I am, as the French say, a woman of a certain age and if I were to translate it into numbers it would be something like forty-twenty-one (because French women know how to run interference). But I identify as anything from 20 to 45. I am, shall we say, ‘age-fluid’?
Not that this makes a difference. Because a computer-generated algorithm has translated my years on earth into an avatar of vulnerability and decrepitude. Adverts for saggy under-arm cream, vaginal rejuvenation surgery (seriously) and terrible drawings of fatty livers about to give up the ghost, appear regularly on my computer screen.
And if recent studies about our attitudes to ageing are to be believed, (https://happy-ali.com/wellbeing/the-elixir-of-life-positive-thought-will-keep-you-young/) this is not going to help me at all. Rejecting fatalistic beliefs about old age is essential apparently, if you want to stay healthy and fit. But how to do this, when you are bombarded with ads for bunions and hearing aids? How do I avoid decrepitude if I am exposed daily to pictures of sagging breasts and retirement options?
My daughters, both 23 and 25, have an entirely different advertising profile on their social media. They get exposure to dating sites, glossier makeup discounts and alerts for comedy gigs and clubs. They are seen as party-going, curious and outward bound. Just like me, in fact.
Not only is this ageist but it’s sexist too.
My husband, who is only a year younger than me, is offered adverts for camping gear, interesting knives with multiple blades, hiking boots! Stuff that suggests he is upright and useful to society!
So I experimented by changing my search profile. I Googled boybands and typed in questions like ‘How to tell if your crush likes you?’ I Googled: Hottest Boys under 25 and How to Wax your Surfboard! Your Bikini Zone! How to Travel the World for under a Grand! Surfing the Metaverse and How to Explain Blockchain to my Parents!
For a while there, I felt like anyone with a future. I was flagged for an introductory offer to Wired Magazine, (I already subscribe) a hot yoga studio in my neighborhood (which is actually of interest) and Supergoop sunblock, which I had never heard of but turns out to be marketed to the young.
It requires a bit of work and a lot of imagination to change your online profile. You must also remember to use the punctuation of a teenager to fool the algorithm, and make sure to add plenty of exclamation marks. But it’s worth it if you want to get a wider reach, a more diverse slice of life, and avoid the pigeonhole.
My grandmother died of a stroke at 70. She taught me how to do a headstand the year before she died. She glided over cobblestones in high heels, was always the last to leave a party, made Chanel suits from patterns and always seemed to be young. Was that because she escaped targetted ads for bunions?
I went bra shopping with my daughter the other day. The sales assistant measured her up and returned with an assortment of lavish and lacey items. When I asked the sales assistant to bring me something, she returned with a chewing gum gray, orthopedic affair that my grandmother would have thrown in the garbage. Even my daughter looked shocked, and I found myself enduring the sales assistant explaining to her, as though I was hard of hearing, that at ‘my age’, (clearly a number too advanced for her to mention), women preferred comfort over style.
My daughter, God bless her, replied, “You don’t know my mother!”
So if you identify younger or like me, are age fluid, try switching up your search history once in a while and never leave home without a fake driver’s license that’s shaved off the years. It will improve your mood almost instantly, and most likely keep you healthy.