Gloria Steinem turned 50 and said being 50 now is like 40 used to be. The quote was widely publicized and everyone I know this side of 50 took a lot of comfort in it. Steinem, it turns out, wasn't the only one who felt that aging isn't nearly as horrid for women as it is cracked up to be.

Woman's Day magazine and the Avon Corp. teamed up to do a poll on how women feel about aging, and the result from the 499 women over 21, in a nutshell, was that the vast majority feel just fine. On a Bo Derek scale of one to 10, women of all ages in the survey gave themselves a 6.5 on average. Women under 35 gave themselves a 6.8, women 35 to 49 gave themselves a 6.6, and women 50 and older gave themselves a 6. Only 12 percent of the women polled said they had ever worried about losing a boyfriend or husband to a younger woman, and only 17 percent said that growing older was something they worried about a lot. A mere 12 percent said that being attractive to men was something that they worried about a lot, and only 20 percent believed that looking younger was an important factor in being attractive to men.

Topping women's list of worries was their health, followed by their weight, physical appearance, having a job they liked, having a job that pays better, and being too old to accomplish what they would like to accomplish in life.

The women seemed unconcerned about their own aging and about the ages of other people. For example, 76 percent said they would not be bothered if they saw a woman dating or married to a much younger man, and a resounding 83 percent said they would not be bothered seeing a man dating or married to a much younger woman.

Ellen Levine, editor of Woman's Day, said the survey grew out of a phenomenon at the magazine. "We were sitting in the office and somebody was turning 30 and somebody was turning 40 and somebody was turning 50 and nobody was crying. And we said, 'Let's find out what other women are thinking.'

"Women are feeling a lot better about aging. It is really a part of the fabric of everything that's happening. Women have more choices now, and they don't have to rely on their face and their body because they are valued by themselves and by others for qualities other than their youth and their physical beauty."

Eighty-eight percent of the women say they never lie about their age. Yet 85 percent say they like it when someone says they look younger than they really are, and more than half say that they work hard at looking attractive. About three-quarters are watching their weight and the way they dress, 59 percent are exercising, 32 percent are coloring their hair, 64 percent are using skin creams and 18 percent are using anti-aging products.

Gail Blanke, vice president for communications at Avon, said the results did not surprise the company. "We've had the feeling for some time that women are feeling better about themselves. The fact they don't lie about their age {is} because they feel so good about themselves. They feel good about how they look. The reason they feel good about how they look is that they are taking such good care of themselves. They are exercising, they are eating the right food and taking care of their skin. In the cosmetics industry, the skin care category is the fastest-growing category. Women think of skin creams not as a luxury but a necessity and they are using them. So who cares how old you are if you look wonderful?

"Women are more interested in what they are doing and what they are accomplishing than they have been in the past. They are taking risks. They are judging themselves according to their own priorities, and they have the courage to set those priorities for themselves. Among those priorities is taking control of their lives and making the decisions as to how they are going to be happy."

The attitudes in the survey reflect the profound changes in the way women look at life. "Women are just not afraid anymore" is the way Blanke puts it. "They are not afraid of making mistakes. They are not afraid of what other people think. The most important judge in their lives is themselves.

"Over the last 10 years the number of self-employed women has increased at twice the rate of men. Women are feeling good enough about themselves to take the risks and learn new skills they want to learn. You don't have to hang on to a particular age, a particular look. You can keep on moving, keep on changing, keep on growing. It's possible that age could become, even for a woman, irrelevant."

That's my kind of survey.