I think I may have mentioned how much I hate it when young people in stores or restaurants call me things like “sweetie” or “honey.” And it isn’t even the term they use. It’s more the way they say it. Am I being paranoid to think that they say it more to me than to my husband?
It seems to me that, in this country at least, people have a warped view about people aging, in general, but a doubly warped view about women in that phase of their lives. I have trouble not making this kind of thought chain in my head: we have a general fear about aging, therefore we are obsessed with looking young; and, since women tend to be the focus of any obsession around the subject of looks, we get especially scared about women losing their looks because that might mean that any one of the rest of us could also get old and eventually do the “d” word!
I’m sure it’s all tied up to our fear of death. I’m wondering if it’s also tied to our fear of losing our mothers! Who knows! I’m probably getting too far afield here, but I know the following: we don’t like death, and we don’t like aging. We prefer for people to just go on looking young forever, getting face lifts or competing in old-people sports events that make us all feel invincible.
And one manifestation of all this fear is that we apparently don’t like for women to have any dignity in old age, at least if our movies and tv shows are any indication!
Here’s my evidence:
1) Have you noticed the number of videos on YouTube that are of dancing grandmothers? They are very popular and very embarrassing.
2) Have you noticed the way we portray aging women on television or in the movies? I admit I liked the characters in The Golden Girls when that show was on tv, but the writers at least managed to keep things real even when portraying or creating some stereotypes. But ever since then, it’s been downhill.
3) Please, save me from one more old female character in a movie or on a show who does any of the following: a) flirts with a man a quarter of her age in a very sexy way b) does outrageous, physical things that defy reality or c) has potty humor that isn’t funny. It seems to me it’s mostly female characters that end up with this kind of script, but correct me if I’m wrong. I’m just thinking of the painful moments on screen I’ve witnessed. Probably the one that sticks in my head the most is the horrible, terrible scene in The Wedding Singer with the rapping grandmother. HELP!!!
4) When was the last time you went to a movie that portrays a grandmother (or grandfather, for that matter) who isn’t, what is that word everyone loves, oh, yeah, feisty? What happened to the stereotype that used to be in the movies, the Aunt Bee grandmother-type who bakes cookies and rocks babies to sleep? We’ve replaced her with tough-talking, sarcastic old birds who live by themselves and chop their own wood or foul-mouthed, pot-smoking, “cool” grandmothers who love to make sexual innuendoes.
What I would give for one thoughtful, intelligent old woman, maybe even one with normal aches and pains. She doesn’t have to be bedridden or dying or out of her mind. She can just be a normal person, living life and showing the effects.
If Robert Redford can go off in a boat and be the only person on screen for an entire movie, let’s at least give Betty White ten minutes of dignity on the screen! And let’s please please please come up with some better female role models for aging gracefully!