A one-woman protest against the G-word
Firstly, let me get this straight: I have nothing whatsoever against grandchildren. I won’t even bother trying to convince you of that by telling you how wonderful and loveable mine are – much more so than anyone else’s in fact. My grievance as a British grandmother is how anyone yet to reach the grandparent milestone uses the word ‘granny’ as a default derogatory term to illustrate how something is old-fashioned, irrelevant and dull.
And it’s often inaccurately used to mean elderly.
Sometimes, when others also in their 50s congratulated me on becoming a grandmother, there was an undertone of ridicule. “Congratulations Granny” implied I had suddenly somehow managed to become elderly without them and was officially slipping into senility. My response was usually, “I’m not your granny.” And anyway, my grandchildren call me ‘Nana’.
Even my colleagues had to be warned: “Granny in the room,” at a recent planning meeting when the G-word was used to stress how our resources should be up-to-date and accessible for our teenage students. It’s important to point out when others show ignorance or bigotry lest their ill-informed attitude should be allowed to influence others and perpetuate the myth that all grannies are ‘little old ladies’.
There’s been much discussion recently about female stereotyping and discrimination. I’d like to add another layer to this abomination: age. Mature ladies are offered even less respect than other women and girls. I’m not asking for special esteem, but I’m neither silly nor unconnected and shouldn’t dismissed.
If you must know, I was born in the same year as Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp. I’m only three years older than Halle Berry. I’m younger than Iman, Sheryl Crow and Nigella Lawson and many others you wouldn’t expect to see in a pinny and pearls knitting cereal.
I’m at a funny age which doesn’t fit the granny stereotype: too old to be Jennifer Lawrence and too young to be a sassy senior such as septuagenarians Jane Fonda or Lily Tomlin (above). The older lady, older than me that is, seems increasingly unlikely to be labelled as beside the point with the likes of Helen Mirren (72) and Diane Keaton (71) captivating us all. I think I’ve fallen through a gap though. Nobody seems to know where to plonk the fifty-several female in popular culture.
One fifty-three year-old reader told me: “What you write needs to be read.” And what is there for people like us who enjoy contemporary fiction, but can’t stomach any more romantic shopaholic stories which focus on the twenty to thirty-nine year-old’s dilemmas? I would have thought women in my age group read more than them, but we are even overlooked by studies. I remember skimming a report on the reading habits of different age groups. The findings showed American teenagers read books on their phones (if that’s not an oxymoron) and that 30 – 39 year-olds were less likely to be reading electronically. Those older than 65 weren’t reading much at all by comparison. Er excuse me – I’m over here in the demographic you ignored with a pile of books, a Kindle and … oh never mind.
Some of us are running marathons and companies.
Little secret: I was asked by therapist and counsellor Lisa Etherson what I thought should be included in her soon-to-be published book about the love lives of the over 50s. One of my points was that we are are under-represented in popular culture, fuelling the misconception that all grannies are comical, crusty creatures who can’t keep up with the conversation. I reminded Lisa that when we aren’t having sex, some of us are running marathons and companies. And then we still might find the energy to run around after our grandchildren. Just don’t call us grannies!
If you can recommend any literature (or films) with an interesting, midlife, female protagonist, I’d love to hear about them. I’ll bet you find it difficult. Better still, watch this space … I’m writing one myself.