Janet Jackson 46, was recently discovered to have been married to her Qatari billionaire businessman Wissam Al Mana. In fact, Jackson and Al Mana, who is almost 10 years the “Control” singer’s junior, actually tied the knot sometime last year in a “quiet, private, and beautiful ceremony,” this according to published reports.
I could go on and on but I think you all are picking up on what I’m hinting at here: maybe it is time we rethink what it means to be an older woman.
It is generally believed that turning 40 begins the downward spiral into physical and social invisibility in a woman’s life. Tank tops and bikini-cuts will be replaced by granny-panties and full-body girdles. There is no more late-night partying; no carefree adventures and no chances of marriage, motherhood or even hot and dirty sex over the age of 40. Just multi-vitamins, memory loss, poor bone density, menopause and a bedtime that arrives before the start of 11 o’clock news. We’ve been told that for women, life is all downhill once grey hairs start invading. And there is nothing we can do about it except cozy up in the rocking chair in front of old episodes of “Matlock” and wait for death to finally put us out of our old lady misery.
However today’s new economy has created opportunities for women to prosper and gain financial independence over their lives. As such, the fairer sex of the baby boomer generation are ready to stake the claim that over-40 is the new under-40 in many fabulous and non-traditional ways. In addition to annihilating stereotypes of the spinster cat lady, these new mid-lifers are modeling themselves after women like Ernestine Shephard, the 75 year old fitness expert grandmother, who has made the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s oldest female competitive bodybuilder. According to this BBC interview, “Miss Ernie,” as she is affectionately called, began training at the tender age of 71 and currently runs about 10 miles a day. She says her true calling in life, however, is helping others to follow a more healthy lifestyle and firmly believes that, “age ain’t nothing but a number.”
Nowadays, women are about personal fulfillment, even if it means delaying marriage and children – if not putting them off all together. In fact, birth rates for women between the ages of 15 to 29 are at historic lows while the rates among those in their late 30s to early 40s is on the increase. The same trend can be seen in marriage where the rate of women marrying for the first time in their 30s and 40s has nearly doubled over the last decade while the rate of marriage of women in their 20s is actually slowing. And a recent study suggests that despite common beliefs of sexless existence after the age of 40, women have grown increasingly satisfied with their sex lives on the other side of that hill.
Well, that’s if you ignore the higher pregnancy risk, depression and anxiety that that we middle-aged gals are reportedly prone to suffer. And then there is menopause. However even with the pitfalls of aging, there are ways to overcome. One word: attitude. Or as stated in this Time Magazine piece:
“Researchers have found that the most profound difference in attitude between men and women at middle age is that women are twice as likely to be hopeful about the future. Women get to wrestle their hormones through a Change of Life; but however disruptive menopause may be for some women, the changes that matter most are often more psychic and spiritual than physical. Talk to women about what happens when they hit midlife hurdles — whether divorce or disease, an empty nest, the loss of a parent — and very often the response is a surprise even to them. They may first turn inward, ask the cosmic questions or retrieve some passion they put aside to make room for a career and family and adult responsibilities. Take a trip. Write a novel. Go back to school. Learn to kiteboard. But then, having done something to help themselves, they have a powerful urge to help others. Best of all is when they can do both at once.”
It would seem that the change of life comes with a new lease on it too. It would appear that life over the hill seems pretty damn sweet, if you ask me.