Saturday, March 31, 2012

Revenge of the Invisible

Young geniuses are everywhere. This week, New York Magazine announced the arrival a 25-year-old female showrunner for HBO's new show, Girls, with a spectacular cover story. I read the article today, right on the heels of watching Oprah's interview with Lady Gaga, another astonishing 25-year-old who's accomplished more in the last five years than I feel like I have in my entire life.

Why these occurrences should feel like such a punch in the chest mystifies me, as I certainly have a lot to be proud of, but it's most likely because I'm now at the tender age of 53, which in this culture threatens a development most foul, and one every woman dreads with the passing of each decade--that one day soon I'll be completely and utterly invisible, and my dear-to-my-heart work will be irrelevant. To whom? To 18- to 39-year-olds, of course, that hallowed demographic that's the motor behind just about every media decision that's made.

Of course, invisibility and irrelevance is what I fear, and it's up to me to not buy into the bullshit of 17-year-olds selling wrinkle creams or magazines that basically ignore anyone over 40. But man, it's tough, as I feel just so bombarded. Even if I were to turn off the TV for good, this youth frenzy is still all over the internet, and even at the grocery store checkout, where magazine covers routinely celebrate incredibly young males and females for basically doing very little.

Beatrix Ost. Obviously,
she could care less.
I can't seem to get away from the fact that the media simply isn't paying attention to me anymore, unless it has to do with things like menopausal hot flashes or Lifestyle Lifts, the latter of which, ironically enough, promises to make you relevant again by ripping off portions of skin attached to your face and throwing it in the trash. Yes, this makes me feel so very valued indeed.

This fascination with youth is nothing new, of course, as feminists have been railing against it for decades. But what's new to me is how personally affected I've become by it. There's a new type of ache that I've been carrying around lately that has entirely to do with the world in which I live and how it treats women my age. It's not a pain that comes from my history or my fears or my insecurities. It comes from the media, and I'm reminded of that old feminist chestnut that the personal IS the political.

At some point in a woman's life, how she feels is directly related to how her world treats her, whether it has to do with abortion, family planning, fair pay or media images, among other things. In my own case, I can no longer escape the chilling exclusion of women in certain areas of our society simply because we're not young anymore, and it hurts. It hurts bad.

Sure...there are 50-something female journalists still working, and Meryl Streep did win the Oscar this year. But they're more the exception than the rule, and nine times out of ten these gals have been to the plastic surgeon more than once to achieve that fresh face.

I admit that I've thought of plastic surgery myself, not that I can afford it, but then I'm reminded of the plastic surgery disasters that end up making the women look so much older, and thus pathetic. We're in a no-win situation, we ladies, damned if we look old, but damned to hell if we resort to plastic surgery that doesn't quite work out.

So what's a girl to do? How do I grab the reins of my consciousness and blast out the bullshit?

For one thing, I'm going to give myself permission to wear whatever I damn well please as I get older, "age-appropriateness" be damned. So what if I look like a crackpot. No one is looking at me anyway. I may as well enjoy my platforms.

Second, I have to constantly remind myself that I'm actually okay with growing older. I'm not mad I'm aging; I'm mad that I'm not respected for it...for my wisdom, for my compassion, and yes, even for my beauty, which exists with any age. Sometimes I look at my mom and am so moved by how cute she is, and no, it's not just because I love her. It's because she has an incredibly cute face that hasn't changed much since she was a kid. And when she puts a little makeup on, she absolutely sparkles. She never bought into the old lady style of dressing, either. She sports a Land's End look, which she's been wearing her whole life.

And third, I need to seek out role models of older women who are living fabulously and fashionably, who wouldn't be caught dead near a plastic surgeon's office. I recently created a Pinterest board called "Fabulous Seniors," which can be seen here. I think they're stunning, and I'm not just saying that in some kind of P.C. way. They really do look fantastic.

I probably also need to accept that I am going to hurt about all this for awhile, because my culture isn't going to change anytime soon, and I'm going to need time to find my platforms, 'natch.

Featured item from my Etsy Shop: the Brooks Locket.
The whole shop: maryannfarley.



Anonymous said...

I'm 46 and just stopped coloring my hair. Your post resonated with me because I am struggling with what is "appropriate" for my age and what I can "get away with" wearing. I work in a fairly conservative setting, which complicates things further. No purple hair dye and skullie earrings for me! How is a woman supposed to "act her age" when she feels so much younger. Where is the balance between what is acceptable to society and what's good for me? I have no idea.

PanRight Productions said...

How FRIGGING COOL is Beatrix Ost, whoever she is? She has better clothes and jewelry now than I EVER did. It's all about how you wear it, baby - inside AND out.

You will always be a pioneer to me, babe, even if you're 85 and everything is hanging by your knees. We'll get a mani-pedi and laugh at how little everyone else knows.


vintagerunway said...

Mary, we are fellow team members of 16stars....I absolutely agree with everything you have said. I am also 53, turning 54 tomorrow! My daughter gets married in 2 1/2 weeks. Buying my dress has been the hardest thing I have done in a long time. I felt there were so many things the dress could not be - tight, strapless, sleeveless, bold, patterned, ruffled,....that I was immobilized. I hated my arms, knees, hips, stomach and neck! I have always felt like I was attractive but lately I feel I am hanging onto that by a thread. All I can think of is how much I need to work out. Anyway, thank you for verbalizing the angst we are all feeling as we age. Oh, BTW - I bought four pair of platform shoes last week - sometimes they kill my feet and I have almost sprained my ankle a couple times but I refuse to wear sensible shoes just yet!