Women Talk: When age doesn't really matter

© Photo : Mikhail Kharlamov/Marie Claire RussiaSvetlana Kolchik
Svetlana Kolchik - Sputnik International
"Bill will assist you," a sales agent at a spacious Apple store in Miami, Fl., introduced me to an older guy with a balding hairline who, just the other guys working there, wore a signature blue T-shirt.

"Bill will assist you," a sales agent at a spacious Apple store in Miami, Fl., introduced me to an older guy with a balding hairline who, just the other guys working there, wore a signature blue T-shirt.

I was considering buying one of those trendy MacBook Air laptops, and Bill was assigned to guide me through my final decision. It took me a while to make it though as we ended up talking life much more than the computers. Well into his 60s, Bill told me, among other things, that he used to be a university professor in upstate New York, that one of his daughters now worked for the UN in Germany and that he coached her iPadding skills long-distance.

"I retired and came down here to Florida to hang out with these guys," he pointed, smiling, to the crowd of Apple store folks whose average age was 25. Bill's hair was white as snow, but his eyes beamed. "You know, I recently biked all the way from L.A. to Miami," he bragged with a boyish laugh. I was sold. Not only into picking up one of those remarkably lightweight computers, but also into Bill's exuberant energy and joie-de-vivre.

During my recent trip to the US, I thought a lot about the ways in which the American perception of age and of what one is supposed to be doing during certain life's stages is so different from the Russian one. In Russia, we still tend to be discouragingly conservative about age. Reasons? Much lower life expectancy, especially among males, than in the West, and even lower expectations from life's output in general.

In fact, even though the latest government's reports indicate that the average life expectancy in Russia is on the rise, even among the male population, we remain a predominantly pessimistic culture with an ingrained anxiety and bleak outlook about the future. We rush to live here and now as who knows what's going to happen tomorrow. Hence, as we get older, many of us acquire an extremely cautious attitude towards change and one's opportunities of self-actualization. Timelines are different in Russia, too. Most of us finish high school at 17, graduate from college at 21, get career and family going by mid-20s. A career change or a new life at 65? That would be nearly unheard of. But not necessarily because we don't get to live that long but because of self-limiting mindsets.

I've met a lot of Russian guys in their early 40s who already complained of feeling old an jaded and women in their mid-30s who were convinced their personal lives were over as they had already missed (and messed up) all their chances.

Across America, in California, where I was reporting another story in the very heart of Hollywood, I got around with two chauffeurs, Brian and David. Maneuvering through the West Hollywood and Beverly Hills traffic, they told me their life stories in-depth, sometimes with way too minute detail. Brian was in his early 50s, David was about to turn 60. Both moved to L.A. from the East Coast in their late teens to pursue careers in entertainment. Brian dreamed of becoming an actor, and David aspired to be a musician. Several decades later, Brian, while driving limousines full time, still hasn't given up his dream to conquer Hollywood, while David, having changed several careers (and apparently having excelled in some of them) - jazz music, law, elite chauffeur business management, confessed  he was on the verge of possibly re-entering the entertainment industry.

Sixty-year-old David looked just over forty and sounded genuinely passionate. He showed me photos of himself playing drums during the country tour with his band when he was young. He told me he was in the process of "making useful contacts in the industry" as most of the people he drove around were Hollywood's top-notch players. "I am ready to start life anew and possibly to get married as well," he grinned.

Listening to David, I couldn't help a quick laugh, but I was also moved and impressed by his passion. Granted, nearly every second person you meet in those lands happens to be an aspiring actor or actress. Perhaps these people are fueled by illusions in the first place, but to me, it's more exciting to live in a dream factory than without drive.

But perhaps my most refreshing encounter was the one with actress Annette Bening who won the Women in Film Award this year - the award ceremony was one of the events I covered on my trip. When this incredibly gifted 53-year-old actress, with a really long and successful career behind her shoulders, a four-time Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner, stepped onstage to receive the award, she blushed and smiled humbly. "I still feel like a beginner sometimes," she said. "And thinking of the new projects ahead, I feel I am starting over, and it's really stimulating."

Like many of my countrymen, I personally have always felt reserved about starting over (at least in the beginning, before making the first step), and as I get older it takes me more and more courage and resilience to go through change. But then again I realize that it's only us, not anyone else in the world, who are setting these imitations.

The views expressed in this column are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.


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Russia has always been referred to as feminine and Russian women have been one of the most popular stereotypes of this nation, both positive and negative. But is this an all-male fantasy? Here is a hip, modern, professional and increasingly globalized Russian woman looking at the trends around her, both about her gender and the society at large. She talks and lets other women talk.

Svetlana Kolchik, 33, is deputy editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Marie Claire magazine. She holds degrees from the Moscow State University Journalism Department and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has worked for Argumenty i Fakty weekly in Moscow and USA Today in Washington, D.C., and contributed to RussiaProfile.org, Russian editions of Vogue, Forbes and other publications.

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