According to Samantha Critchell of the Associated Press, 2010 is a “new day” for forty-something women. “Women are where it’s at in the world of entertainment – and we’re talking “women” not “girls” for the most part. Forty-something women, especially Sandra Bullock, had a banner year in 2009, and their influence is expected to continue,” writes Critchell.
She quotes Bonnie Fuller, editor-in-chief of HollywoodLife.com who believes: “There’s a shift in attitude. There’s a total chick blitz in general.” Fuller thinks Hollywood executives will take notice of the success of actresses such as Julianna Margulies, Jennifer Aniston, Kyra Sedgwick, Courteney Cox and their peers, developing movies and TV shows that give them roles that show evolving, desirable sexy characters who don’t hide from their age.
To which I say, almost in tandem: “Hell, yeah!” and “Are you kidding me?” I’m having one of those two-sided conversations with myself about what this endorsement really means. On the one hand, I applaud the greatly overdue recognition by Hollywood and the youth-obsessed media that there really is life out there for women over the age of forty. Not a life of slow and inevitable degeneration like the winding down of a clock, but a life brimming with possibilities. I applaud the acknowledgment, however late in coming, that beauty is not the province of the chronologically gifted (i.e. young), but is something that belongs to all women regardless of their age.
On the other hand I want to do something far less gracious with my hands than applauding (picture something other than the thumbs up sign, and the gesture that used to get my youngest child routinely grounded, if you get my drift). Hollywood giving those of us on the other side of forty the high-five feels rather like we’re being thrown a bone and should feel grateful, like we’re a fad, or the flavor of the month rather than the complex, multi-faceted, amazing creatures we are – and always have been.
Having Hollywood and the media’s “blessing” isn’t sitting well with me. I want to say: “Who cares?” what men in suits in a town known for unabashed superficiality think about what constitutes bling. And while I am a firm believer that life after forty for women doesn’t mean life without sex – or sex appeal – I chafe at the thought of stereotyping midlife women as “desirable sexy characters who don’t hide from their age.” I’d be happier if the mindset was simply “who don’t hide from their age” and leave sex out of it altogether. Whenever Hollywood brings sex into the equation it’s an immediate red flag for me; a cynical, but time-tested truism that the multi-dimensional forty-something woman will suddenly become rather one-dimensional in the hands of film and media.
I do, however, heartily applaud Meryl Streep, Julianna Marguiles and other over forty actresses who are refusing to play by the rules. After all, who made the rules anyway? I applaud the women I’ve interviewed for my upcoming book on women navigating in and through midlife. I applaud my friends, peers, and family members of the female persuasion who are aging gracefully and fiercely. They aren’t hiding their age. They aren’t flashing a neon sign showcasing their age. Their age is irrelevant. They are too busy charting their path – and it’s often an entirely new path that they themselves have bushwhacked because of so few role models around to have broken trail for them.
Although I commend these mavericks for their trailblazing ways, it’s a myth and a disservice to paint forty-something women as having all the answers. I hope Hollywood errs on the side of caution in its evolving characterizations of women in midlife. Life is messy. Life is complicated. Midlife women continue to struggle with career, family, health and wealth issues. They are dealing with grown children leaving the nest; with young children still in the fold. They are reaching the pinnacle of their careers or their plateaus, and are thinking about what comes next. Some women are dealing with health issues: cancer, heart disease, menopause, unexpected death. Some are uncovering long dormant dreams and talents, others shedding self-limiting beliefs that have dogged them for decades. Divorced. Remarried. Unattached. Forty-something women are no strangers to the ups and downs of living.
Life doesn’t change on the other side of forty. What does change, perhaps, is the way we deal with this ebb and flow in the second half of life. There is something to be said for longevity; for experience; for showing up over and over again that enables us to shake off the trials and tribulations that rain down on us each day. Midlife women don’t have all the answers – what we have is enough seniority to know we don’t need them in order to shine.
So I raise a toast to my sisters forty and older that you celebrate the year of the “chick blitz”, but do it on your terms. Keep on bushwhacking; keep on redefining and pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a woman in midlife, and I’ll be right there with you. Salute!
As an entrepreneur, Evelyn Kalinosky, CRC, helps women executives 40 and older to achieve a more sacred kind of success that is as unique as their fingerprint. She is a published author, speaker and poet and you can learn more about her at http://www.evelynkalinosky.com.
There is still time to register for a free one-hour teleclass:”Your Turning Point: The First Step Toward Your Extraordinary Life Waiting for You” that’s scheduled for January 12, 2010 at 12:00 p.m. ET/9:00 a.m. PT. The only thing you need to commit to is 60 minutes of your time. If you’re a woman executive whose career is beginning to feel like a tight-fitting pair of heels, this call is for you! You can learn more by following this link: http://www.evelynkalinosky.com/yourturningpoint.
“When your profit motive is no longer just about money.”