I’m having a marvellous midlife crisis.
It involves wrapping my hands around something long and hard. (Minds out of the gutter: this is not another confession.)
Behold my electric guitar.
As you can tell from the t-shirt, my musical tastes haven’t moved much past punk. So I was somewhat bemused when a colleague said I was “trying to impress the Gen Ys” when I wore this outfit to work at 2UE.
Memo, young man: I don’t give a flying funk what you think about me; I wear this t-shirt because I like it.
It’s one of the wonderful things about getting older.
And I’m not the only one.
According to a new study of more than 4000 Australian and New Zealand women over the age of 40, the vast majority don’t feel defined by their age: almost 9 out of 10 feel younger than their years; 3 in 10 feel “a lot” younger.
It seems to be a golden stage, for women of a certain age.
“You become comfortable in your own skin,” 58-year-old Karen Chaston, from Sydney, says. “Nothing bothers us any more.”
She gave up an unsatisfying corporate job to create BraveHeart Women Australia, writing a series of books to inspire others.
“I’m doing more things than I’ve ever done before, because I always say ‘yes’ to everything,” she says.
Women like Karen are vibrant, smart, and full of character. So why do we still see ourselves misrepresented in popular culture?
“Old, elderly, unimportant, frumpy, dowdy and unfashionable” are the words used by women in the survey, to describe media depictions of them.
In film, TV, magazines and online, we’re told we should look younger; ageing is seen as unnatural.
While three quarters of those surveyed want to see women their age represented appropriately, 8 in 10 say this isn’t happening.
Sadly, 78 per cent say they’ve felt “invisible” when engaging outside their circle of family and friends.
Almost a third feel discriminated against because of their age.
“For women in particular, ageism is the new sexism,” Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan says.
Karen says she was invisible in corporate life, excluded from male-dominated conversations about the footy.
It’s something I’ve struggled with, too, after losing my full-time TV job due to discrimination.
You’re left feeling worthless, as if your experience isn’t valued.
Then you choose between fight and flight.
Frankly, it lit a fire in my belly that will never go out.
Karen joined the Seeing Me Project, part of a pledge to use customers in advertising by fashion brand Millers, which conducted the survey.
“Over the years we’ve struggled to find models through the usual casting agencies, and we’ve always wondered why this age group is so under-represented,” brand director Jane McNally says.
“These women have given life, love and care to others for decades, and they’re not embarrassed about their age or how they look.”
It’s about time.
If companies want to sell their widgets to:
a) women, who make around 80 per cent of household purchasing decisions, and
b) people over the age of 65, whose ranks will more than double by the year 2055
… they need to show real older women in their advertising campaigns.
Because, you know what? A midlife crisis isn’t all about running off with the pool guy. (Especially if, like me, you don’t have a pool.)
It’s about rediscovering what you enjoyed in your youth: a midlife renaissance, if you will.
Some of my friends are training to be yoga instructors; others are doing their PhDs; one is fooling around with a much younger man.
But, “a lot of what we know about women at midlife is still yet to be learned,” Dawn Carr PhD, a research scientist on ageing for Stanford University, says.
This is because most midlife research is done on men.
For my part, I’m researching how to play Californication, Best of You, and Smells Like Teen Spirit on the electric guitar.
Feel free to call me names – mutton dressed up as lamb, wannabe cougar, or teen granny.
I don’t care what you think.
After one young colleague criticised my sartorial choice, another led me into an audio booth containing her Ramones collection.
We played I Wanna Be Sedated, Sheena is a Punk Rocker and Blitzkrieg Bop. LOUD!
Why not wrap your hands around something long and hard for your midlife crisis?