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Peter Pan Moms: We Won’t Grow Up

Peter Pam does not wear a feather in her cap, but on nights out she might sport a fedora. She does favor Peter Pan-style belted tunics—as they elongate the leg—and unless her gams have met the laser, she loves her tights. Whether she tends to Wendys Michaels and Johns in the nursery, battles corporate crocs at a desk, or fights societal Captain Hooks, one thing is clear: Peter Pam really doesn’t want to grow up. 

We Peter Pams make the first-generation of hot moms, MILFS, and cougars. Congratulations and condolences to us. For the first time in modern history mainstream middle-age dresses Forever-21 and has a proclivity for behaving accordingly. Take, for example, the Facebook timeline. Peter Pams update our vanity avatars more often than we floss, alternating between a youthful headshot taken from above—always from above—and a peek at our latest ink. We channel our rock-star within on the dance floor, at the karaoke mic, and sometimes party a bit too much like it’s 1999. Make that 1989. Sun City has no idea what’s coming, but they better amp up their WiFi, add tattoo artist to their spas, and start training their DJs.

Once a vanity reserved for celebrities, now the illusion of forever (lifted, rejuvenated, deveined) young falls within reach of the masses.  During their hot mom years our Grandmas wore modest dresses and stockings. Mom wore “mom-jeans” because that’s how jeans came—high in the waist and ample in the hips. The only women in America getting routine plastic surgery lived in Beverly Hills or could afford to. As kids we occasionally begged off of our mothers (and fathers) wardrobes, but they certainly didn’t beg off ours. Maybe—maybe—a classmate mentioned “your mom is pretty” but MILF? An unthinkable moniker, and for those who did think about it certainly not celebrated aloud. We called our friends’ parents and our parents’ friends Mr. and Mrs; The line between parent and child, teen and adult, and those who should and should not wear minidresses seemed obvious. When Dirty Dancing came out, we certainly hadn’t seen our parents doing anything remotely like it at auntie’s wedding.

I fear that Peter Pams—as we joust with standards of hardbodies, wrinkle-free foreheads, full manes of no-greys (and nary-a-hair-elsewhere)—created our own hawt purgatory,  NeverNeverEVERLand. I foresee us clenching our hot-mom sashes and stilettos in arthritic joints, instead of gracefully handing them over to the next generation in exchange for Clark’s Wallabees and elastic-waist pants. I fear a dance-off at BlogHer 2060: The PeterPams vs. the new generation Lost Girls, indistinguishable from one another under the strobe lights, save for our hunched backs, special edition large-print badges, and for a few of us Spanks mistakenly worn over our Skinny Slacks ™.

Our grandmas couldn’t conceive of this  NeverNeverEVER Land. Our moms fought too hard to be taken seriously to risk wearing pants that showed crack. Legs got shaved—maybe armpits—but if my crotch-height memories serve me correctly, our moms worried even less about their bikini lines than they did about the rubber swimcaps suctioned to their natural salt-and-pepper hairdos. While sometimes I revel in my Peter Pam rebellion of middle age, I also wonder how long I can keep it up. Instead of using our real life matriarchs as role models or adopting the Women’s Studies 101 ideals we once tormented our loved ones with around the dinner table, Peter Pam desperately searches for ways to look less and less MOM.

My Mom has always dressed and behaved beautifully and age-appropriately (at least in public and so far as I know). She exercises for good health, not for hard abs (which neither she nor any prior generation sought, nor even found attractive). Growing up, I never heard her complain about her body, nor lament its aging. I hope that we Peter Pams figure out how to marry our vanity with our aging bodies, and obsess less over how our bodies look and shift our focus on to gratitude for how well they (hopefully) still work. I hope we learn to share the spotlight and know when the time comes to sit in the audience and clap when Tinkerbell gets her first url. Most of all, I hope that we embrace the softness of our laps while our Wendys Michaels and Johns still want to sit in them.

