Wendyl Nissen

Wendyl Nissen on being 'The Supportive Wife'

Wendyl Nissen: Be supportive to older women

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Fifty is the best time to celebrate where experience has got you.

L'Wren Scott and  Charlotte Dawson. Photo / AP, WireImage
L'Wren Scott and Charlotte Dawson. Photo / AP, WireImage

Forget being a supportive wife, this week I'm nominating myself as a supportive ageing woman. Starting today, I am going to walk up to women aged 50 and over and compliment them on their grey hair, commend them for not resorting to Botox and encourage them to smile a little because it's just not that bad.

The recent suicides of Charlotte Dawson, 47, and L'Wren Scott, 49, have enabled some women commentators to draw a link between the decision to take your own life and the hell that women go through approaching 50.

Chief among the complaints seems to be that you "become invisible" to men when you reach 50. Actually, you become invisible to younger men; men your age and older still see you, like to talk to you or would if you would stop frowning, moaning about your life and shuffling off down the road as if you have lost the will to live.

Being 50 - or nearly 52, as I am - is something to be celebrated. We all looked hot in our 20s and 30s but do we really want to endure those one- night-stands-gone-wrong, childbirth, sleep deprivation, painful divorces and raising difficult teenagers again?

Is it really realistic to expect our bodies to defy gravity and maintain that pert presence we once occupied? Now is the hour when we surely take some much-needed time to ourselves and enjoy life, free and easy: "Look after yourselves, kids, I'm on my time."

But, it can sometimes feel like the world is against you. Menopause is just one nasty big old one-fingered salute from Mother Nature for some women who endure a painful, mood-altering, weight-gaining, confusing time. A funny way to say, "Thanks for all those children you produced to keep the human race going."

Then there are the images we see daily. Just as the media have been blamed for throwing unrealistic images at us of skinny women, older women now have unrealistic images of where older women should be.

Which is in the background, according to TV3's latest promo shoot for the very good current affairs show 3rd Degree.

Melanie Reid, an inspiration to me when I was a young journalist and described by TV3 as "a true figurehead in New Zealand investigatory reporting", is positioned at the very back of the group shot, where you need a magnifying glass to work out who she is. Surely figureheads lead from the front? Melanie has more than 30 years' experience in news and is one of the country's top reporters.

In the shot she is talking to Sarah Hall, who has had 26 years' experience, and over to the left is Paula Penfold, with 24 years. These women are all about my age and, combined, bring the show at least 80 years of journalistic awards, exclusives and great reporting.

Yet out the front brimming with confidence is a new recruit to the show and a rather new recruit to journalism. Samantha Hayes has a mere 10 years' experience as a reporter, according to her Facebook page, and this is her first foray into "long-form current affairs". So she hasn't actually done a lot of investigative reporting, unlike the impressive older women on the team.

But she is drop-dead gorgeous, young and does really good red-carpet and women's mag shoots, and is a presenter. I'm not saying for one minute that Sam isn't and won't be as brilliant as her female colleagues, but I do believe that they should be front and centre as a publicity vehicle for the show. When I'm watching my current affairs I'm thinking, "Gee, I hope this reporter does an award-winning, experienced job of this story", not, "Gee, I hope she looks hot."

Being older is not a time to hang up your stilettos, pretend you don't need glasses, fret about that extra weight or kill yourself.

So let's stop believing the negative image of ageing and be supportive older women to ourselves and others.

- NZ Herald

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