IN PRAISE OF BALLSY OLDER WOMEN
No cleavage, dating or snogging allowed, says the world. We say: be more Grace.
What fresh hell is this? Every few days, it seems, the world issues a new directive on how women should behave once they get past 40. And it’s usually a ‘don’t’. Don’t show any cleavage. Don’t have ambition. Don’t embarrass yourself by dating much younger men. Don’t show off. Don’t be old, basically.
Today’s Press Release of Shame landed in my inbox with a sickening clunk announcing that ’57 is the age Brits should stop kissing with tongues’. Good grief. Is it? Is it really? Apparently so, says a survey by dating app Plenty of Fish. “It is not only young people who don’t like the thought of old love. Interestingly more over 60s (15 per cent) believe you should stop kissing at 57 than 16-to-29 year olds (12 per cent)” So that’s OK then.
Except of course it really is not. Aside from that cringe-inducing descriptor ‘old love’ (I’m guessing our scribe is still at 6th form), there is the nonsense notion that getting past a certain age marker means fun, sensuality, ambition and a share in the vital stuff of life is no longer our due and we should just disappear quietly to go and play bowls or shop for Tena Lady.
Witness the hectoring of Helena Christensen, 50 by Alexandra Shulman, the former editor-in-chief of British Vogue, when she dared to wear a lacy bustier. “There comes that point in every woman’s life when, however reluctantly, you have to hand over the fleshpot-at-the-party baton to the next generation,” she sniped in her Daily Mail column. Or the vitriol directed at Susan Sarandon whenever she’s aired her fabulous cleavage. And the public dressing down of Madonna when she dated much younger guys after divorcing Guy Richie (how come Jack Nicholson gets away with this?).
Earlier this year Twitter went into meltdown after presenters Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid actually discussed whether women over 50 are “too old for love”, after 50-year-old French author and TV presenter, Yann Moix said women of his age are “invisible” to him. Last year Helen Mirren was vilified on Instagram for wearing a backpack at 73. Maggie Gyllenhaal was told at 37 that she was too old to play the lover of a 55-year-old man.
Who makes these rules? And what exactly are they for? The trolling of women of a certain age is not only tiresome – it’s offensive and downright dangerous. It perpetuates the belief that we are past it and laughable – that we should “Put it away grandma! As Ashton Applewhite, activist and author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, said in the Guardian “Ageism is the “last socially sanctioned prejudice” – and ageing will happen to us all.
Whether 37 or 87 we are still the same person inside, we still love looking good, having a laugh, exploring our ambitions and, yes, even a snog when the mood takes us. Madonna said in an interview with The Cut: “Why should only men be allowed to be adventurous, sexual, curious, and get to have all the fun until the day they leave this earth? What I am going through now is ageism, with people putting me down or giving me a hard time because I date younger men or do things that are considered to be only the domain of younger women.”
Love her or hate her, it’s OK with us if Madonna wants to flex her 60-year-old body into a headstand and twerk (she actually did this). If Kylie’s famous posterior does the Locomotion to 100,000 Glastonbury fans at – gasp! 51, well good for her. And when the mighty Grace Jones sashays – nay dances – down a Tommy Hilfiger catwalk at 70, we say All Hail Grace. We don’t stop being women when we get old. We just get better.
Credit: Grace Jones at Fremantle Park by Stuart Savastos
Words: Marina Gask
Looking for expert advice? The Audrey Members’ Club is a whole world of support, coaching and expertise for women through self-employment, changing careers, running a business or launching one. Join us to kickstart your future, whatever that may be.