Of middling greyness

The repellant thing about blogging, for me, tends to be an inherent reliance on the personal pronoun, and it’s this that keeps me from adding my boring written bits to the void. However, an article I’ve just read about certain ageist reactions to the grey-haired presenter of a TV show I’ve never seen spurs me to attention.

It seems the rather precious reviewer A. A. Gill takes umbrage at a less-than-Hollywood female face on the box. It’s his schtick, having a go at unattractive women, particularly when they’re smarter than he. (“Dyke on a bike”, anyone?) Mary Beard is a woman in her late 50s who looks her age. She responded by calling Gill uneducated. Perhaps she shouldn’t have? Who cares?

A shaggy mop of grey hair on a television presenter’s head. What a vision to celebrate! What comparable older woman is on Australian TV? My televised horticultural hero has a magnificent, unkempt beard, but he’s a bloke. Where, on screen, are the older Aussie women who don’t fit the Botox mold? It’s been said before, yes, but things remain static: we still don’t see realistic older women on our screens. They’re everywhere off-screen, but on? No wonder there’s a generation or two who seem to think that the struggle to keep looking like a 25-year-old is compulsory, like baking the perfect cake for a first birthday party, or making fun of people who choose to wear Crocs.

The link to this article itself came from a woman who is a personal hero (and whose career it would be easy to covet), Lee Tulloch. As a baby editor in the late 1990s, I had a delightful phone interview with Ms Tulloch that probably exhausted the magazine’s telephone budget for the year. She indulged me for over two hours, talking about writing and publishing. An inspiration. And an inspiration still, despite being over the age celebrated by certain mainstream celebrity fandom. (What is that age? 29?)

I have no problem with youthful looks, or those who strive to look young, or those who use cosmetic means. “Some of my best friends…” etc. Ageing is a personal prerogative. So is image. But it’s a choice. And how one decides to look should be their choice, not social prescription. PARTICULARLY within the media, because guess what? Some of us women choose to look our age. And some of us even want to see some REALISTIC women in the media. Of all ages. With wrinkles. And some saggy bits. And lovely, natural grey hair, please. But that doesn’t sell cosmetics or surgery. Insecurity does.

I am middle aged. If, judging by the genetic prescription I’ve been delivered and the general health I try to maintain, I make it to an age I hope for (somewhere above 80), then I’m about half way. Which is another way of saying “middle”. But some women I speak with shudder if I use the term.

At 41, I am greying a little at the temples. AWESOMENESS!!! My hairdresser and I figure it’s only another five years or so before I have my racing stripes. This excites me greatly. I like the way I look now more than I ever have before in my life. I see gorgeous women in their 40s and 50s and 60s and 70s and 90s all around me. (Wish I knew some octogenarians.) But I don’t see similar faces on television very often. All I see is sameness. Same foreheads. Same lips.

Yesterday, at a kids’ party, I was discussing age with a couple of awesome women (not quite as middle-aged as me, but nearly). How we relate to 20-somethings, professionally. And specifically, how many view us, because we tend to assume peerage, and sometimes it’s a shock when that’s not reciprocated.

Older women, to younger generations, are often marginalised, judged on (pseudo-youthful) appearance, or ignored – much less than older men are. And the way that older women appear in the media must have something to do with that. Because, tragically, exposure brings validation. Just look at that virus called Kardashian. Or try not to, like I do.