The Granny Grievance

A one-woman protest against the G-word

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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.

The Granny Grievance
Nigella Lawson in a cardigan. Photo by Justin Lloyd/Newspix

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!

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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.

In the meantime why not have a look at the Shreddies nanas doing what nanas apparently do best. Notice the strings of pearls and cardigans.

 

Ad Agency: McCann Erickson London

What Goes Through Your Mind at a Funeral?

 

what Goes Through Your Mind at a Funeral? closetdramabog - wordpress
Photo by Firesky Studios on Unsplash

 

Be honest.  What goes through your mind at a funeral?

If, like me, you have been attending them from a young age, you might find yourself thinking about funerals you’ve been to before the one you happen to be attending at that moment. If so, does it make you feel guilty to realise you have been remembering someone other than the person whose life you are supposed be celebrating?  I’m not saying I compare them you understand, rather I’ve noticed that funerals don’t get any easier the more experience of them you have and, if anything, they have a cumulative effect.

Painful as they are, we feel compelled to arrange and attend funerals as a mark of respect and from a need to make sense of our loss.  Despite knowing every life surely must come to an end, our minds mostly have difficulty accepting that someone who was here with us, suddenly is no longer and so we gather together with our thoughts.  But while thoughts are private and individual, are they really that much different from the thoughts of our neighbour?

I’ll admit my mind has wandered to wondering what’s so wrong with flowers these days?  We are often told, ‘family flowers only’ and a donation to a relevant charity may be made via the funeral director instead.  I don’t disagree with collecting money for a charity in memory of anyone, but flowers make a funeral smell good and give us something fresh and beautiful to look at while trying not to lapse into morbid imaginings.  Would you admit to staring at a coffin and picturing  what lies under the lid?  If you ask me, it’s difficult not to, no matter how wrong it seems.

In the five years since we have been together, Drew and I have been to eight funerals.  We are starting to lose count now, it might be nine, but even for people in their fifties, that’s a fair few.  All of them have been at churches or crematoria, so I can’t comment on any other type, but the tradition of congregating with a coffin before you surely means there are others picturing a cold corpse too.  So I’m in favour of flowers, especially atop a coffin – lots of tastefully, expertly arranged flowers.  But please not those floral tributes spelling out ‘Mum’ or ‘Grandpa’ or whoever. Seriously, if only ‘family flowers’ are allowed, make a good job of it; spelling out names or other words in flowers belongs in municipal parks or similar, not at funerals.  Just put their name on the card!

At a funeral, I always feel it’s best to have a look at the order of service before the proceedings commence and be prepared for the choice of music.  I have often tried to figure out what lies behind the musical choices and make the lyrical connection between the deceased and the song or hymn – which isn’t always particularly obvious.  I heard once that Robbie Williams was aghast at the popularity of his song ‘Angels’ when selecting funeral music although it seems a perfectly appropriate choice to me.  However, the popularity of Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ has rendered it a cliche which is embarrassingly inappropriate if the deceased led a conventional life in the town where he or she was born, working for the local authority for example.  Though to be fair, that choice would almost certainly have been made by the deceased themself and who would argue with a last wish?

A word of warning here: if you choose music for a loved one’s funeral, think carefully about how often you might hear it again when you hadn’t been expecting to.  The sudden, unforeseen loss of my father when I was still a girl was the hardest thing I have ever lived through and it affects me still, almost forty years later.  It catches me unawares sometimes, especially when I happen to hear a particular piece of music which was played at his funeral, a piece I couldn’t hear for many years without silent tears streaming down my face.

When Elton John asked Bernie Taupin to revise the lyrics to his song ‘Candle in the Wind’ to be sung at the funeral service of The Princess of Wales, he vowed he would never perform it again afterwards.  No doubt this was to save himself from many distressing moments as well as protecting her sons from having to  endure hearing the saddest song of their young lives again.

You may have reached the stage when, at a funeral, you begin to consider what you would want at yours.  I know I have.  Were you so impressed or moved by a little touch that you have earmarked the idea for your own service? Cardboard coffin? Your portrait on an easel perhaps?  Flowers?  I want lots of lovely flowers.  And just to be sure, the music I’ve chosen is ‘The Flower Duet’ (Duo des fleurs) from Delibes’ opera, ‘Lakme’.  I don’t expect many people I know will follow the words because they’re sung in French, which is just as well. It ends with …

‘descendons ensemble’.