Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Okay so I'm almost 50. 48 years and three months old, exactly. And lately, I've found myself writing about older women characters. Interesting (to me at least) because I have always written about young characters.

I think we humans always identify with our young selves. It's natural. Our bodies betray us. Inside, we feel twenty...but outside we look....sixty, seventy. (Well, actually, my hubby tells me I look like I'm in my mid-30's. Is the guy sweet or what?)

Perhaps we write about young characters because the world has trained us to. After all, it's the young who do the great feats of derring-do. Or perhaps we're afraid of getting old or we just can't identify with old characters.

I suspect I'm writing about older women because I'm feeling my age. (still don't look it, though.) Whatever the reason I'm doing all these old fogey ladies, I find myself still writing about youngish male characters. And these young guys have crushes on these old fogey ladies? Is there a need for serious psycho-analysis here? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Latent pedophilia aside, I find that some adversarial pain-in-the-neck argumentative part of me (which actually is a very big part of me) wants to do something about the ageism I see on television. Subtle racism mixed with ageism(the non-sexy, grandmotherly, Aunt Jemima-ness of the black woman) and dang! we black women are put outside the romance pool a bit too early. (At least in the media, not real life.) Upshot: I end up writing books where the cute blonde white woman doesn't get the young guy and the older black woman goes off with him to the marriage bed. (It's always gotta be marriage. I'm a Christian, after all. No premarital sex, alas. Except maybe the night before the wedding, like I did in Wind Follower.)

I hate to admit it cause as I said, I'm old now. But, I'm still wounded from seeing all those fifties, sixties, seventies films where black women weren't considered really beautiful. (yep, even in the 2000's. Remember last year when everyone kept saying two of the black women singers on American Idol were "plain.") As a writer, I want to see how much I can get away with. And, hey, (speculating here) maybe I'll affect the greater American culture so wonderfully that young guys of all colors will start lusting for older women of color instead of the cool icy "All-American" blonde ideal many have been trained to admire. Dare I believe that because of my influence (okay, and the influence of others like me) ten years from now Oprah will be considered the sex symbol and Michelle Pfeiffer and younger white starlets will all be catching up? Hey, one can dream.

My hubby says that the way I talk sometimes people will think I'm prejudiced against white folks. I'm not. My friends are mostly white. All my boyfriends were white. They were cute guys too. But the world would have a hard time believing that. Heck, they'd have a hard time thinking of Oprah as a sex symbol or a love interest. Yep, they'd hink it was fiction beyond the ordinary. -C


Tia Nevitt said...

Have you ever read Elizabeth Moon? She wrote a novel about a woman in her 50s called Remnant Population. I've never read it, but it's an award-winning science fiction novel.

She also wrote one called The Speed of Dark about an autistic man who has to decide whether he wants to be cured. (Elizabeth Moon actually has an autistic son.)

CaroleMcDonnell said...

Wow, I really should read her. Maybe she's an author i would really like. -C

Gail Dayton said...

Being a few years past 50...I haven't actually written any stories with "older" characters--except I can't write really young ones either. However, since Eternal Rose takes place 6 years after the events in The Barbed Rose, and my heroine is 35 in TBR, that makes her 40 in Eternal Rose. And some of the family members are pushing 50. So maybe I do write some older characters. (Poor Kallista--she has a 3-year-old at 40...)

As a once-nearly-black-haired white woman who started going gray at an early age, and never bothered to dye her hair, I do notice ageism. And I find that study interesting--the one where the woman posted two pictures of herself on an Internet dating site, one with dyed brown hair, and one with gray hair. The gray-haired picture actually got More responses--and not all from older men.

Very interesting, methinks.

CaroleMcDonnell said...

So true, Gail. I think young guys are often tired of young women...too much drama.