Are you an AGEIST?
age·ism also ag·ism (jzm)
In a book I read recently the female protagonist was 41 years old. The book was a sort of coming of age book for her. This woman was finally growing up and getting her life together. She was engaging and interesting. The book was well written. So what was my problem?
The character's age.
I can't say I spend a lot of time thinking about what age the characters have to be when I pick up a book. Quite the contrary. While reading the book about the 41-year old I looked again at the back blurb and realized that her age wasn't mentioned. It was a sort of a light bulb moment to realize that if the age had been mentioned I probably would not have purchased the book. Sad? Yes. But true.
In the middle of the book I began to wonder why this well written story about a 41-year old woman was bugging me so much. Many of my favorite story elements were there. I'm a woman of *clears throat* mature years myself. So what was my beef?
Turns out I'm an ageist. Apparently I don't mind reading about a woman figuring things out whose in her 20s. I love reading about a woman in her 30s getting her priorities straight and finding the 'right' man and settling down.
On the other hand, as soon as I see that a main character is a woman is in her 40s I have a mental let down that sounds like a whine in my head saying, "Oh, really? In her 40s? Oh." I can feel my interest in the story deflating second by second.
Since I pride myself on having an open mind, I do read books about woman (and men) who are closer to my age, but not often. I also must admit that I rarely find myself as engaged in those books as I do when the characters are younger.
This realization really bugged me. I thought about it for a couple of days. There was no escaping the fact that if I could set up the characters in a book, I'd make them all 25 to 39 years old. This premise just begged the question. Why? As a woman who is 53 years old myself do I really think people of more mature years aren't as interesting? That life doesn't happen after 40?
The answer to those questions is obvious. Of course not. I like my life. I'm still active and interesting things still happen to me. I don't have to worry as much about money, I have a great husband and a relationship with him that is fulfilling. I also have two sons, who while they often drive me crazy, tend to contribute lots of drama in my life. I'd be insulted if anyone called my life...boring. Or uninteresting. Or insignificant. Or unimportant.
Understanding I do that every time I pick up a book that is about characters who are in their 40s or 50s, and dismiss it, was a disturbing one. I still haven't completely worked out what it is that bothers me so much.
It's not news. Age happens.
So what about you. Do you want your characters to fall within a certain age range? Is there an age for central characters to a story that you find less appealing? More appealing?
Labels: Aging Ain't for Sissies