Deborah Ross: Older women, eh? What are they good for?

If you ask me...

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If you ask me, these are deeply uneasy times for older women. Moira Stuart, Selina Scott, Arlene Phillips, Anna Ford... all claim to have been dumped by television due to their age, as does Miriam O'Reilly from a BBC programme called Countryfile. As it happens, 189 per cent of older women never watch Countryfile, because it just sounds so dull, but they still find this business a worry all the same.

It's as if older women aren't good for anything anymore, or good at anything, which is just plain silly. Older women are good at so many things. They are good at buying those big granny panties which can also serve as car covers in snowy conditions. They are good at searching all over for their keys when they've had them in their hand all along. They are good at remembering when public toilets had those towels you had to crank round, and drying your hands actually meant something. They are good at resentfully serving up yet another family meal, resentfully.

They are good at wearing the sort of things they swore they would never wear, like fleeces and warm little boots with zips up the front. They are good at despising young shop assistants, particularly those who rifle about in drawers or check lists rather than serve. (Hello? You're a shop. I'm a customer. Might we connect some time soon?)

They are good at feeling bad about their necks, particularly if the neck has run up credit card debt. They are good at dissing their teenage daughters for their cheap, Primark sluttiness, even though it only spurs them on. They are good at watching Kirstie's Homemade Home, with its instructions to "break all the rules" and "go for what you like" and thinking: "But what if I like box mounted offal? Or Nazi memorabilia? Or the still beating hearts of birds, strung like fairy lights over the fireplace?"

They are good at spending obscene amounts of money on neck creams, even though they don't work, the neck doesn't deserve it, and it means the family have to go without those little extras, like shoes and food. They are good at turning the central heating up, and then guarding the thermostat with Doberman and bread-knife from all the males who go about complaining: "But it's tropical in here."

So they are good at all this but, unlike John Craven, say, they aren't good at being pretty enough for prime-time TV. This is a great pity, particularly as they are also good at not putting up with any shit from anyone. Go, Miriam, go!

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