Warning: It may initially appear that this post is a little off-topic for the University of Me, but bear with me to the end.
Trope: a common or overused theme or device
This weekend a post was shared in my Facebook feed declaring that someone was sick of reading fantasy stories about teenage adolescent males undertaking universe-saving quests. The post made a good case for mature female protagonists, and I thought, “Yes!” Then the post went on to describe the lead character as an 85 year old women. And I thought “Right on!,” (thereby dating myself.)
Then I read the description:
Eighty-five-year-old woman who goes on epic journeys … armed only with a cane and her stab-tastic knitting needles, accompanied by her six cats and a skittish-yet-devoted orderly who makes sure she takes her pills on time.
Total deflation. Waa waa. Seriously! Why bother breaking one trope while wholeheartedly embracing another?
This character, this stereotyped character description, sounds totally like a Miss Marple-ish trope. A characterization completely out of date with the modern age. Besides the spinster stereotype, like Miss Marple, is an observer of humanity not an actor. A good bit of her power was in her status as an overlooked spinster. An old maid. Part of an entire generation of women who were deprived of the opportunity to participate in their true sphere of wife and mother by world war one; often referred to despairingly by the press as ‘superfluous women.’ And don’t get me started on needing a male companion to keep her on track…
It is time to update our stereotypes of older people; especially women. Miss Marple begone. Meet the modern mature women.
- Meet my friend FH. FH is about the age of the character above. She is in the park at dawn most mornings with her three dogs (two large, one small) and does yoga daily. Not considering retirement at all, she has been working to develop the entrepreneurial community in her state for some 30 years and more. FH teaches entrepreneurship, both at the college level and through the Kauffman Foundation. She also has worldwide paying clients in the fields of technology, health care, etc. that she mentors in the marketplace. She writes about technology, culture, politics and aging in major tech and lifestyle publications; including the Huffington Post, Recode, EmpowerHer and many more. FH is an early adopter of technology and frequently participates in beta testing. All this despite have a background in marketing and PR, not technology. FH has no plans to slow down any time soon.
- Meet my second example, JMB; who is admittedly a decade younger. JMB is an artist who just completed many years as lifestyle nomad, moving from place to place. She recently settled in a new location for a while where she’s engaging in her art with renewed enthusiasm. JMB, though, is frustrated by the fact that she hasn’t found a studio she can use to create full-scale metal sculptures. Currently she is limited to jewelry making, small scale metalsmithing and various types of drawing and painting. J-M walks every day and runs most of her errands that way as well.
My point? If you are going to bust through stereotypical thinking, do it all the way. Don’t attempt to bypass one trope while embracing another.
And also, if this is what life can be for the modern women of 70 or 80, isn’t time to change the idea that at 50 or even 40 it’s too late to start over? It’s never too late to reach for a new, more satisfying life or career. Don’t buy into outdated messages or obsolete tropes. Be an FH. Be a JMB. Live every part of your life to the fullest.
Need some help? We got your back here at the University of Me. We can help you find your next career or life transition and offer a supportive community to provide accountability for making real progress on your goals.