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.