40 comments… add one

  • highlyirritable September 25, 2012, 12:59 pm

    Beautiful, Ann.

    I’m all for keeping oneself healthy and clean, but beyond that? Eh. Who can be bothered? I have *stuff* to do. (And if “stuff” means playing Solitaire on the iPod or hiding from children wielding board games and appetites, then so be it.

    I don’t understand these Peter Pams, and feel a bit sad for them, truthfully. My favourite people are those who allow themselves to age with grace and dignity, and not plastic fillers and poor attitudes.

    One of the best and most sincere compliments I’ve ever received came from my sister’s step-daughter, who, when she hugged me hello, remarked that I was “Squishy – just like her mom.”

  • Nancy Davis Kho September 25, 2012, 1:11 pm

    Honey you are singing my song. I don’t want to be Peter Pam but neither do I want to be Nana the babysitting dog. Relevance vs. Dignity – must it be either or? I’ll let you know right after I go to my next indie band concert wearing my reading glasses and orthopedic shoes.

    Love the image of BlogHer 2060. Both packs of dames will have light sticks, but only the Peter Pams will be using theirs to read by.

  • Lisa Page Rosenberg September 25, 2012, 1:14 pm

    YES.

  • Shannon September 25, 2012, 1:26 pm

    Hi, I’m new here in the comment section, but really enjoyed your post and wanted to let you know it!
    You know, I was shopping earlier today and thoughts similar to the ones you have written so effectively were running through my head.
    I’m not ready for “mom-jeans” but I don’t want to wear skinny jeans either. Me, in skinny jeans, nobody really wants that.
    I want to be lively and enthusiastic, just not to loud music under strobe lights.
    I want to be stylish and classy, both in dress and in spirit. Those don’t have to be synonyms for old, right?

  • Ann Imig September 25, 2012, 1:41 pm

    Hey, Shannon! Welcome. I think ‘stylish’ and ‘classy’ are much more appropriate and attainable than the ‘hot’ or ‘sexy’ ideals I’m still susceptible to.

  • Rene Foran September 25, 2012, 1:57 pm

    I am such a Peter Pam. I own that. I’ll be 50 in 5 months. I can’t even tell you how much that boggles my mind.

  • tracy@sellabitmum September 25, 2012, 2:07 pm

    I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry – but both will give me the ugly face and more lines. Fuck.

  • Elly September 25, 2012, 2:21 pm

    HA! I blame my next two wrinkles on this comment.

  • dusty earth mother September 25, 2012, 2:08 pm

    Oh. This was so so so good. So good. Wow, Ann.

  • Alicia @ Naps Happen September 25, 2012, 2:27 pm

    As I approach my 40th this month, this topic is so much on my mind! I also blame the epidemic of low-rider jeans on the explosion of muffin top complaints. One problem appears to spawn another! Great post.

  • Malady September 25, 2012, 2:30 pm

    crotch-height memories.

    (choking with laughter!)

  • Suzy September 25, 2012, 2:52 pm

    I’m a proud Peter Pam but then again I live in LA and we’re all Peter Pams out here. I think women age more quickly when they let the whole thing go to pot. (not the smoking kind but maybe that would be a good thing?) I see women who are 47 who look 57 and the 57 year olds are picking out cemetery plots.

    My mom was French so the Peter Pamness was built in. But I never heard her complain about aging or her face. My sister and I think she’s nuts. Bien sur.

  • The Mommy Therapy September 25, 2012, 2:56 pm

    I just found myself in Forever 21 for over an hour picking out shirts, dresses, and pants that I was sure would love “cute” on me. I spent the next 30 minutes laughing hysterically and being genuinely confused about how to get in to certain articles of clothing. I do this annually, right before I head on over to Ann Taylor Loft for a knee length knit dress and some cargo capris.

    Great post!

