The Jennifer And Emma Way To A Sexy 50s And 60s
These days I’m obsessed with the way two women are negotiating their 50s and 60s.
Since she turned 50 two years ago, actor, singer and all-round rockstar Jennifer Lopez has reinvented herself many times over. A Golden Globe nomination for a critically acclaimed film; a global tour; prestigious public performances (here and here); and a Netflix documentary where she reveals she fought a powerful football lobby to make a point about kids in cages, a depiction of children being separated from their families at the United States-Mexico border. She’s even back with Ben Affleck.
“My whole life I’ve been battling and battling to be heard. To be seen. To be taken seriously,” she says in the documentary titled Halftime. It seems like her wish has finally come true in her 50s. No interviewer dare ask her now what radio host Billy Bush did in 2002: “How do you feel about your butt?”
Physically, she looks more flawless every year and it’s no wonder her anti-ageing tips are all over the internet. To summarise, if you can stay away from alcohol, cigarettes, coffee; work out ‘harder and smarter’ than you did in your 20s; and give 1,000% to everything you do, you might have a chance at J Lo style ageless ageing. You’ll also need to meditate, wear sunblock, hydrate, get at least 8 hours of sleep, rummage within you until you find the source of ‘limitless’ energy and afford a truckload of posh face products such as Le Mer. Plus embrace therapy, spirituality, manifestation and a reading list with titles such as You Can Heal Your Life.
If, on the other hand, you don’t mind wrinkles clamping down on your forehead, above your lip, around your eyes, across your stomach, basically everywhere, and if you seek the confidence to stand naked in front of a camera at 63, look no further than Emma Thompson in Good Luck To You, Leo Grande. Thompson only gets bolder and braver as she ages.
In Leo Grande, she plays a retired schoolteacher who has never experienced an orgasm or good sex. She has, in fact, faked orgasms for 31 years with her one sexual partner, now dead, and hires a younger, good-looking sex worker (Leo Grande, played by Daryl McCormack) to make her body feel less like the ‘carcass’ she’s been ‘heaving around’ for decades. From the start, you realise he’ll have to be equal parts therapist and pleasure provider as she grapples with lifelong discomfort and shame about her body. Thankfully, she helps him negotiate his longstanding issues too.
Her need to experience pleasure makes her feel guilty (“I’m a seedy old pervert,” she says). She’s always expecting and prepared to be disappointed even in this, “her final attempt at life”.
“Let go of the thing that grips you, judges you,” he says. She replies that that’s the only thing holding her together.
When he asks her what her fantasies and desires are, she can only come up with, ‘to have sex with you’.
Over four meetings she shares secrets and the shopping list of sexual experiences she wants to try. “I like a list that can be fully ticked off,” she says, when he asks why she hasn't listed an orgasm. She frowns, she cries, she is anxious, tightly wound up, distraught—every emotion spotlights the furrows on her face. And she looks beautiful. When she breaks down, her tears are a mix of the relief she feels from sharing stories she has held tightly within her until now and regret for all the wasted time.
When Thompson throws cynicism and disbelief at every compliment she receives, it makes you weep. Some aspects of this extreme story will resonate with every woman of a certain generation. Or should I say all women?
Leo Grande is the perfect balm for Thompson’s shame about her body. He is that rare man who is drawn to all women, who sees the beauty of every sexual partner, who can only see women as a whole and not the sum of their parts. It’s a relief to watch her reclaim her right to pleasure.
“The first day I had them lay on the ground and trace each other’s bodies to separate themselves from the characters’ bodies,” director Sophie Hyde says in an interview. “And then we had a day where we introduced our own body parts to each other for what they did in our lives—not how they look—by removing pieces of clothing. Like ‘I love my feet because I run every day’.”
Good Luck To You, Leo Grande has honesty and emotional depth that only women can nail. It puts all those television series about male ageing that rest their laurels on enlarged prostrates and clever lines to shame.
Both Lopez and Thompson’s journeys reflect their increased confidence and comfort with themselves. As the former says in Halftime: It becomes easier to “represent all the things that matter to me”. It’s a feeling some of us older women know well, and a happy place we hope the next generation will get to just a little faster. The lives of these two celebrities are evidence that growing older can be sexy.
Priya Ramani is a Bengaluru-based journalist and is on the editorial board of Article-14.com.
The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of BQ Prime or its editorial team.