair colored or feeling compelled to wear a bra with more push-up support than Arnold Schwartznegger under a weight lift bar. I certainly can’t. Thus, lately I’ve been seriously contemplating laying it all down-giving up and just letting my body BE who She is, unwanted hairs and all. I mean, it’s just exhausting, not to mention time-consuming and outrageously expensive! Between keeping gray hair covered, unwanted hair waxed, wrinkles frozen, teeth bleached, nails and toes manicured and skin spray tanned … it’s enough each month to pay a small car payment

(well a tiny car, like those little All-Star Converse shoe-looking cars, but nonetheless still a car).

I think the women of days gone by had it right. They didn’t feel compelled to do it all: bring home the bacon AND fry it up in the pan AND keep the home fires burning AND maintain a youthful glow, and so on and so on and so on.

I don’t know if I ever remember my memaw looking compelled to do much of anything besides get supper ready and soak her unmentionables in the bathroom sink. And I sure don’t remember her looking stressed out. No doubt she was on occasion, but I'm certain it didn’t have anything to do with her appearance. For sure, I never witnessed her hurriedly rushing about from the dermatologist to the esthetician, then to the nail tech and stopping by the gym on the way home for a “quick cardio session.”

In fact, if I remember right she only had her hair washed once a week. Then it was “set” by a lady down at the beauty parlor, and it lasted all week. That was the entirety of her beauty routine. I believe the only place we ever rushed to was the Community Cash grocery store when I wanted a snack (cheese popcorn and a Pepsi thank-you) before we sat down on Saturday evenings to catch up on what Sophia, Rose, Dorothy and Blanche were getting into on the Golden Girls.

A Woman on the Edge

Which brings me to where I am today -a woman on the edge! Vacillating between giving up all

semblance of trying to maintain a modicum of sex appeal or keeping up this fruitless trek to try

and hang onto a rapidly vanishing memory of my 25 year-old self! My husband claims I’m too vain

to throw in the towel, and he may be right; but I’m still willing to give it a try.

In fact, I think I’ll sit down tonight with a bag of cheese popcorn and a Pepsi and binge watch some

Golden Girls for inspiration. Blanche Devereaux may never have looked like Jennifer Lopez,

but she’s still the sexiest 50-year-old I’ve ever seen.

Thelma Harper, as Mama on Mama's Family, talking on the phone
Thelma Harper, as Mama on Mama's Family, talking on the phone