It’s happened again – another article about how postmenopausal women are really only forty.
Have I missed something? No. I haven’t. I just need to reach for a photograph of me at 40 and then look at one of me now, and sorry. I ain’t the same.
Fair enough for the Western Mail to point out that ‘the sixth decade no longer means shampoo and sets and settling down like your grandmother did.’ And having interviewed over 60 women for my book on Sex, Meaning and the Menopause, I agree that most older women have never had it so good.
Many of us certainly are wealthier, fitter and happier than our mothers and certainly our grandmothers were at this age. Thanks to modern medicine, once we’ve reached 60 we can expect to live at least another 20, even 30 years, and enjoy most of this in reasonably good health.
But, why are we also happier at this age? Not because we pretend to be 40, but because of the life experiences we’ve accumulated since we really were that young.
For me, the age of 40 (bang on target according the Economist’s excellent recent article, ‘The U-bend of life: why beyond middle age, people get happier as they get older’) was a miserable time – not because I didn’t want to reach the midlife watershed, but similar to most people reaching this time, I felt utterly lost and lonely. Yet, I also knew it was the moment I needed to stop behaving like an adolescent and grow up.
Hopefully I’ve done so (to some extent, anyway), but it’s taken a while. Life’s lessons don’t arrive in one massive steaming pile (mind you, at times it has felt like that). They continue to unfold as the years roll by, each one giving us a glimpse of how we can deal with life in a more mature way. And thank goodness for that.
I couldn’t possibly be doing the work I do now if I was 40. I would lack the perspective of those precious eighteen years that have passed since then. Years that have taught me far more about myself than all the madness of my youth.
More to the point. I would hate to be 40 again. Yes, as long as I could retain what I have learned about life, of course it would be wonderful to regain my looks. But, again to have to go through all the pain and fear of how I used to feel without such hard-won wisdom? No thanks.
And, let’s get real here. We can’t fight evolution. The thighs and breasts of a 60-year-old woman’s are not the same as they were at 40. Mine certainly aren’t, anyway. Neither is that postmenopausal flap of flesh around the midriff, nor the underarm batwings that persist no matter how much you go to the gym.
So come on, Western Mail! Your article may have been filed under Health and Beauty, but speaking as someone waving at 60, I can’t take it seriously.
To maintain that, for today’s woman, sixty is the new forty is complete and utter nonsense.