Disrupt aging: Today's grandmas smash the stereotype... even when embracing it

Disclosure: This post made possible with support from AARP's Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own.

When I first started my blog in 2009, one of the "editorial guidelines" I set for myself was that I would not post photos of myself on my website. At that time I had been a grandma for a little over a year, and in those twelve-plus months, when I shared my grandma status with strangers—retail clerks, random folks encountered while out and about, friends-in-the-making, and so forth—I was more often than not met with the comment, "You don't look like a grandma."

As a goal for my blog was to establish myself as a go-to guide for all things related to the grandmother lifestyle, I determined that—based on such comments—posting pictures of myself might diminish my grandma cred. Readers would surely reason, I figured, that if I don't look like a grandma, I must not be a grandma. At least not a credible grandma who knows what she's talking about.

Hence no photos of myself.

At first.

It didn't take long for me to call B.S. on that bunch of baloney and start sharing selfies and other shots. I did look like a grandma and I did know what I was talking about—because I was a grandma, am a grandma.

Besides, I asked myself, what the heck are grandmas supposed to look like anyway? Then I asked Google. The response included the following images at the top of the list (actual photos excluded here in defense of real grandmothers depicted in unflattering shots):

Now, I'm a Google fan. Yet such results seem a Google fail of egregious degree. I look nothing like those caricatures. Nor do any grandmas I know. In fact, a sampling of photos from my Grilled Grandma Q&A feature reveals exactly what today's grandmas do look like:

There's nothing stereotypical about them, about us. Today's grandmas have short hair, long hair, somewhere in between hair. Some gladly go gray, some choose other colors (natural or not). Buns, bangs, chic, shag, glasses or spectacle-free, today's grandmas go for what suits their individual styles. And if that style means a gray bun and granny glasses such as those in Google graphics, so be it; kudos to retro-cool grandmas smashing a stereotype by embracing it.

Today's grandmas eschew stereotypical shoulds and should nots in clothing choices, too. It's absurd to think today's grandmothers might have a dress code of sorts (housecoats? support hose?) when today's women of every age and every stage are free to be as fashionable—or not—as they see fit... for themselves. Grandchildren change a woman's heart, not how she chooses to dress.

The grandma stereotype unfortunately extends well beyond how we look and dress, though. Common knowledge goes that grandmas busy themselves baking cookies, overfeeding family, knitting in their rockers, all the while being on standby for babysitting beloved babes at an adult child's beck and call.

Careers? Grandmas don't have those. Hobbies and interests? How could they when they have family to care for? Goals, dreams, passions, pursuits? Get outta here.

Wrong, wrong, wrong! If anything, today's grandmas place high priority on nurturing their own needs, pursuing their own passions, plans, personal life goals.

Contrary to popular belief, many grandmothers work outside the home. The average age a woman becomes a grandmother is 47—a far cry from retirement age—providing plenty of time to continue reaching career goals, financial ambitions in their field. For those who are retired, a fair share of grandmothers reversed their roles and goals upon leaving the workforce, choosing to embrace the opportunity to focus on hearth and home, family and grandchildren. Others turn retirement years into second careers, entering new fields or embarking on entrepreneurial or educational adventures.

And gads of today's grandmas, working or not, raise their voices for social change and charitable causes. They seek adventure and athletic challenges, cultivate artistic cravings, focus on feeding their souls, find enrichment in solitude, serve others in their families, communities, countries. Plus countless other acts of courage far removed from comfort zones.

That said, plenty of today's grandmas do find comfort in pastimes typically attributed to grandmothers—quilting, crocheting, crafting, cooking, baking—albeit in numbers likely comparable to non-grandma counterparts in their age group. Common interests are often a generational thing, not a grandma thing.

Today's grandmas are a diverse lot. We aspire to no preset grandma goals or reaching some across-the-board grandma bar. Our sole overall similarity is having grandchildren we love to our core, while personalized grandma names and grandma games set us apart.

Yet as one grand demographic, today's grandmas together disrupt aging simply by appreciating, embracing, and acting on all that we as individuals are. And what we are is infinitely so much more than what outdated—outrageous—stereotypes suggest.

Learn more about AARP's #DisruptAging movement—perhaps even share your own story—at DisruptAging.org.

Disclosure: This post made possible with support from AARP's Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own.