In the new Netflix show "Gypsy," the criminally underrated actor Naomi Watts plays a Manhattan-based cognitive behavioral therapist with issues. While I enjoyed the psychosexual thriller — that's the streaming service's apt description of the 10-part show — I'm not here to rave about its excellent acting, slow/old-fashioned story unraveling or fabulous cinematography. Because the first thing I did once I'd settled in for the first couple episodes was to Google "Naomi Watts age."
That's because I couldn't tell from looking at her, her clothes or her haircut, how old she is or is supposed to be in the series. (Turns out she's 48 in real life.) She seems, for lack of a better word, ageless. And she's not the only one — other actors like Nicole Kidman (50); Jada Pinkett Smith (45); Robin Wright (51); and Jennifer Aniston (48) all have a sort of undefinable quality when it comes to age. They're all also in career upswings, defying the idea that middle-aged women can't get good acting jobs (and yes, some are creating those spaces for themselves via producing).
But unlike coffee-break Botox and $500 Pilates sessions, this new middle age isn't limited to Hollywood stars with their massive health and beauty budgets. Women all around me seem to be having a very different type of "over the hill" experience than the one I grew up reading about at Spencer's Gifts.
And beyond my cohort, there are plenty of others who feel the same. As the Telegraph reports on a survey via the marketing agency SuperHuman, 96 percent of women over 40 don't feel "middle aged" at all. More than 80 percent thought that the way that society saw middle age was inaccurate.
"More than two thirds considered themselves in their prime of life; 59 percent felt as vibrant and young as they ever have — partly due to a focus on health and fitness — and 84 percent said they don’t define themselves by age," reports The Telegraph.
Taking time to grow into yourself
These findings resonate with me. Having turned 40 this year, I see most women my age and older as active (or more so, now that we have the time and/or money), healthy, and, frankly, more attractive than ever. Maybe even more so; I'm not the only one who took many years to grow into herself and would definitely say that I'm better looking, and more healthy and happy now than I was in my early 20s.
And it's not just how I look and feel. I had a completely different life in my 20s. When I was 28, I had a 9-6 job, I commuted to the city and had employment benefits, owned a home in the Connecticut suburbs, and threw dinner parties. Now I work virtually (no commute), rent where I happen to be living, and haven't thrown a dinner party in a decade-plus. I'm much more free now — and I make a lot less money than I did in my 20s. Some days, it feels like I have reversed decades in my life, and it feels like I'm growing younger, except now I have the benefit of a couple decades of experience as an adult.
Am I part of the ageless generation? I think so.
"Forty-plus women today look, feel and live differently than the generation before them — 90 percent consider themselves to have a much younger attitude than their own mother’s generation at the same age," Rebecca Rhodes, co-founder of SuperHuman, told The Telegraph.
Just like baby boomers have redefined older age, so have the generations following them. And while not everyone is going to buck the strictures of social expectations of age, there's at least enough room now for each of us to act the age we feel — not the one on our passports.