Age Rules

Shop Talk, by kitty kaufman

There was a story in The New York Times about Rupert Murdoch. It was about his being back on the market, as in single. For me, the story was not that his third divorce was final. And it’s not about his wealth. The story, and I’m breaking my number one rule, is his age. It is the story because it’s not the story at all.

Age shows up once in the story, about how the writer thinks you, the reader, might think “elderly men” like Sumner Redstone, for example, or Rupert Murdoch, can’t get dates. You would be wrong. The writer, Brooks Barnes, saw Redstone at a party not long ago wrapped in young women. I guess that’s because 90 is really old. (Barnes will think differently once he’s 50.)

Fat, old, rich, fat, white men who are single: that’s a story. Women over 40, no story. Oh, Mary Barra, CEO of GM, that was a story and not because she’s an accomplished engineer, no. The story, all day, was “female” and “lady.” CNBC had Bob Lutz, former GM vice chairman, on the phone. Listening to him call her a lady was like being back in 1972 or maybe 1952 with a tiny veiled hat, nylons and white gloves.

Murdoch was on the market. And since he’s racked up three divorces, Barnes thought he might need dating advice and so he made calls to dating advisors who had ideas mostly about what not to do (“No jackets with your shirt hanging out and no tight jeans.”) Everyone took it very seriously.

If you’re a woman over 50 with five gray hairs who gets hit by a bus, conscious or unconscious lying in the gutter, living or dead, the media describes you as elderly. No matter your career. How does age matter? What color is the bus, where did it happen, who hit whom, was the victim fashionably attired, and how much blood was spilled, that’s a story.

A lot of ink drips online and off as media spills more than anyone, even me, wants to know. Stories about women invariably start with how old we are and the female part. Then it’s about our achievements. Maybe. Will it ever be time for parity? There’s a thought.

© December 17, 2016
 Kitty Kaufman is a writer and business organizer in Boston. You can see more about what she thinks at