The 40-Something Woman: The Lost Demographic

This past week I’ve had the opportunity to actually watch some television in real time.

Big mistake.

Commercials are targeted to the largest demographic watching television during that time slot. I don’t know if anyone’s noticed, but there is a bit of a gap in the advertising. Those of us in our mid-to late 40s are conspicuously absent from most commercials, unless we are used as props for the older or younger target audiences. We are a lost demographic.

Not that that’s a bad thing. TV ads are damaging; I’m being shown that I’m doing middle age wrong – and that I’m middle-aged. Maybe. I’m not sure. I do know that I’m not insured enough for my family to know that I care for them.

As far as the commercials go, you’re either a successful woman in your 30s or you are over 50. Maybe there will be an occasional commercial for skin cream featuring a model or celebrity in her 40s, but she is never older than 43 (and we know this because they tell us).

What about the rest of us? What about those of us in our forties? What about those of us not quite old enough for AARP? Those of us who have plenty of gray hair, but not enough to go fully, fashionably, and 50-something gray? And am I going to have to cut my long hair in two years when I turn 50?

(Fortunately, in between commercials there is the occasional television show that portrays us as oversexed, man-eating cougars.)

(Oversexed? I wish.)

Advertisers don’t seem to know what to do with us. In one 30-second spot we are told to fight our age, and in the next we are told to embrace it. Hey, advertisers: stop trying to make us choose sides.  How the hell are we supposed to know what to do if you don’t? Not all of us are married, work full-time, or … have grandchildren (shudder).

(Note to my older daughter: don’t even think about it. Right now I still think I’m young enough to have a life, and I’m not babysitting.)

Many of us have both college-aged or older children and children under 18 – but not necessarily infants or toddlers.

You advertisers don’t know what to do with us, do you? But you definitely give us something to look forward to, don’t you? We will either be constipated all the time, or spend our lives looking for bathrooms. We are going to get shingles, since we already have the virus in us because we had chicken pox as children. Our joints will stiffen up and we won’t be able to move around. When we reach 50, us single gals can join the old-people dating sites to meet a man – but we will be lucky enough if his joints … stiffen up (that is, if his heart can handle it).

(I’m assuming the sultry woman on the Viagra commercials is there as a pre-screening for men? – I’ll point out that she is our age, but that is only because they needed a woman younger than their target demographic. Because … guys.)

Should we be thanking you for Mr. Trivago and Mr. Maytag?

How the hell are all the old people in your commercials smiling? What drugs are you giving them? Certainly not the ones you are advertising. Those have more side effects than Imelda Marcos has shoes. (← Deliberate age reference.)

How about you advertisers mix it up a bit, and stop assuming we are all the same? Show single and married women hanging out together, wearing different styles and sporting different hair lengths. Show us the fun we can have with all of our kids at the same time, accounting for the age range.

Give us something to look forward to.

Show us how to get wine stains out of shirts, rugs, and sheets. Give us a car commercial showing us driving a younger child to school and an older one to a job – and then going off to do something that is actually fulfilling, rather than just going home to prepare the family meal?

How about battery commercials for what we actually use batteries for?

We are not all ‘leaking.’ We are not having a happy period – although, I would love to see a Happy Period commercial for the woman who has realized she is NOT pregnant; that is the only happy period.

I won’t hold my breath and wait for any of this, though. I will just thank the Technology Gods and DVR anything I want to watch on TV, fast forwarding through the commercials, and avoid ‘suggestions’ from advertisers. Even when I turn 50.


I’m Now 48 (But I Will Probably Never Grow Up)

Today’s my birthday! Yay, me! I enjoy my birthdays like nobody’s business. Am I immature? Maybe. A little over the top? Probably. Ridiculous, even? ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY.

And I like it.

There is a small part of me that cannot believe I’m this age. 48! Almost 50! Whoa, that’s like … ancient to my 13 year old self, the one I still identify with the most.

Did we ever think we would be THIS old?

I get to thinking about maturity. It’s an annual thing I do every birthday, the day I consider to be my own personal New Year. I certainly don’t feel like what I thought a mature adult would feel like, but what I’ve realized is that whether or not I act it is not only up to me, but up to my own perception of what maturity is, right? Or even whether or not it matters?

Remember when we would tell people to “act your age, not your shoe size”? How do we know how we are supposed to act at a certain age if we’ve never been that age before? Are we supposed to measure our level of maturity by how we compare to others?

I have never been fond of comparisons, in any capacity – except for sugar substitutes … they are not better than real sugar, and they don’t taste the same, either … and margarine – butter is better … And decaf – no, thank you …

Okay, comparisons of food and food substitutes are all right, but not people comparisons. We are told that we will always find someone better or worse off than we are in looks, body types, financial status, attitudes, you-name-it. Why? Does it really matter? Looking down on someone we consider less fortunate in any way is not a substantial way to build ourselves up (it really isn’t all that compassionate, either). Looking at someone we hold in higher esteem than we hold ourselves may give us something to strive for – if our envy doesn’t get the better of us – but it also serves as indications that we consider ourselves “not good enough.”

Who is it up to that determines what maturity is? I work hard, love and support my children, try to prevent them from the consequences of Head Up Ass Syndrome (usually by direct example). I do the best that I can. And I make a conscious effort to try to do better each day.

Is that not mature of me?

But I will also be the one to attempt a cartwheel after 20 years (and laugh at the pain I felt for a week afterwards), play on swings, face a camera with my open mouth full of partially-chewed food, go out of my way to push people’s buttons at every opportunity, embarrass my children in public … and wear a tiara on my birthdays.

Is that immature of me?

Why? If I’m trying to manage my responsibilities, who is anyone else to judge how I handle my down time? I embrace my ridiculousness. It keeps me sane – well, it keeps me going, anyway. We all do what we can to get by, to stay afloat, to keep our heads out of our asses.

How many times have we heard others talk about what we miss about growing up? How many times have we expressed the desire “to be young again”? Why can’t we understand that while we may have experienced some serious hard times and mourn our ‘loss of innocence’ to world tragedies, that keeping and maintaining that innocence (and joy and enthusiasm) – outside of circumstantial occurrences – is for the most part our own choice?

What we feel, think, focus on, reflect, ponder, and areis a result of our own thoughts. We have more control and choice than we allow ourselves to believe.

We can almost look at growing older as what we deal with when playing sports as children. There will always be people pushing us to perform a certain way, while deep inside we just want to enjoy the game.

We should enjoy the game, right? Because it is like they say: no one gets out of this alive.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to push my big, fat, birthday excitement in other people’s faces. After all, I’m wearing a tiara.