Reading between the furrowed lines
When this new picture for my column (headshot) was emailed to me, I zoomed in. And zoomed in again.
What do you reckon I saw? Smart top? Nice jeans? Fab blow-dry? Nope. I saw lines. Big parenthesis-shaped ones running Jack Nicholson Joker-style from my nose to my chin. You didn’t notice? You do now.
Apparently, they’re called nasolabial folds and are caused by ageing and laughing – which is unfortunate because, short of sticking myself in the deep freeze or being perpetually glum, they’re only going to get worse.
A friend suggested fillers – “You look fine, but you’re doing a bit of telly now.” But it’s painful and pricey, and I’d worry I’d leak like the oranges we injected with vodka at uni, which decomposed into a toxic puddle.
My problem isn’t the lines but what they indicate: middle age. Though I have a while before I enter the ivory gates of invisibility that apparently greet you at 46, ageing cops worse PR than the carbon tax.
A new study shows 46 is the age women feel unnoticed, and Age Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick confirms there are shrinking job opportunities for women over 45, who, she says, are unfairly considered “too opinionated, no good with technology, low in energy”. Rubbish. My mum’s 66, an education consultant and far savvier on Excel than me.
Shakespeare wrote there were seven ages of man but, these days, there are only two ages of women: child and flirt-worthy. After that, you don’t exist, hence why one woman set up a blog called The Plankton. She says women over 45 are made to feel like the lowest life form – “flimflam, a nuisance, an embarrassment of landfill”. As Wendy Harmer writes on The Hoopla, “Why should being ‘old’ be a state that’s to be avoided at all costs?”
So why am I worrying about all this now? Because, and I’m going out on a soon-to-be-leathery limb here, when it comes to women, Australia is arguably the most ageist country in the Western world.
In the UK, where I lived for nearly a decade, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear your age on your face. Perhaps, because the place is full of cool old stuff – castles, Stonehenge, the Queen – the likes of Judi Dench and Helen Mirren are equally revered.
At the newspaper I worked for, the two most respected writers were women in their 60s. One penned a weekly column for 32 years, until her death; the other, now 70 and a Dame, still slaps on eyeliner and files stories from around the world.
Outside Hollywood, America, too, celebrates wisdom and maturity: Anna Wintour, 61, and her creative director Grace Coddington, 70, produce Vogue, while Barbara Walters, 82 next month, remains the queen of daytime TV.
Of course, these are all famous women. But if you accept and celebrate those who are the most visible, that respect will trickle down and become embedded in our culture.
Here, times are changing, albeit slowly. Women such as Tracy Grimshaw, Juanita Phillips, Lisa Wilkinson and Kerri-Anne Kennerley have kept their jobs past 45 because – surprise, surprise – they’re bloody good.
Truman Capote once remarked, “Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.” Well, it’s time we rejigged the script because, frankly, there’s no cure for the common birthday.
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