  • Wendi September 25, 2012, 3:37 pm

    This is spot on, Ann. I’ve felt completely ridiculous many times upon realizing I’m wearing clothes my mother never would have worn at my age. There are many reasons for this, of course, times change, we have cheaper clothing choices, hair dye is more accessible, etc. But at least we’re not as ridiculous as 50 year old men in skate board shorts.

  • Liz @ PeaceLoveGuac September 25, 2012, 3:37 pm

    This rings so true, Ann.

    I can’t wait to see you at BlogHer 2060…it’s in Florida, right?

  • The Empress September 25, 2012, 4:23 pm

    I feel like I just sat with someone and spoke of things that count.

    Not the surface, but the deep down we feel we have to hold in.

    Why?

    I don’t know, but we can’t be the only ones thinking these things: look at the comments.

    Thank you, Ann .. for, again, helping me feel less alone in my solitary thoughts.

    xo

  • julie gardner September 25, 2012, 4:46 pm

    Word.

  • Cheryl September 25, 2012, 5:43 pm

    I simply adore you, your honesty, and your integrity. My heart did a little somersault when I read this for so many reasons, none of which I can properly articulate here. The one word that comes to mind is HOPE.

    Thank you for this, Ann.

  • Fragrant Liar September 25, 2012, 6:30 pm

    We only THOUGHT we’d be struggling to stay youthful into our 30s and post-babies. Little did we know that even into midlife and beyond, we’d still be working hard at it, for the most part, successfully. One of these days, I figure, it won’t matter to me anymore. But then again, that’s what I thought in my 30s . . .

  • Kristi Pohl September 25, 2012, 7:00 pm

    Having just hit 50, I accept that I will only shop the house section of Anthropologie, feathers and extensions have no place in my hair, and it’s really not hard to find comfy shoes that are acceptable to wear to pick up my kid at high school. Love your post!

  • The Flying Chalupa September 25, 2012, 8:35 pm

    Good god, woman, I’m loving this and picturing you crotch-height next to your mom. The Peter Pam analogy – brilliant. But are you saying I should be shopping at Chico’s? Because I draw the line at Chico’s. I think I need to go back and read your Anthropologie Post. And start hanging out at Bebe.

    This was a truly wonderful effort, one of your best.

  • Lisa @lybliss September 25, 2012, 8:55 pm

    I love this post.. however…I also don’t want to subscribe to the ethos that I must cut my hair once I reach a certain age, that singlet tops are for under thirties and that age-appropriate clothing can be dictated by.. well, age. I think we can wear what we like, what is comfortable and what makes us feel like us ( which is different to trying to attract our teenage son’s friends ewww).. I sincerely hope the upcoming generation cares less about ousting us from our thrones and more about accepting us as women who might actually have some knowledge and wisdom to share, who discovered sex before they re-’invented’ it, who have battled with body image and come out the other side.
    I’m not a MILF, not because I am unattractive but because these goodies aren’t on sale to anyone under the age of 40. It has to be advertised in the junior car-yard for the young boys to think they can buy it..

  • Sherri September 25, 2012, 9:36 pm

    Ann? I love this post…LOVE IT.

    I have wondered at what point now our generation accepts regular signs of aging and doesn’t immediately assume we will”do something” about it.

    You are brilliant.

  • Elaine A. September 25, 2012, 9:50 pm

    Oh my gosh, the picture in my head of us all at BlogHer 2060!!

    And that last sentence, it’s perfect.

    Funny, eloquent and sweet post. Amazing how you did it all… :)

  • Stephanie Precourt September 26, 2012, 5:13 am

    Love love.

    Steph

  • Heather EO September 26, 2012, 6:10 am

    brilliant. I LOVE YOU.

    I get to see you…

    TOMORROOOOW. and I could weep with happy that I get to know you in all our embracing growing old years.

  • Becky September 26, 2012, 7:08 am

    Now do I get credit for my Dansko’s even if I keep the grays away and refuse to give up Old Navy for Chico’s?

