Words by Honor Tuttiett
I would like to talk about a somewhat missing narrative of the middle-aged woman. What happens to a woman after her kids have grown up or her career has tailed off? There seems to be a hole where this lady lies thanks to the media and a lot of literature, as they frequently miss her adventures. I want to hear about the journeys taken after the children have grown up, or the changes in direction that have led women to start inspiring new paths later in life. That will be me one day and the stories I see portrayed compared with the women I meet in life are not adding up.
Unfortunately the media rarely adjusts its view to the female’s differing stages in life, it largely presents stories for when we are young and attractive but past then I’m not sure what happens, do we get sent to a farm to live out our days knitting for Shreddies? You definitely can’t be a presenter for the BBC. The constant re branding of anti-aging products and celebrities getting surgery sends out a limiting impression of the aging process. What needs attention now is this constant view of how it is terrible to look ‘old’, it’s damaging and can leave us struggling with the consequences when it inevitably happens.
Here is a spoof advert excellently picking up on the restricted media aimed for middle-aged women.
When speaking with Katie, she highlighted that she is at a point in life where when she meets her friends they are constantly worrying about their age. As they approach forty the world’s focus on looking youthful makes this time more of a struggle, even women in their 20’s moan at birthdays. There isn’t enough positivity for a period that lasts for most of your life, we need to see the stories that can make you feel confident going through life’s changes.
After chatting the issue over with more women, a large issue seems to be the difficulty in defining middle age. Some people shy away from the word and become offended if called it. However, actually it is such a large chunk of our lives now thanks to modern medicine that we need to detoxify the expression! We came up with a bracket of forty-seventy as a good period to be called middle age.
In my opinion there seems to be few famous dialogues for women during this time starting fantastic ventures. The characters we receive are mother, grandmother, maiden aunt, spinster and the new rather alarming cougar. There doesn’t seem to be much in between these stereotypes however, in reality things are very different and many women achieve their greatest heights beyond the point of middle age. I have found that it’s usually a time for great change as you realise you have the time to do something different with your life.
Speaking to Claire, who had just left her life-long high-powered job to pursue different paths, she is in a position that I feel we should be seeing more representation of in the media. We sat about discussing the possibilities of her next move and it could have been anything. Angela another women in the discussion group said directed at Claire, “That’s the best age, because you are young enough to do anything” and it was true, so why aren’t we seeing it?
Another frequent theme that I’ve found within this age group is that they care a lot less about what others think of them now. Often speaking of silver linings such as becoming freer from the pressures placed on younger women and reaching a place where they know what they like and can be more themselves.
Angela, “This age is great because I can walk down the street and no one takes any notice which is different, but freeing. I also have the money I didn’t have when I was young”, “If I died next year, I’ve had my good life”.
The women I meet are full of life and acceptance of life’s different stages, we should be seeing a fuller picture of women’s aging so we stop feeling so uncomfortable when we don’t look 25. Angela has a common outlook that could be making everyone feel happier if shared more often.
However, there is also an issue with how we see older people as a society, when talking to Stella she shared with me a slightly different view of aging. Stella feels unfairly treated by politicians who tend to ignore the older generation, “Once you are not in work, you lose a lot of your identity. It becomes harder to define yourself without the roles you have been used to”. This is a problem for many that shouldn’t be. The inclusion instead of exclusion of people past the procreating stage is vital for them not to feel this loss of identity. Stella has just joined The National Pensioners Convention that fights for fair treatment of older people to help get her voice heard.
The women I sat down to talk with were in their forties to seventies. Many thanks to Katie, Angela, Claire and Stella for discussing with me and sharing your thoughts and stories. Our discussion has left me sure that sharing a fuller image of women at all ages, instead of excluding positive messages for women past a child bearing age would help us feel more comfortable with the inevitable changes in life and identity.
Share with us your story and let’s get the dialogue started!