The Conundrum of Age

I am a huge fan of the The View. Sometimes, I don’t watch, usually when there isn’t much going on in the way of interesting conversation. Over the years, I have really appreciated the format of four, sometimes five, women talking around a table about the hot topics of the day. The program both reminds me of the past when relatives in my family sat around the table doing the same thing, and at the same time is a reminder how things have changed since their day.

It’s like an hour of the day when the issues of the moment are contemplated from a perspective that feels familiar, almost ancestral. Of women voicing opinion, and having it count.

So, it was that I found it curious today when The View discussed what “some people” had to say about Julia Roberts (pssst…she is 41 years old now), “these people” questioning whether Julia had lost her big money appeal for coming in third in box office sales, with a few million less for the studios than number one and two. O.k.

As I thought about the back and forth between Barbara Walters and Elizabeth and comments about age, The View reminded me of a conversation two friends of mine had last weekend when we went to dinner. We were talking about an actress we knew who is in her fifties. She was talented without doubt, and had paid her dues for sure. Yet, as they talked about what the future had in store for this woman given her age, I felt ‘unfair’ stuck in my throat.

As a woman, and a mother, I remember distinctly when my life went from my career to my family as priority. As I look back over the littered opportunities on the floor, I remember the times I could not take an opportunity because I had to be home, and those moments I wanted to be at home for that second when it was my chance to be present in my child’s life which would be lost forever if I didn’t take the opportunity then.

When my child was very young, I read in a book that women take off in their careers later in life, much like where men are at in their thirties, women in their fifties, children grown, are able to then go on to grasp the opportunities put lovingly but firmly aside for the day when children were raised.

This idea comforted me along the road of hard choices between being there for my child or a career opportunity that went beyond what I could humanly give as a single parent. This reality left nothing for me but training myself to see my career in the longer trajectory, with the notion of slow building rather than over construction.

Well, come to find out….I was wrong. Perhaps. I don’t know. I’ll let you know when I get there.

But, from the discussion today on The View I ask myself why this show that shapes so much discourse, this show with more than half its members shining, inspiring examples of women who achieved so much in their careers while raising children, who are, it seems to me, on top of their game, aren’t defending more, questioning more the entire process that churns this kind of hopelessness out. After all, for gods sake, if Julia Roberts is washed up at 41, what can we imagine for this large segment of the population reaching their forties, their fifties, sixties and seventies? How will we look at that reality when we consider housing, health care, and education going into the future with an economy that is challenged?

One other fact came up on The View today – with the economic downturn fewer women are having plastic surgery and Botox treatments. What will happen now if we can’t pretend away our age?

Maybe we have to begin talking more about age, and what an impossible conundrum women face as they age, how we as women treat each other around age, and what we’d like it to be in the future. ~To solve a conundrum as old as time, we may need to create new models, because, otherwise, I imagine the graveyards of dreams of many women lost never to come to back to life.

The View Today: Can we reconsider the way we talk about women and age?

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