sofagirl: It all began with a wax. The beauty therapist asked if I wanted “a full Hollywood” and I replied that no 50-year-old bits should ever be seen completely hair-free. A regular bikini wax would do. She laughed merrily and told me that women “of your age” do it all the time – their husbands “just love it”.
Seriously? Is that what men what from us now … naked vaginas? Or are we covertly competing with Victoria’s Secret Angels and Peppermint Lounge Pole Dancers? Trying to stay in the game by vajazzling our privates?
I feared the latter. And wondered: if I had missed this new frontier – what else had passed me by? A quick canter through websites for women “of our age” was obviously needed.
What I discovered was perplexing: menopause is still referred to as ‘the change’. Anxiety and depression sites used euphemisms and recommended sticking post-its daubed with positive affirmations to bathroom mirrors and fridges. If you can think it – you can be it. Apparently.
And sex? A whip through ‘the new porn’ made it glaringly obvious that my take on nooky is almost biblically and resoundingly vanilla. In this brave new world of multiple partners, weird toys and obscure perversions (fifty shades of ho-hum, anyone?) – the sex act, as I knew it: simply did not exist anymore.
As for fashion: apart from Bazaar’s feature – “Fabulous at Every Age”, 50-something women are simply not catered for. Bizarre when you consider that US Vogue’s editor, Anna Wintour, is 62!
I didn’t get it. We’re the last of the baby boomers. We have money and we have travelled, we have read, studied, worked, married, divorced, bought houses and cars, raised children, cooked meals and eaten in restaurants all over the world.
We invented the mobile phone, created the Internet, designed the PC, followed politics, fought wars, and engaged vociferously in social issues. We made great art, music, movies and fashion. How the hell had we dropped the ball on the future?
Something needed to be done – and I knew just who to call.
Enter Camparigirl. And my dislike for magazines. Not that you would know if you had taken a peek at the two of us about three years ago, when we were still both clawing to our 40s. During my personal annus horribilis, I did what every sane woman does: ran in the arms of her best friend. This particular best friend happens to live a couple of continents, one ocean and two overnight plane rides away, in Cape Town, and to help me out of my misery, Sofagirl did not have me hike up Table Mountain or take up surfing in the Indian Ocean. Too aspirational. Instead, we dragged our butts to a swanky mall with a nice bookstore and adjacent coffee shop that welcomed us pretty much every day.
Unlike Starbucks, the coffee shop serves very fine coffee and has a battered leather sofa in one corner where patrons are encouraged to linger, and these two patrons stocked up on borrowed magazines from the bookstore and linger they did. Before you think of us as cheapskates, you should know that magazines are prohibitively expensive in South Africa and the bookstore owner, I am told, does not mind the borrowing practice if it leads to occasional book sales.
While wallowing in my despair on the sofa and reading about Jerry Hall’s life post-Mick, a few things became apparent. We were not so slowly descending into the depth of middle age, we had no idea how we got there and we were not quite sure how to embrace this inevitable process. What magazine after magazine was trying to sell us was either the lives of the rich and famous whose houses, clothes, beauty tips and lifestyle we can only dream of or basic affirmation, Oprah-style, that life is beautiful and we should be grateful. Well, we got that quite some time ago. Now what?
When I think of my mother and her friends at 50, what comes to mind are two piece suits, nicely coiffed hair and a string of pearls. Not quite what we look like. Our hemlines might have lengthened but half a dozen pair of jeans are still worn on a regular basis. We are still out there working, working out and making our voices heard. We still look good and have more energy than we thought we would. We still have expectations and dreams and lives that are not necessarily chugging along on a single track.
Fast forward three years and many conversations on middle age later when Sofagirl and I find ourselves in Rome, celebrating my dreaded 5-0. With the Colosseum and the Vatican and the catacombs mobbed by sweaty tourists, and Italy prey to an unprecedented heat wave, we sat, once again, on the comfortable couches of our pretty air-conditioned apartment in the center of town, a bottle of Campari perched on the coffee table and enough orange juice and fizzy lemonade to see us through the day. Ideas on how to get a forum for like-minded women together started to flow, as ideas do when cocktails are involved.
Blame it on the heat and the Campari: this site is the result of conversations, not just between the two of us, but among our girlfriends (and some men) that ended in either heated debate or plain hilarity. If our destiny is indeed to grow old and wizened, how about doing it with the grace, humour and panache that have been our trademark thus far? Can we provide a roadmap for each other, free of post-it life affirmations and/or resignation?
We would love for all of you out there who wonder where the time has gone, who don’t linger too much on the past and look at the future with a mixture of optimism and dread to participate in our journey. We look forward to your ideas, comments, criticisms and cocktail recipes. Come join us on the sofa. And bring your shaker along.