The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Now we know the real cost of being an invisible woman...
OLDER women are invisible! I know that no man is ever going to wolfwhistle at me or stare moodily at me with a hint of lust again.’ Thus spake one of the Queens of Fleet Street last week. No, it wasn’t me, but former tabloid editor Eve Pollard.
She is 71, and in possession of breasts so large I’m sure they can be seen from outer space, but she has a point. Older women are an irrelevance. Where she and I differ is while she mourns the lack of attention, I regard invisibility as a superpower: I’d much rather a bald, red-faced, burger-chomping man in a white van didn’t see me at all than have him picture me naked.
Anyway, if the only thing you have to worry about in your 70s is a lack of hot dates, you are surely a runaway success.
The one thing I’ve learned as I’ve aged is that worrying about how attractive you are is a complete waste of time, a luxury, an irrelevance, a distraction.
It’s like the protagonists in the TV series The Walking Dead: I keep thinking, why on earth are the lead actors arguing about how much they love each other when they are about to have their flesh chewed off? Why? Ah. But here’s why. I’m in a cafe, reading the front page of The Times, the morning after the Election. There is Theresa May. And I am saying ‘Oh dear God’ not because she has just suffered a humiliating vote of no confidence, but because the photograph is so unflattering.
The helmet of grey hair. The concertina of lines around her eyes. The gigantic baubly necklace.
I am two years younger than Theresa May, and as I only usually read fashion magazines, I had thought being a fifty-something was the new thirty-something.
You know, that I was like Natalie Massenet, the 52-year-old founder of Net-a-Porter. Or Emmanuelle Alt, the 50-year-old editor of French Vogue: all Vuitton luggage, navy blazers and Celine! But no, those women are not like you and me (and, I’ve had a facelift, so I’ve no idea how bad YOU’RE feeling).
They have no worries, hence the lack of wrinkles. They have hair colourists and facialists and a 20 per cent discount at Prada and microdermabrasion technicians and banker husbands (probably). They have no sense of humour, either, hence the lack of laugh lines.
When fashion magazines write about age, these are the women
they cite as role models: Tilda Swinton, Kate Moss, Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren, Carolina Herrera. When they give us advice, they say things like this, from Bella Freud: ‘I like a boyish uniform.’
Has she ever stood outside Tesco – in the real world, as opposed to her natural habitat of West London boutiques – and seen the silhouettes of older female shoppers? Has she? Boyish? Seriously?
And how about the following nugget of advice for those of us who are PM (post-menopausal, not resident of No10): ‘Buttons are key,’, along with ‘nice zips. And a pop of just the right colour and a glimpse of unadorned toned flesh.’
TONED flesh! Buttons! They’re mad! Utterly, utterly bonkers. When fashion magazines write about how these women do it, they type the following, taken from the July ‘Ageless Style’ issue of Vogue, which came out on Friday: ‘Cover star Carolyn Murphy’s mother encouraged her to eat fermented foods 30 years before it became trendy.’ So. Sauerkraut gave the 42-year-old supermodel that unlined, luminous skin on the cover, or was it just a good old dose of airbrushing? No, the reality of the older woman was writ large on front pages on Friday. It is what helped Theresa lose her authority and what propelled Trump to triumph over Hillary.
And it is this. The woman on the front pages was deemed too old to lead our country by voters who ought not to be so shallow, but can’t help themselves.
She hasn’t been airbrushed, or bought Balenciaga, or eaten pickles, the only acceptable way to age in the post-selfie age.
She should be wrinkling jam on the back of a spoon, not making waves in Europe. She should make like Eve Pollard, and disappear, start muttering about how important it is to find joy in dancing, and in family and friends.
It’s several centuries of conditioning at work, of course. The satirists at Spitting Image inadvertently helped Thatcher stay in power, as they portrayed her in a suit and tie.
She was more Iron Man than Iron Woman, so that was all right.
Theresa May didn’t get such a leg up. She was just too womanly. Shy. Apologetic. She obviously hasn’t heard about the importance of buttons, and unadorned toned flesh.
Remember that film Attack Of The 50ft Woman? It features a character, Harry, who hides under his desk in fear.
This is the unspoken factor in Theresa’s humiliation: Fear Of The Fifty-something Woman.
Even I voted for Corbyn, a man who can’t be bothered to shave, let alone buy an ostrich-trimmed blush pink dress.