HEY! WHERE DID THAT WOMAN GO?
I’ve always liked that line from Hamlet: ‘Oh that this too solid flesh would melt…’ endowed, all my life, with far too much solid flesh, it sounded like the perfect solution.
A melting-away, no calorie-counting, no punishing-exercise regime. Just a peaceable transformation to a sylph.
And then one day I realised it had happened, only not quite as I hoped.
No sylph (flesh solid as ever)…I had simply become invisible.
If you’re 50 plus you’ll know what I mean: you’re next in the queue but the shop assistant serves the person behind you; men and younger women almost knock you over, talk across you, ignore you in meetings.
Get it? I knew you would.
We live in a mediated world; the images and the messages we see around us in shops and malls, in women’s magazines, and on the television in our own homes, tell us who’s important, who belongs to the tribe.
It’s called “representational flattery”, this constant reflection of viewers, readers and consumers back to themselves.
But older women are readers, viewers and consumers too – except that we’re not there, not visible.
Occasionally you’ll catch a glimpse of an older woman, perhaps in an advertisement for some anti-ageing product, but she won’t be like you and me, she’ll be a photo-shopped woman or a computer generated one: smooth, shiny, airbrushed and wrinkle free.
You might see an older woman in a soap opera but she won’t be the central character; she’ll exist to create conflict for the really important characters – men, younger women and children. And she’ll be a stereotype: a nosey neighbour, a bossy aunt, an interfering mother-in-law, a castrating boss, or a lonely and bitter spinster seeking comfort in a cask of wine.
If you spot an older woman in a magazine she’ll be the grandmother of the bride or a scary example of the dangers of ignoring ‘the fight against ageing’.
From the visual displays in the mall, young women with perfect skin, bouncy, enhanced breasts, pouting lips, long straight hair and perfect teeth gaze down on us.
They have “the look” - innocent but “up for it”; sexy, superficial, digitally manipulated, devoid of depth, passive, malleable, unlikely to make trouble.
But the real women in the mall are a different species.
At least half of us are over 50, some a lot older.
We’re women with busy, rewarding lives, significant responsibilities, important dreams, chequered histories and major achievements.
Many of us are in full or part-time work, contemplating diminishing superannuation or the lack of it, or perhaps with more disposable income than we had in our youth.
Some are caring for partners or adult children with disabilities, helping with childcare, volunteering within their communities.
We are the women who deliver meals and library books, start orphanages in third world countries, run small businesses, sit on boards, conduct orchestras and choirs, raise money for charities, read and write books, go to art galleries and the footy, campaign for peace, for the ethical treatment of refugees, against domestic violence, and the destruction of the environment.
We blog and tweet, fall in and out of love, have great sex, surf, trek, and help to feed the starving and heal the sick in the most deprived regions of the world.
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