I was around forty when I received the gift of a dream: to be a paid screenwriter on a fabulous television drama. But first, I had to learn the craft. Of course I had the usual misgivings about being too old to start something so difficult, and what a tough industry it is. But my attitude was, and still is, you can’t argue with a dream. After all, it’s not professional basketball, it’s screenwriting. And writing has always been my strongest talent. How hard could it be to transfer over into a different format? (Pretty hard).
Soon after that I learned that I wasn’t the only one who might consider me too old to begin a career. I heard horror stories about Hollywood as a twenty-something boy’s club with little use for women of any age, and whose imaginations were incapable of grasping the fact that a middle-aged woman could not only write well, but could also keep up with current trends and markets.
At first I scoffed. I couldn’t believe anyone would be so ridiculous. I determined to keep up with my craft, and to stay as current and market-wise as possible. That part was easy, considering that I have two teens at home and get all the same channels as everyone else. In fact, teen drama is probably my favorite genre.
My train of thought went something like this, “If they read my writing before they meet me, they’ll know I can do the job by the time they figure out how old I am.”
Fast-forward to the Golden Globes, two days ago. It was a great year for women actresses, as they said repeatedly, and I don’t disagree. They were all there. Jessica Lange, who slayed the role in “American Horror Story” and raised the quality of the whole series. Meryl Streep, who won for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. Michelle Pfeiffer, Glenn Close, Tilda Swinton and even 74-year-old Jane Fonda, who looked more beautiful than most women of any age. Even Julianna Margulies and the ever-sexy Salma Hayek, the youngest of the aforementioned group, will each be 45 this year.
The point is obvious. Is any one of those women suffering any loss of talent or ability due to her age? Or is each and every one of them as vibrant and capable as she’s ever been? To me the answer is obvious. The only thing I had when I was twenty that I don’t have now was a lot of insecurity and a drinking problem. The list of what I have now (Wrinkles? Balance? Perspective?) that I didn’t have then is too comprehensive to list.
So now I’m mad. The only reason people think older people, women in particular, aren’t capable, is because we let them, by not being capable. Not standing up for ourselves. By hiding our age, using it as an excuse not to try or apologizing for it, we marginalize ourselves. Don’t get me wrong. I want to be beautiful and sexy forever, but probably won’t be. But a good and capable writer is something I intend to be until my dying day. In fact, unless I had some mind-impairing, dreadful disease, I see no reason on Earth that I shouldn’t continue to get better and better. Move over, boys.