A couple of months ago, I promised to write more articles on the topic of ageing. I have been truly surprised and touched at the engagement and response my posts have received, primarily from women who are feeling what so many of us feel when we reach upper middle age – that we are on the scrap heap, that there is no hope.
I think that in many ways, us women have a raw deal when we inch over 50. Our children have left home and have families of their own. Even in today’s society, women still do more of the work at home and are still usually the primary caregiver, so we tend to miss the children in a different way when they leave. At the same time our bodies lurch into menopause, which catapults us into biological and psychological chaos. Sweats, mood-swings, hairs growing where they shouldn’t, spots, weight gain, while every part of our bodies seeming to migrate to somewhere else where it either hurts or looks awful. Simultaneously, society as well as biology starts telling us we are no longer attractive or fertile. This biological reminder that our body is slowly shutting down is something that men don’t really have to deal with. They are fertile as long as they live, and society considers them valuable and attractive to a higher age than women, even with dad bods and thinning hairlines.
When it comes to divorce in middle age, women often get the shorter straw, in that men’s future dating pools are acceptably much wider than women’s. Society accepts a man with a younger partner more than it does a female with a younger partner. Men can go on to create second families. Their grey hairs and lines are considered distinguished and wise, while women are faced with social media streams of celebrities our ages filled, botoxed and lifted until they are unrecognisable.
So this triple whammy of our bodies, our minds, and society telling us we are over the hill and far past it can lead to us feeling that there is no hope for us. No promotions at work, no exciting new jobs, no men sweeping us off our feet, no pretty clothes that fit and look good. At the same time the magnifying mirrors we now need because of our bad eyesight, trumpet our every wrinkle and rogue chin-whisker.
But there is some good in it – as we grow older we care less about what people think, and there is more of a selection available now in terms of skin care and clothing choices for older women than there were ten years ago. Still not enough, but that strong grey pound – or dollar – is something that businesses are starting to wake up and pay attention to. We are the first generation of working women who have enough financial power to make big brands sit up and notice. We are able to support ourselves, so have been able to divorce and leave unhappy relationships – unlike previous generations of women who were reliant on men for financial support. We can be more demanding when it comes to relationships, because we don’t need a man to support us. And many of us are happily single without being pariahs in our social circles. There is a long way to go, but we have come so far compared to previous generations.
And on the private side, there is hope. I know several widowed mature people who have recently found new love after tragic loss. And several more women in their fifties who have begun relationships of a more or less serious variety. I have also been looking around me at women in trendy shops, fashion markets, makeup stores, and more and more of them are on the older side. And still looking fabulous. Once again, not as many as there should be – the proof of that being that they really stand out – but it is a jolly good start.