Photo-Worthy Images of Mature Female Friendships

Photo-Worthy Images of Mature Female Friendships

What characterizes today’s over-forty, female friendships? Here’s a checklist to make sure you’re not putting us out to pasture in our prime.

When did drinking tea become the international symbol for women over forty? To judge by photos of “mature female friendships” (a surprisingly popular search term), you’d think that once women hit a certain age, it’s all about getting together over a mug of tea. Is it that tea has a warm, soothing, grandmotherly connotation? “Just have a tea, love, it’ll all be alright.” Is it that tea is less sexy than its more millennial coffee-cousin? Is it that tea is the type of drink people tend to linger over when they’ve got nothing but time on their hands? I think so. And, I think that’s why we attribute excessive tea drinking to mature female friendships.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love tea and completely understand that in many countries it’s a cultural institution, which brings people and communities together. Good on you, tea drinkers! Carry on! But, to assume that once all ladies hit a certain age, they’ll not be separated from their mugs of tea perpetuates myths about the type of lives they must lead. 

Image via Shutterstock’s Mature Women Friends Collection.

Let me spell it out a bit more clearly. I’m fifty and I drink coffee. Decaf, but still. It’s usually in a to-go vessel of some sort because I’ve got places to be. And, it tends not to be a moment I share with other women because, like most of my contemporaries, I work a ton and am a parent to teenagers, so who’s got the time?? Also, there’s nothing terribly cozy about my coffee ritual. It’s basically just the psychological jolt I need to jump on my treadmill of life and start running again. To put it another way and quote my favorite scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “I’m not dead.” Sure, I may look a tad weathered, but I’m full of life.

What I want to know is, where are the pictures of women over forty engaging in our lives? Sure, it’s easy to find pictures of us gazing adoringly on our kids, spending endless hours with our golden gal pals in yoga pants, wincing at our wrinkles in the mirror, doing a crossword puzzle with our readers half-way down our noses and, yes, drinking tea. But, that’s not an accurate representation of what modern post-forty life looks like for me and my friends.

What’s more, showing this kind of imagery perpetuates ageist stereotypes that can contribute to depression. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women ages forty to fifty-nine have the highest rate of depression of any group based on age and gender in the U.S. If purpose is what gives people their get-up-and-go, then living a purposeless existence—as depicted in so many images of mature female friendships—screams roll over and die.

Image via Shutterstock’s Mature Women Friends Collection.

Of course, most of my mature gal pals do love yoga, hate their crow’s feet, and are constantly sliding their readers up their nose. But their lives are far greater than that. They’re on the move—traveling to places they finally have the financial means to go to, marching in rallies, dressing up for get-togethers or work events, going to concerts or playing in bands themselves, leading meetings, skydiving, or doing pretty much the same damn things everyone else does. 

Still unsure of what characterizes today’s over-forty female friendships? Here’s a checklist you can use to make sure you’re not putting us out to pasture in our prime:

Be Accurate

Friends Riding BicyclesWoman in GardenImages via Shutterstock’s Mature Women Friends Collection.

If the content you’re pulling images for is about mature women, don’t reflexively pick people who look stereotypically old. When in doubt, think of matching the image to the spirit of the subjects, rather than their calendar ages.

Don’t Put Mama/Grandma in the Corner

Middle-Aged FriendsBusinesswomanImages via Shutterstock’s Mature Women Friends Collection.

If the subjects are over forty, display them prominently and triumphantly. Not lurking in the shadows behind their loved ones. Close to retirement age doesn’t mean retiring.

Think Outside the Mug

Senior WomanDinner PartyWomen Having FunImages via Shutterstock’s Mature Women Friends Collection.

We ladies over forty like hot beverages, but we also like riding motorcycles, partying, and being silly (think bring-it accessories, because we’ve outgrown caring what society thinks about us, hallelujah). I’d urge you to think outside the wine glass, too. Yes, the forty-plus set likes to unwind and socialize around booze, but the imagery is becoming almost as expected as the mug of tea. And, it’s dangerous. Why don’t our institutions allow us the kind of lives where we have ways to unwind and de-stress other than with alcohol? Cue rant for another time.

Consider Diversity

Women HikingImages via Shutterstock’s Mature Women Friends Collection.

Women over forty don’t solely hang out with other women who look exactly like them. And we don’t just hang out with our kids and grandkids, either. As we age, our circles contract a bit (both for lack of time and lack of patience for people we don’t really enjoy), but they tend to contain people who have expanded our world views, not limited it. That generally means other races, ages, and genders.

Use Humor, but Don’t Get Stupid

Blowing BubblesImages via Shutterstock’s Mature Women Friends Collection.

Us later-in-life ladies like to have fun. But, we don’t tend to erupt spontaneously into dance and throw our hands in the air like we just don’t care. While we like to do wacky things as much as the next gal, we tend to do them when there’s an obvious reason to do them. Say, dancing at a wedding or waving our hands at a concert.

Go for “Real” Emotion

Elderly Woman on PhoneSenior Females TalkingImages via Shutterstock’s Mature Women Friends Collection.

Yes, we all like pictures of smiling, happy people. But, to me, pictures of mature women grinning wildly (unless they just won a round-trip ticket to Paris or found out they were getting a refund from the IRS) seem like a subtle over-compensation. They imply that the only way to overcome the depressing prospect of getting old is to maniacally smile it away.

Like any demographic, “age” is both descriptive and limiting. Why might mature women friends be any different than young women friends? Maybe they aren’t. When I searched images of “female friendships,” there were fewer mugs of tea and many more iPhones and scissor fingers. Ironically, they looked a lot more like what I see my “mature” female friends posting on their Instagram feeds.

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Cover image via Rus Limon.

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