I've loved reading September's posts so far. Discussing the mature heroine in cyberspace is ignighting a fire storm of questions in my mind, making me reflect on my own age and my own life as a whole. One question that comes to mind is this...
Have I made an impact on someone, anyone, in the 38 years I've been on earth?
Now, lets set this question aside for a moment and discuss the topic at hand.
I'm sure we've all heard women complain, "After 40, it's all down hill."
Why do we say this? What within our DNA makes us believe such rubbish?
And then I thought about it. It's not DNA at all. Our genetic makeup isn't responsible for this pessemistic notion.
It's the media.
American women have been conditioned, from birth it seems, to believe that we have only a short window of time in which to enjoy the benefits of beauty and desirability. Our teens and twenties were the "golden age". Our skin was elastic, our breasts were perky and coarse black hair grew on our gams, not our jawlines. (WTF's up with that? For about three years now a few persistant whiskers have been sprouting from my chin with the growth rate of invasive Kudzu. If the hair on my scalp grew with as much zeal I'd be tripping over my tresses in between each monthly trim.)
I digress...Fashion magazines, In my opinion, are one of the major culprits contributing to the incorrect notion that the mature heroine is lacking. Their glossy, high concept pages have little room for wrinkles or saddle bags, size 12 frocks or greying hair. Instead, the publications are populated by long-limbed, firm skinned, baby-faced goddesses swimming in size zero garments and contorted into couture poses coreographed to make them appear even thinner.
Like I admitted earlier, I'm 38 and to be completely honest, I'm one of the thousands of mature women who gobble up these magazines like a 4 p.m. Oreo binge.
Now, I'm using the fashion industry as an example, because it happens to be what I'm into. I subscribe to three different fashion magazines, all of which appear to embrace feminine youth as their mantra.
So why do I support this view?
I don't internally. I'd like to think I'm better than that, but to be honest, I suppose I've been captivated by these images - lithe figures, shining coifs and designer fabrics modeled by gamine youth. And that's exactly what a fashion editor wants - her readers to be dazzled by youth and beauty.
In much the same way, romance editors okay book covers featuring a teen or 20 something model. Her porcelain skin unwrinkled and blessedly free of stretchmarks. Her scantily clad, D-cup figure draping a muscled hero. Her full lips parted, hinting at a moan.
I believe there are romance readers who would reject the mature heroine, for her younger, firmer counterpart if she were depicted this way. And editors know this. When was the last time you saw someone that looks like Martha Stewart being carried across the heather in the arms of a kilted hero on a romance book cover? Hmmm?
Maybe its time an attractive, mature woman (like Martha Stewart for example) was given a shot at posing for the next historical cover - I see her at the bow of a pirate ship, skirts whipping in the wind revealing sexy dimpled thighs while her crows feet are illuminated in the moonlight.
Hey, I think that cover would be cool!
Besides, crows feet are simply a testement to happiness and laughter and dimpled thighs are a testament to...well, I can't think of a literary way of accepting celulite. Feel free to fill in the blank for me.
Basically what I'm saying is we shouldn't reject the prospect of aging. Instead, we should embrace the prospect of a brilliant future.
We as readers and writers can affect the future perception of the mature heroine by the actions we take today. Continue to read with the fashion industry's preferences in mind and thousands of deeply satisfying novels portraying the lives and loves of spectacularly written mature heroines might never see print. Continue to follow the trends and write solely with the youthful heroine in mind, and a potential audience of devoted fans might never be realized.
We have to change things in the industry. Those of us who have yet to pick up a book with an older female protagonist should go out and give one a try.
And those of us who pour their heart and soul into a novel, who stay up late typing long after the kids have been tucked into bed, who find themselves behind at work because they used company time to translate thought into plot, who turn dreams into stories on their Alphasmarts in precious seconds at stoplights, might benefit from exchanging a 20 something main character for a 30 or 40 something heroine.
You never know unless you try.
And that sentence brings me to the question I asked myself in the beginning of this long post.
Have I made an impact on someone, anyone, in 38 years?
I hope so. I have a 13 yr old daughter and though she sees my fashion magazines and thumbs through them periodically, I've taught her that beauty is only skin deep.
Our intelligence, respect for others, actions and beliefs make us who we are. In the end, youthful appearance is fleeting, but the wisdom of maturity is something we can hold onto for a lifetime.
So even though I haven't discovered a cure for cancer, or designed a fashionable stilleto that's actually comfortable, I have made an impact on someone I love. And that's pretty cool.
Baby steps people, baby steps. We need to make an impact a little at a time and if writing about a mature heroine or reading about one is your first step, then I salute you.
Have you made an impact on someone, anyone? Have you written outside the box?
Let me know. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Have a wonderful, productive day...and smile, remember, crows feet are merely a testament to a happy life.