Women (and Writers) of a Certain Age: The Top 10 Advantages

Dame Agatha Christie
The Unsinkable Dame Agatha Christie
Back when I was in my early 30s and just getting my career as a writer off the ground, an editor I was working with commented, “Personally, I feel that women can’t really be good writers until they’re at least in their 40s.”

At the time, her opinion surprised me. Yet over the years, I’ve come to agree—especially in the area of crime fiction. From Agatha Christie to P.D. James, I’ve found that the more venerable the writer, the riper the prose—the result of having done more, seen more, thought more, and concluded more. When it comes to Writers of a Certain Age, their plots tend to be cleverer, their heroines sharper, and their books generally just more fun.

But I’ve found that having an enriched perspective when it comes to creating characters and concocting plots is only one of the many benefits of aging. Yes, benefit. That’s the word I used. Because whenever my friends moan about getting older (which seems to keep happening more and more often), I can’t help playing the role of devil’s advocate.

It’s true that there’s a lot to be said for hair with no gray in it, foreheads with no lines in them, and skin that doesn’t look like it’s made out of crepe paper. And many less obvious body parts, from joints to bladders, don’t work quite as well as they used to.

Still, while they say that getting old isn’t for the faint of heart, being young isn’t as carefree as people like to pretend. Establishing a career, finding a mate, even feeling secure about being able to pay the rent every month all make the 20s, 30s, and even 40s pretty darned stressful.

In short, I find there are many advantages to this stage of life. It’s a club in which membership is unspoken. There are no dues and no newsletters, no name tags or secret handshakes. As for the initiation, we’ve been working on that for years.

So, with apologies to David Letterman, here’s my own Top Ten List of the advantages of becoming a Woman (and a Writer) of a Certain Age.

10. Not having to care about how we look in a bathing suit. Neither does anyone else. (Fun fact:  Dame Agatha Christie was a surfing wahini!)

9. Never having to study for anything again—not finals, not driver’s tests, not licensing exams. (Of course, the one thing I’ll never tire of “studying” is human nature.)

8. Getting off the treadmill of work. No more needing to work our butts off doggedly pursuing new projects, struggling to reinvent ourselves to fit whatever a particular job description calls for, or accepting any kind of assignment that comes along even if it makes us gag.

7. Exercise and diet with the goal of feeling good, not looking good.

6. Enjoying ourselves immensely when our adult children come to visit—and letting out a sigh of relief when they go back to their own lives.

5. Feeling free to give up on a book if it doesn’t grab us after the first few pages. I suspect this type of confidence when it comes to making judgments about others’ words on the printed page also improves Writers of a Certain Age’s ability to judge (and improve) their own!

4. Not worrying about whether we’ll ever accomplish everything we wanted to accomplish in life. Either I’ve already done it, I realize I’ll never do it, or I’m working on it now, doing things like joining the Y so I can swim whenever I feel like it, traveling to exotic locales, and allowing myself to indulge in an entire day of accomplishing nothing but getting lost in a book I can’t put down.

3. No more menstruation! (Goodness, whoever came up with that idea in the first place?)

You Can Do It! Or rather you can’t anymore and it’s glorious!2. Not agonizing over what I’ll be when I grow up. Not that I can’t try new things; just that I don’t have to be so goal-oriented about it. This newfound freedom also enables me to explore different genres, different types of characters, even different writing styles.

In a hurry for Number 1? Happens to me, too. Let me tell you a story… I’ve got the time.

A few weekends ago, my husband and I were meandering along a charming country road dotted with wineries and farm stands on Long Island’s North Fork. Being a Woman of a Certain Age, my thoughts eventually turned where they always turn: the question of where I’d find a soon-to-be-needed ladies room. I wandered into a rustic building. The only person behind the counter was a woman close enough to my age that she undoubtedly had the same fond memories of both David Cassidy and Davy Jones that I did. Instantly recognizing kindred spirits, we smiled at each other warmly. “I don’t suppose you have a restroom…?”

She hesitated for only a moment. “It’s not open to the public,” she said. “But you can use it.”

I wasn’t surprised. Grateful, but not surprised. After all, the woman and I are members of the same special club. 

And the Top Advantage of being a Woman (and Writer) of a Certain Age is—

1. Being part of that community, embraced by a warm, sympathetic group of people who fully understand that we’ve got to look after each other—and that when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go, even if it means breaking a few rules.
 

 


Cynthia Baxter is the author of two mystery series, Reigning Cats & Dogs (Bantam Books) featuring Long Island veterinarian Jessica Popper, and Murder Packs a Suitcase (Bantam Books) featuring travel writer Mallory Marlowe. Her most recent book is a psychological suspense novel, The Housesitter (Dark Corridors), available through Amazon.com and iTunes.

Comments

  1. Lisa pulitzer

    I could not agree more! Kudos to Cynthia for calling it correctly.

  2. Laura K. Curtis

    I could not agree more.

    At a certain age–and it’s slightly different for everyone, I imagine, your priorities just change. Would I like to look better? Sure. Am I going to give up Brie for it? Not a chance.

    Go Cynthia!

  3. MaryC

    Love the list! I worked hard to get to my age and have no desire to turn the clock baack.

  4. ritad

    My mind still thinks I’m 20, but the knees are another story. Thanks for giving me a chuckle.

  5. Neliza Drew

    ritad, my mind waffles between 12 and 45.
    My body is pretty sure it’s in its 30s.
    In other words, I’m an old soul who still wants a skateboard.

    Laura, you’re comment reminds me of a conversation I have with my hairdresser friend every time she plays “Barbie head” with me. I look great when she’s done with me, but I’m not wasting that kind of time on a regular basis. (And that, is my “Brie.”)

  6. Mary Ann Woods

    What a wonderful list, and sooooo true and I’m not even writer! Thanks for putting all these thoughts down so succinctly!

  7. Laurie Hanan

    I laughed out loud. Thanks.

  8. Barbara Winkes

    Being a writer in my late thirties, I’m happy to hear that the best is yet to come! When I was getting my degree in psychology, one of my teachers used to say that good therapists are like good wine–It takes awhile. The same rule seems to apply here.

  9. Jane Carlberg

    Right on, Cynthia! I actually think the secret of enjoying life is to appreciate whatever age you happen to be. There are, as in most things, advantages and disadvantages to all of them.

    Look forward to more blogs.

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