An internet revelation caught my attention this week, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
A TikTok user-cum-private-detective made some calculations and revealed that the characters in the Sex and the City reboot (And Just Like That) are roughly the same age as The Golden Girls.
That’s right. The perm-haired, twin set and pearled women from the Miami-based sitcom were the same age when their show first premiered in the 80s as Jimmy Choo-obsessed Carrie Bradshaw and her New York gang are supposed to be now.
‘Wow, how different the two generations look!’ one user commented under the TikTok video. ‘They look so much older!’ another said. While another simply replied, ‘Mind blown!’
The stark difference in their appearance highlights not only how much our perception of age has changed in the past four decades, but what society expects women of a certain age to look like – for better or for worse.
When The Golden Girls first aired in 1985, the main characters Rose, Blanche and Dorothy were 55, 53 and 55 respectively, while the And Just Like That squad consists of Carrie, 55, Charlotte, 54 and while Miranda’s age is not specified, we can suspect she is a similar age.
After doing a little sleuthing of my own, I discovered that the actresses playing Rose (Betty White) and Dorothy (Bea Arthur) were 62 and 63 when The Golden Girls began, so the producers were seemingly happy with older actresses portraying the characters.
Though each series is set almost 40 years apart, both contain similar themes of female friendships, and the trials and tribulations of dating. But their characters’ differences in appearance and lifestyle show just how far we have come in terms of career possibilities for women in their 50s.
There is no doubt that the And Just Like That characters look younger than their Golden counterparts, but I wonder whether our modern perception of women’s looks is, in fact, progressive at all.
I’ve lost count of the number of articles I’ve seen commending the likes of J-Lo and Liz Hurley for their ‘toned physiques’, as if it were their greatest achievement to date. Men rarely face the same commentary (except Paul Rudd. Seriously, the man’s a vampire).
While I’m glad that there is improved visibility of women in their 50s in the media, I wish it wasn’t always on the basis of their youthful appearance.
I’ve spent my 20s and 30s feeling pressure to look like a teenage gymnast. I was hoping I’d get a break within the next decade, but if the success of the anti-aging market is anything to go by, I might have to wait till retirement.
According to estimates by IMARC Group, the global anti-aging market was $58.5billion (£42.7billion) in 2020 and is expected to reach a value of $88.3billion (£64.5billion) by 2026.
No matter how comfortable you are in your own skin, there’s clearly a growing market keen to cash in on your wrinkles. And while men are celebrated as ‘Silver Foxes’, there’s no doubt that women feel more pressure to cover their greying hair.
While it’s important that women don’t feel pressured to ‘look their age’, they shouldn’t feel pressured to look younger either.
When I was little, I thought 50 was ancient. We spent a lot of time in school learning about the Romans – and their life expectancy was 30-35 years – so, given our modernised sanitation facilities and lack of gladiatorial sports, I figured that would earn me a bonus of at least 15 more trips around the sun.
I also grew up watching X Factor and its hideous categorisation of contestants older than 25 as ‘other’. The inclusion of the ‘Overs’ category suggested to me that the music industry thought 26 to be ‘too old’. Tell that to Adele.
I remember when people were shocked at Kylie Minogue for wearing gold hot pants in her Spinning Around music video, even though she was just 33 at the time. I’m now the same age as Kylie was then, and although I’m reaching the end of my life cycle as a hypothetical Roman, as a millennial I feel like life has only just begun.
As a young woman, seeing comments like these made me feel as though I had to achieve everything by my mid-20s: motherhood, marriage, hot-pants. But the older I got, the more I realised I was internalising the pressures of society, rather than taking things at my own pace.
I might save the hot-pants for my 80th – by which time I would hope that society has stopped expecting me to look young in order to be visible.
But we must stop praising celebrities who appear to defy the aging process and cease pressuring other women to follow suit. If we don’t, I worry that the longer our life expectancy becomes, the more years we will be expected to look younger. No one can look 25 forever, not even Paul Rudd.
I hope that future generations of women will not only learn to accept their age, but celebrate it – no matter what it looks like.
To me, there is no such thing as age-appropriate fashion.
While it’s comforting to know that times have changed and society won’t see me as a bag of dust once I hit the big 5-0, I would hope that this would be due to the availability of life opportunities that lay before me, not the anti-wrinkle creams available from Boots.
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