What do Nancy Pelosi, Donna Shalala and Maxine Waters have in common? Clearly, they are all women. If you guessed that they are older women, you’re right. But how old? In their fifties, sixties? Try in their 70’s and you’d be right. We all know Nancy Pelosi is 78. Not to be outdone, Representative Donna Shalala, the former US Secretary of Health became the oldest freshman in the new House class. (She’s 79.) But Representative Maxine Waters can top that. She became the first woman and African-American to lead the Financial Services Committee, at age 80.
According to a fascinating article by Jessica Bennett, in the Jan. 8, 2019 New York Times, older women are doing a heck of a lot more than “roaring”. They’re rewriting the roles they are playing in the US today.
Is it just political women who are rewriting the “you’re too old” rules? Hardly! Glen Close at age 71 broke those rules in an arena that, to say the least, does not value age in their women stars. Close beat out four younger women to win the Golden Globe for best actress.
Let’s face it, the movie industry is not known for their deference to age. Except when it comes to men. Female movie stars rarely crack the “age ceiling”. According to Time magazine, male actors hit their professional peak at 46, while female actors top out at 30.” Responding to that report, Helen Mirren recalled, that, at 37, Maggie Gyllenhaal had been told she was “too old” for a role opposite a 55-year-old man. Apparently she adds “As James Bond got more and more geriatric, his girlfriends got younger and younger. It’s so annoying.”
Even in the business world, it was breaking news when it was announced that Susan Zirinsky will take over CBS News in March. Ms. Zirinsky will be the first woman to hold the job. She will also be the oldest person to assume the role, at 66. Amazing! Bennet quotes Ms. Zirinsky when asked about the effect of age on her new job, “Age — don’t worry about it. It’s a state of mind. I have so much energy that my staff did an intervention when I tried a Red Bull.”
Representative Donna Shalala agrees. “Age is just a number. What the women’s movement did was develop generations of strong women. We had professional careers, we were achievers in our fields, and you’re seeing the result of that now. And we’re comfortable in our own skin, and we don’t put up with nonsense, and we have a sisterhood.”
Gayle King, 64, a co-anchor of “CBS This Morning, said in an email. “I’ve embraced every birthday … what’s the alternative, bitch and moan. I believe if your body and brain are healthy and you love what you do and the people in your life, what’s the downside of THAT?! So I’ll say it loud, I’m 64 and (oh so) proud.
Personally, I couldn’t agree more. Point of information. Today is my birthday and I am 75 years old today! Who ee. I have three extraordinary daughters, four gorgeous grandsons and an 80 year old best friend/lover who’s added even more sparkle to my life these last five years. I work out seven days a week. (10 miles a day on the elliptical). I do pull-ups on the chin-up bar with my 14 year old grandson. I can now hold my weight for ten seconds with my legs extended at a ninety degree angle. My goal is 30 seconds…
Was my life always this great? Heck no. In fact in the not too distant past, in my late 60’s, it was downright crummy. I needed to do something different. I decided it was time to turn my strategic consulting firm over to my daughter. I also left a marriage that was making both my then husband and I most unhappy.
Then something miraculous happened. On one of my multi-mile runs, I started hearing voices and envisioning almost movie-like scenes. Rather than checking myself into the loony bin, with the encouragement of my daughters, I did something I had never considered. At the ripe old age of 68, I began writing romance novels. Make that steamy romance novels and sexy mystery thrillers. It wasn’t as if I had a choice. My characters insisted that they come alive on the page. Seven years later I’m writing my 50th novel. Frankly I’m amazed and a little more than awed at my gift of creativity. It’s magic!
So happy birthday to me and all of us older women who are not only “surviving” our age, but “thriving in it”. As we should. We are older women. Hear us roar!
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