It seems as if men gain gravitas with every passing year while women lose it with each grey hair and laugh line. While men are invited to consult on corporate boards, there’s an expectation that we should fade into the background and focus on more hygge pursuits like tap dancing and watercolour painting. We famously drive slowly and stay close to home, making our second-hand vehicles desirable, even if we have ceased to be. Perhaps in previous generations, when women were less educated and fewer had careers, those stereotypes may have been more accurate but older women these days are a different breed altogether.
There are a surprising number of derogatory terms for us; granny, biddy, old bag, hag, crone and more recently, Karen, but the term ‘little old lady’ is one of the most corrosive and still commonly used. It assumes that older women are frail, harmless and powerless. It’s disempowering at a time when many older women have new and different challenges to face in life.
Many older women are in unhappy relationships but don’t have the confidence or financial independence to leave. Changing or even keeping a job can be tricky for the over fifties; ironically the time of our lives when we have less commitments and so much experience to offer. Those who are single, widowed or divorced may be struggling financially and, increasingly, older women are at risk of homelessness. For the majority of us, raised in the 1950s and 1960s, and trained to be obedient and compliant, our lives have been a series of evolutions as we moved from one phase to another, and many women feel lost at this stage of their lives.
I’m often asked where I find inspiration for my stories, and the simple answer is from lived experience and lives of women around me. It’s not always evident later in life that we were all young and lovely and full of dreams at one time. Regardless of how the world sees us now, we are still those same women — but better, stronger, more resilient and interesting with life experience. We’re honest, funny and self-deprecating. We can discuss anything with other women — sometimes women we barely know. We may look like little old ladies but there is so much more to us. Older women have strength and courage and complex histories, we have overcome life’s many obstacles and endured. We’re capable of more than most people imagine. We deserve to be acknowledged and we deserve to be written about. That’s my job.
Lovebirds by Amanda Hampson is available in store and online now.