In praise of older women

I read a piece in the Guardian yesterday by Gaby Hinsliff about the rich detail of an older women’s story. She was, of course, talking about the latest Kate Winslett masterpeice, Mare of Easttown.

In case you missed this gem, let me bring you in on the secret. It’s a sublimely scripted TV drama about a middle-aged woman coming to terms with loss on a number of levels. This woman also happens to be a detective trying to solve two major cases – the abjuction of several young women and the murder of another in small town America. All of which has rocked the tight knit community she lives and works in. The characters are sensitively and realistically drawn and the acting is sublime. Not least, Winslett herself who gives a remarkable performance as Mare, a woman weighed down by guilt and grief.

If Mare of Eastown is a must watch, then Hinsliff’s article is a must read. Aside from addressing the all too familiar issue of allowing women to look their age on screen, it calls out the way older women’s stories are often overlooked despite their depth, drama and poignancy. Their longer lived lives give them experiences not yet open to someone younger. Experiences that have the capacity to move an audience – sometimes to tears, sometimes to laughter. Experiences that make them fallible and all the more interesting.

I’m not saying there’s no value in the stories of the young, just that there’s room enough for us all. More than that, there’s a need for both in a truly progressive society. What’s more, there are lots of mature women out there who want to hear about other women who are just like them. Real women, with real bodies and clutttered, chaotic lives. Whether that’s on the screen or in a book. But that message hasn’t always got through. It used to be almost impossible to find such stories on the screen but a few are now filtering through.

When it comes to books, I’ve been on a quest to find as many as I can. My most recent read was Beth Miller’s, The Missing Letters of Mrs Bright, an uplifting, bittersweet tale of a woman who walks out on a thirty-year marriage one morning in search of her old friend and a new life. It’s a great story.

I’m trying to do my own bit too. Being Netta Wilde is about fifty-year-old Annette Grey and her journey towards a better life. Like Mare, Annette is flawed. She’s a lonely, bitter woman who struggles to connect with her teenage children and has a habit of putting her own spin on certain memories. In many ways, she’s doing her best to cope with the cards she’s been dealt, albeit rather badly. She swears a bit, likes a dance when she’s had a drink, wants to be loved, and is quite partial to a bit of sex with the right person. Just a normal woman really. A mature woman, with a story to tell.

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