Saturday, January 28, 2006

Women Should Not Live Past Thirty

It is the night of the Golden Globes Awards, 2006. The winner for the Best Actress in a Television Drama is announced. The award goes to Geena Davis for playing the President of the U.S. of A. in Commander in Chief. Davis stands up from her table. Glowing with understated pleasure, she hugs her entourage. She sashays majestically towards the stage wearing something red and gorgeous. Accepting the award with quiet grace, she then turns to her audience. With measured dignity she delivers her words: “As I stepped onto the red carpet tonight, a little girl tugged at my dress. She looked up at me and said ‘Because of you, I want to be president someday.’” As one, the audience emits a soulful “Awww!” Geena waits for a heartbeat. Then, without changing her tone, she says: “Well, that didn’t actually happen.” The audience’s emotions do an about-turn, somewhat stunned. Petulantly she adds: “But it could have!” Within three seconds she has wrapped the audience around her red-tipped fingers, making them, by turns, sympathetic, confused and wild with laughter. What a good way to celebrate your fiftieth birthday Geena, I thought!

Luckily Geena Davis hasn’t read about the decline of the female species after a certain age. Fortunately for her she doesn’t read the men’s magazines popular in our country. She might believe that women after the age of thirty-five are useless and should not be taken seriously. But perhaps I am maligning the editors of these prepubescent publications. Perhaps they have studied earnestly history of literature. Perhaps they have decided to take a leaf from the British critic, J.W. Croker. After all, he - in 1815 - denounced the work of a previously beloved author of the realm as the work of a ‘shriveled hag.’ The reason? “Novel and novelist alike have grown too old to delight discriminating male readers,” Croker squawked. “The vivacity, the bloom, the elegance, ‘the purple light of love’ are vanished,” he whined. Women should not write after they turn thirty, Coker implied. He must have been delighted to have Lord Merton on his side who believed that, not only should women not write after thirty; women should not live after thirty. These two crusties said – as they approached their eightieth years, “If a woman had anything of significance to say which was not ‘modest, delicate, wispy and delightful,’ they were past their best as writers and as women.”*

What a relief Geena didn’t study history of literature. Just think, she might have put herself out to pasture straight after her seminal role as Thelma in the 1991 classic Thelma and Louise. But how brave of her to fight on, even though her waist isn’t as slim now as that of her 1991 incarnation. I don’t know how she manages it. It’s unbelievable. She is witty and charming and – Gosh Darn It – pretty damn sexy in her ancient state. I wonder what this means. Is it possible that women past thirty might be able to knock an audience dead with the power of their being? Is it possible that women after the age of thirty don’t have to be euthanased. I’m not too sure. Perhaps we should consult Oprah. After all, she is only… Oh no! Not another one that has slipped through the cracks! Oh dear. I wonder if the men’s magazines have advice pages for questions like these. Or perhaps they, like internet dating sites, don’t take mail from women over thirty. Damn! Looks like I’m on my own with this one. Just me. And Geena.

* Celia Johnson, Jane Austen.