A few days ago I had the pleasure of seeing the play 20th Century Blues, a tale of four women whose 40-year friendship threatens to combust over a set of photographs. We get to know their hopes, dreams, and failures, and we watch them grapple with the challenges of aging in a world that values youth. As their stories unfolded, I found myself nodding my head, laughing, and crying because I could relate.
That doesn’t happen a lot these days.
I love youth, don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of these Millennial haters. In fact, whenever I feel cynical, I hang out with them. I volunteer at DonorsChoose, an organization that supports public schools, and I never fail to come away feeling energized after being around this group of positive young people.
Still, when it comes to art — plays, books, movies, etc. — I want to see my age group from time to time. As a woman, I feel like my life is much more interesting than it was when I was in my twenties. We have the scars of life, and yet we are not done. We often feel young inside, with plenty of hopes and dreams left. Yet too often we are invisible or expected to take to our rocking chairs.
My current WIP has a new working title: On Her Own Terms. I tell the story of Elaine, a wife, mother and grandmother who decides at sixty to have a career of her own. Her family loves the idea as long as it doesn’t interfere with her role as their chief cheerleader. I’m encouraged by other stories, such as Marilyn Simon Rothstein’s Lift and Separate, that are finding audiences.
In the movies, whenever we want to see a badass older woman, casting directors seem to call on Helen Mirren. Mirren is strong, sexy, and intelligent in all that she does. Judi Densch, Meryl Streep, Linda Lavin, and others are still maintaining active careers. More and more, it seems, we’re seeing women beyond middle age on the big screen, and I hope the trend continues.
We also witnessed the historic candidacy for POTUS of a grandmother…and the ageist notion that she should now “take up knitting.” Nothing wrong with knitting, by the way, but there is an assumption by some that she should now go away quietly, but not the same assumption for older male politicians.
There was a time when women our age were completely invisible. I’m not saying the tide has turned completely, but I do see hope on the horizon! And with great projects such as 20th Century Blues, hopefully we will see more.