At least once a day there’s a thought that crosses my mind or a headline that catches my eye where I think: I should write a blog post about that. Usually followed by all the reasons I shouldn’t bother–no one cares, you have nothing new to add to the subject, good grief, Fringe, another lousy poem? what makes you think you should, you’ve already posted about that ad infinitum, blah blah blah–and I don’t. Well, it’s my blog and I’ll
weep ruminate if I want to. We don’t all have One Thing we dedicate our lives to, but I do think most of us have a handful of subjects that draw us back. Themes. I’ve written many stories in somewhat varying genres, but most can be boiled down to the theme of not enough. Not good enough, not rich enough, not talented enough, not young enough, not worthy enough. Any of my long time readers know there are themes here on the blog I return to again and again, all loosely related to living live on the fringe. Today I’m back to womenofacertainage.
That’s me, above. My hair, anyway (post-ironing). It isn’t news to me that it’s a political statement (insert eyeroll here) I don’t dye my hair. I mean, sure, there’s an element of budget (getting your hair dyed is $$$$), laziness (it’s a good year if I get to the stylist twice for a haircut), and I like how it looks (I think the silver is pretty), but to others? Whoa. I am brave. Excuse me while I gag a bit. Maybe weep some more. If you dye your hair because you want to and like to, great! But I don’t think it’s so clearcut. When it comes to the signs of age and aging in our society, it’s complicated. I’ve had many women offer a compliment and follow it with, I would love to stop dying my hair, but my husband/partner/child/parent doesn’t want me to. Is that true? Maybe. Sometimes. But many of those same women wouldn’t hesitate to dye their hair a color their person objected to, or cut their hair, or not cut their hair, or dread it or straighten it or perm it or whatever.
I’ve been reading a lot these past weeks, but have put aside many more novels than I’ve finished. Last night I started another and realized part of why I keep putting so many to the side. Not because they’re terrible, and not because they’re too deep. I love great books that make me think, highlight the human condition, and make me cry because I’ll never write such a beautiful sentence, but that isn’t what I’m in the mood for these days. I want stories deep enough to engage that primarily offer escape. All the news is awful, thoughts of what’s to come, who and what has been lost in these past months of Covid-19 are worse, damned right I want to get lost in someone else’s fiction. But it can only be escape if it offers characters I can connect with. I guess my version of escape is different from…who? The majority of readers? Gatekeepers of the publishing industry? Where are the contemporary novels with mid-life (and older) protagonists? Ones where the storyline isn’t about second chances at love, or ticking biological clocks, or 55 year old men finding love with a 22 year old, or twenty-nine year olds who are panicking and botoxing because they’ve realized their skin actually moves when they smile. Where are the novels–whether they’re lit fic or genre–with protagonists who have saggy boobs and enlarged prostates and that isn’t the whole storyline? And nope, I’m not looking for the sweet septuagenarian who solves bloodless murders in between knitting tea cozies and baking cookies, or the cranky old octogenarian who used to be so nice until his somebody died and left him alone and afraid until the toothless 6 year old facing a lung transplant melted his heart with a sticky hug. I’m not saying I never read or never want to read stories with young protagonists, but for me the thought of being 25 again is not a pleasant escape but ugh, no thanks. And 16? 18? is the stuff of nightmares.
Everyone in the US so busy pretending to be shocked by the GOP and republicans literally willing to sacrifice seniors, disabled people, POC, middle aged folks with pre-existing conditions. Are you really? Really shocked? Hell, middle-aged people are so undesirable, so distasteful in our society they’ve been willed into invisibility. Young or old, those are the only two options. 60 is young! Why, just look at that multimillionaire 60 year old actress over there with her personal trainers and surgically enhanced everything, must be something wrong with you, your priorities, if you don’t look like her–or want to. You don’t want to look 50, or 40, or hell, even 30 (remember, that’s about when you discovered your skin might move when you smile). We’re such an all or nothing society. Young is good, old is bad (except as a vehicle for the occasional heart warming moment). Rich is good, poverty is bad. Men are bold and distinguished, women are hysterical and bitchy. White is rights and freedoms, black/brown is unlawful and suspicious. Anyone in between, who contemplates or lives in the gray of life isn’t worth discussing, insuring, or even saving, why would we want to read about them, eh?
This morning I asked on Twitter for recommendations of novels with middle aged or older protagonists. To my non-surprise, few suggestions have come through, fewer that I haven’t already read.
I was going to suggest Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books until I read that Reacher started off at age 36, and Child put the breaks on that when fictional Reacher approached 50.
Looking at the rest of my ‘library,’ I have to say not a one fits your wished-for demographic.
I’m older than you are, Mrs Fringe. I’ve noticed some things about my physical self that have me kind of shocked of late. Creped skin–when did that happen? Hair growing in weird places. Wrinkles that don’t disappear when I quit smiling. Yesterday for the first time, I noticed how thin the skin was on the backs of my hands. Maybe from all the hand washing I’m doing (surely my age has nothing to do with it). I wonder how grey I’d be iif I committed to letting the boxed brown fade away.
Truth is, my body has been around the block more than a few times and it’s showing big time. So am I worth less in the grand scheme of things because I’ve inhabited this world longer than Gen Xers? Because my physical self is becoming decrepit? Do I not matter as much now and, if not, would my value increase if I were younger? If I had a shit-ton of money? If I were a famous writer/actor/athlete?
Don’t know. Not sure I really care too much at this point how others see me–or IF they do–as long as they keep their paws off my person and my rights as a citizen of this country, and of this earth. I hope I don’t find myself one day having to defend those rights beyond my own blog, or Twitter, or writing to my congressperson, or via the voting booth. I hope one day soon things change for the better, for all of us–young and old, rich and poor, gay and straight. . . you get the drift.
I guess we’ll see.
By the way, as for the novels I’ve written, my mcs include young boys and gay men which means that I’m writing about people who are totally NOT in my cohort. In other words, as a writer, I seem to prefer to swim in the waters of La La Land rather than Realsville. Come on in, Mrs F., the water’s fine.
Fine as the wrinkles on this mature woman’s face, which really ain’t fine at all.
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I haven’t read any of the Reacher books, I’d still put them on the list. There isn’t a magic age for me, it’s just that people at the beginning of their lives have a different perspective, that often isn’t all that interesting to me when paired with a commercial novel.
I am an (old? early?) GenXer, and still apparently both worthless and invisible. I also don’t care how others see me–certainly not in terms of age, their freak-out at my grays is their issue, not mine. But damn, while my value may not be that of someone who’s super wealthy or successful–or someone with childbearing years ahead, I am still here, and willing to spend my time and $ on a good book that interests me.
As for Realsville, you know me, I need the real, the grit, even if it’s wrapped in a haze on Mars, lol.
A bloody great post that I did enjoy
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Thank you, Joanne!
I’m just waiting for a book where the protagonist hero has a small penis while still having a Bond-esque success with heroines like Pussy Galore, Holly Goodhead, and Plenty O’Toole.
Not my genre, but I’d put $ down on there being a subgenre of erotica that’s got you covered, lol.