What is a Queenager?
The Queenager: Eleanor's Letter (December 17th 2023)
I keep being asked to define Queenager and what it means, so here goes!
Hope you are having a lovely Sunday – I swam this morning in the sunshine, nearly got taken out by a seagull which wasn’t looking where it was flying, and admired the ducks and cormorants who were diving and squawking with great enthusiasm. I then tried to buy a Christmas wreath but baulked at the price tag (£40!! For a bit of chopped off Xmas tree) and I also said no to the mistletoe (£15 for a small sprig). As a kid we used to chop bits from the trees in our nearby wood and make are own but it feels wrong to scrump holly from Hampstead Heath! But I digress.
I’ve been writing this The Queenager newsletter for nearly 18 months and that word, Queenager, was picked up as one of the word’s of the year and has featured on Bloomberg and The Washington Post as well as here in the UK media. But I keep getting asked What is a Queenager? Why do midlife women need a new name? So that is what I am going to write about today.
So first: What is a Queenager – it’s whatever you want it to be. Now that might sound like a cop out but it actually goes to the heart of this stage of life. By the time we hit 45/50/55/60/65/70 and beyond (there is no upper agelimit to queenager-dom) we need to give ourselves a free pass to be whatever we want to be. That’s really the key point!.
This The Queenager newsletter is my weekly missive to our community of midlife women here at Noon.org.uk – home of the Queenager. If you are signed up to this newsletter and you haven’t checked out the website, do give it a look, it’s full of tales of Queenagers starting new chapters at 50 and beyond and expert advice on how to get through the pinchpoints that hit us at these times. We also run Noon Queenager tours (in 2024 we are going ski-ing and to Jordan) retreats (daily and week-long) and monthly in-person meet ups – called Noon Circles – for Paid Subscribers to this email.
Why do we talk about Queenagers? I like it because I feel it captures both the sense of our experience, our wisdom, our dignity, our experience, our grace, our sense of ourselves as leaders and elders at midlife. But also the excitement of a new phase. Of the shift that is possible from what we have been from 25 to 50 into a new incarnation at the half way point. And in the 100 Year Life (if you haven’t read Linda Gratton’s book with that title, then do) 50 is only half way through (which is also why I called my website noon – the midpoint).
What is a Queenager? As Queenagers we’ve had a lot of life already under the bridge – but because we have benefitted from huge scientific changes and advances in lifespan, according to the statistics, we’ve probably got as much time again to come. So rather than feeling done, washed up, invisible (as I’m afraid too many women feel at midlife because we live in a culture that heroes youth) I wanted a word that immediately made this part of our lives feel fresh and exciting. Queenager for me sums up how much we have already gathered but also that sense of So Much More to Come… which is the essence of Queenagerhood (and is also the title of my book about all of this which will be published in 2024).
So what characterises Queenager-dom? Well I asked that exact question on my LinkedIn and other socials last week. This is what you all said: “The best thing about being a Queenager is losing the requirement to be a people pleaser – you can be your authentic self!” or “Totally agree that your fifties are the most exciting period, you are not spinning the same amount of plates when you are building your career and family together. You have more time for yourself.” Or “I feel I have moved into my life’s true purpose, doing the work I love and I’m at my best in terms of mastery and I’m still learning.” And “Feeling comfortable in my own skin, knowing myself deeply including my limitations and being clear on my priorities and where I can make an impact”.
I would add that:
Purpose is key to queenager-dom. Living that purpose, serving it, enacting it every day. I feel like I do that now.
Not giving a monkeys what other people think… I interviewed Trinny last week for the Noon Book Club and Liz Earle for today’s Telegraph. Both great Queenagers. Both talked about how in their fifties they developed the confidence to go beyond the naysayers.. to even gain vigour from proving them wrong… which leads us on to..
Feeling the fear and doing it anyway… I was terrified when I left the cosy berth of my big job and started Noon and became an entrepreneur at 50… but it is the best thing I ever did. Don’t let being terrified stop you
Letting go: There is a fair amount of shedding that goes with being a Queenager – sounds harsh, but sloughing off the drains in your life, the people that don’t serve you… coming to terms with what aspects of your life were/are the result of parental/social expectation – and what are actually truly you and which you love, that is the work of the Queenager. This is a painful process. “Letting go” sounds like a ribbon slipping out of your fingers. In my experience it’s more like having limbs lopped off without anaesthetic. Painful but definitely worth it in the end! It’s more like pruning… drastic but necessary.
Kindness – having enough empathy and experience to intuit what the people you love need and providing it for them because you want to. For instance – one of my best friends is estranged from her family and her mother died before she was ten. She is now a single mum of two. Every Christmas she makes a huge effort to get her kids great presents, stockings, all the trimmings. I realised she hadn’t had a Christmas stocking herself for forty years: so every Christmas now I make her one. I took it up to her yesterday and she wept with happiness. I think there is something very Queenager about both realising our limitations and boundaries but also going the extra mile when we know we can do something that will mean a huge amount to others.
That sense of ‘if not now, when?’: I meet so many Queenagers who say “I’ve always want to do xxxx” well, if that’s you, then now is the time…
Nature: for me my #queenager years are tied up with swimming in the pond every day, and a bigger appreciation not just of the natural world but of the fact that we are all connected, there are no ‘others’ . The more we recognise that we are all in this together and that everything matters, that we are all citizens of one finite planet and are all human beings sharing this experience the better!
I hope that explains a bit about Queenager and why I use it. Basically I think it is an optimistic term, that in and of itself it creates an instant rebrand of this moment, this time. Don’t forget Queenagers are a new phenomenon. There have never been women like us before in history – we are the first generation to be born into a world where women had some notion of equality (I know there is a long way to go). We were expected to work and half of us are the main breadwinners in our families – also in 2019 women aged over forty started earning more money than women under forty for the first time ever. It’s there in the census. That means as a group we have financial agency, choices and options that women before us did not. But the story told about older women in our society has not caught up with us yet. That is my real point in using the word #queenager – to tell a new more optimistic and positive story about what women in midlife are capable of and are for. To change the narrative to one more reflective or reality and fit for purpose. We are not done or invisible – we are #queenagers moving into a fabulous third act. That is the very essence of my Queenager purpose, this newsletter and everything we do at NOON.
Do tell me what you think… either email me email@example.com or put your thoughts in the comments below.
And Paid Queenager subscribers – I am looking forward to seeing you at the Christmas drinks Noon Circle tomorrow night, Monday!
If you’d like to join us either tomorrow or in the future do think about becoming a Paid Subscriber, if you are in the UK you get a free book for the Noon Book Club – and there are lots of Subscriber only posts and opportunities and discounts. (Only £6 a month) You can help create a Queenager revolution in how older women are viewed and valued.
Lots of love
By Eleanor Mills