    I’m a Peter Pam and proud of it. I think…

  • Andrea September 26, 2012, 8:16 am

    I just love this post! I laughed, I cried as I realized these thing were swirling in my head, but i couldn’t figure them out, as perhaps I was busy lamenting not being a MILF, and wondering if my daughter wants to be be more or less hip…and how I would go about finding out what hip is!

  • Anna Lefler September 26, 2012, 9:25 am

    I look forward to throwing in the towel! Whee!

    XOXO

    A.

  • Hope September 26, 2012, 10:55 am

    You know, back in the late 80s, I had this idea that eventually I’d ease into Eileen Fisher–you know, natural fibers, elasticized waists, shapeless tops–with relief at some point after 45 or 50 like the other older women (mostly therapists, as it happened, can’t say why) I admired. Now I’m almost 50 and I can’t do it. Even if I could, Eileen Fisher is no longer Wealthy Middle Aged Mom/Therapist. Now she’s a Pam, too.

  • Kate Coveny Hood September 27, 2012, 12:44 pm

    Oh I love this one… Every once in a while (usually after a shower when I forget to avert my eyes and get an view of my bare backside in the mirror) I think “okay – this is it – I’m officially embracing middle age. It is TIME.” Then I wimp out and put on some mascara and lip gloss, deciding that “it is time…to THINK about embracing middle age…what’s the rush?” I don’t do miniskirts anymore – but I’m definitely not ready for mom jeans.

  • Peyton Price September 28, 2012, 3:56 pm

    sigh.

  • Jessica Watson September 29, 2012, 5:07 pm

    Perfect.

  • Lady Jennie October 1, 2012, 3:37 am

    There is no way I’m a Peter Pam on the outside, but I might just be on the inside. I often sit with my arms folded and think, “I won’t grow up. I don’t want to wear a tie. Or a serious expression. In the middle of July.”

  • Heidi October 2, 2012, 5:48 pm

    I want to yell “Hell yes!” So. A big hell yes to you. I loved this, Ann. The honesty, the funny, the beauty (because this is a beautiful post) and the truth. Loved.

  • Muhammad Zahid Iqbal October 5, 2012, 7:17 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog October 5, 2012, 8:00 am

    Hmmmmm…. The older I get, the more I think that our own moms may HAVE been screaming on the inside “I am still YOUNG!” and that they just didn’t have a society that would have accepted them as being desirable. I know that I PERSONALLY don’t feel my age. I don’t think I ever will. I also know that 50 doesn’t sound old anymore. Neither does 60. If a woman can pull off a look at those ages, there shouldn’t be any reason for her to dress any way she feels comfortable.

    I am definitely a moderate Peter Pam. Maybe it’s due to the fact that I got married at 21 and had my first baby at 22? I didn’t have the twenty-something years of living it large like most women did these days. I am finally living it up NOW, at 36!

  • Muhammad Zahid Iqbal October 9, 2012, 4:26 am

    I don’t understand these Peter Pams, and feel a bit sad for them, truthfully.Salicylic Acid My favourite people are those who allow themselves to age with grace and dignity, and not plastic fillers and poor attitudes.

  • Anonymous October 16, 2012, 12:38 pm

    I have never commented on your blog but readit often and think you are brilliant, funny/FUNNY and incredibly compassionate and caring. This post is so right on. Thank you for sharing yourself here. Joanne

  • Mallory October 29, 2012, 9:41 am

    Peter Pam is a great word for it! I have been noticing this phenomenon for a while. 40-something moms on facebook who dress like their teenage daughters and have albums that mostly consist of their girls’ trips to the beach, involving other Peter Pams wearing halter tops in bars. Sad.
    Where is that maternal mom who was okay with her hips spreading a little? A lady with a classy sense of style that still felt warm and mature. I saw moms in my mom’s generation as sources of stability and wisdom. These teenage-wanna-be’s seem to exude regret and broken dreams.

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