What Dictates Relevance?

Yesterday, I was actually able to sneak in 10 minutes to read the paper, joy!  While perusing through A&E section, there was a blurb about Madonna and her intention to debut a new album next year. Hmm, I wondered what she has been up to.  Her photo was nice, but she certainly wasn’t the young “Like a Virgin” singer that made heads turn and eyes roll back in the 80’s. Every calculated move she made was marketing brilliance, she was everywhere. And the more controversial she became, the more in demand she was, much like Lady Gaga today.  But as life happens, Madonna and the rest of us that sung along to her songs have gotten older and moved out of bustiers and in to more practical attire. It seems that once Madonna hit her 40’s, and had a couple of kids, that young, rebellious, material girl turned in to a responsible, though less marketable woman.


After all, what’s so scandalous about being a mom, writing children’s books and wearing more clothing?  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that she knew when to stop trying to be 20 and morph in to the role of Mom, business woman and author. It’s admirable, but somehow you find that with the decline of her popularity, age and status, so goes her relevance. Is it me, or is there something wrong with that?

Thinking about that took me back to high school. When I was in high school, I wasn’t popular. I was overweight, acne prone and though I tried to be friendly to everyone, I wasn’t popular, but did it make me any less relevant?  The interesting thing is that I never thought of it that way until now, almost two weeks before my 50th birthday. There seems to be so much emphasis on youth, beauty (weight)* and popularity, that moving in to your 40’s, 50’s and beyond seems to have made women less relevant, attractive, desirable, almost making  us less of a person in some way. How did that happen? In the American Indian culture, age is wisdom. The elders are revered and highly respected. But in our society, at every turn, we are fighting age or defying age to become more relevant. We’re starving ourselves to hang on to a youthful figure and ultimately feeling less than adequate. In fact, in 2009, Boomers spent 79 billion dollars on products and services that claim to slow the aging process—despite the fact that “most of those products and services don’t deliver what they claim to,” says Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA). Given that relevance should really be self-induced,  I think women especially, need to be careful not to fall in to the what pop culture defines as relevant, rather get back to your personal views, values, etc. that will ultimately create your own relevance.

There’s a great song by Brandi Carlile, I Was Meant for You. The lyrics of the song offer a positive look at aging,  “All of these lines across my face, tell you the story of who I am. So many stories of where I’ve been, and how I got to where I am.” It’s a testament to the importance of living a life full of experiences, embracing the aging process which rewards us with the wisdom necessary to more fully embrace life and not “sweat the small stuff.”

As we watch television commercials and flip through magazines, there is no doubt that young, sassy and svelte seem to be most relevant. And we’ve all been hoodwinked in to believing that, (based on what we’re spending to fight age and weight gain). Perhaps many of us didn’t even realize that we had changed (thanks to advertising) what we considered to be relevant or not.   Today’s hot commodity can be found on tomorrow’s sale rack. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my significance or importance being defined by Hollywood trends, and they are. The lines between reality and Hollywood have become blurred thanks to reality shows, everyone thinks they’re a Hollywood star. With that skewed belief comes the constant struggle to stay relevant with weight, youth and popularity- an exhausting way to live.

Ultimately, we have to believe in who we are and what we do every day to define our own relevance. Whether or not others find you relevant, shouldn’t matter. If you’re living a relevant life, being kind, giving back, strong character, exploring your talents, pursuing your dreams, whatever it is that allows you to be your best and passing that on to your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, students, etc.  that seems so much more relevant, don’t you think?  At the end of the day, do I want to be remembered for being hot in my 30’s (not that I was) or being a great friend, business woman, parent, philanthropist, etc.? I’m going with the latter.

I guess more than anything, I don’t want my children feeling they’re less relevant because they’re not on some crazy reality show (popular) or younger than 21 (youth) or wearing the size of the month. Relevance is what we make it. The less of an emphasis we put on trivial things like reality shows, or whatever flavor of the week is being featured on a magazine cover or being interviewed on a news show, the better we can get back to placing relevance where it should be. On the things that really matter, quality of life, family, friends, etc.

Rosa Parks said, “Each person must live their life as a model for others.”  There is no better teacher than action, and if I can live my life every day in a way that makes my children proud or makes them want to live their life a better person, that’s relevant to  me. Unfortunately, the really important things in life (in my opinion) have been overshadowed by media overload which places relevance on the superficial aspects life.

As I look to ease in to the second half of my life, I feel no less relevant that I was 20 or 30 years ago. In fact, I feel more relevant because I can bring more to the table in terms of experience. Make no mistake, I am still learning, I still have role models that I watch closely and though they may not necessarily be popular, young or skinny, they possess all the attributes that I find wonderfully relevant and have made an incredible impact on my life. And for that, I’m grateful.

*As a fitness professional, I have always emphasized healthy weight which does not tie you to a scale or jean size, rather a weight that allows a healthy, active lifestyle with healthy vitals. 


In health,





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