Starting a new chapter takes grit, guts and the support of other Queenagers

The Queenager: Eleanor's Letter (November 19th 2023)

What this newsletter and our Noon.org.uk movement is all about

Dear Queenagers,

First a big welcome to all of you new subscribers – thanks for following me and Noon and becoming part of our Queenager movement and community! Every Sunday I write this Eleanor’s Letter missive, today it’s a bit later than usual because I was at a pal’s dinner party last night drinking Margaritas and needed a cold swim to clear my head. The pond was 8 degrees, this morning, the leaves were yellow and drifting on the wind, the heron perched on a far bank; afterwards I walked up and down a few hills to warm up!

It’s been quite the week – I’ve recorded two podcasts, done a keynote speech, some filming, had two articles published (Daily Mail on my Silent Retreat and Telegraph about the government’s bonkers decision to prescribe Cognitive Behaviour Therapyfor menopause alongside HRT, a bit like telling a diabetic a talking cure will cure their blood sugar issues.) We also ran an in-person Noon Circle on Monday in which we explored the new science/therapy of Eidetics (you can read an earlier post about it on that link) I wasn’t entirely sure how we were going to fit thirty of you into the Soho flat – but somehow we did.  What it highlighted for me was the power of connectivity, the magic of coming and being together in a community of midlife women.

I’ve been thinking about that this week because on the podcasts I was asked about why I set up Noon and came up with the word Queenager (it’s like an instant rebrand, optimistic and cheerful about this stage of life). In a nutshell, I was a journalist, an Editor on the Sunday Times, an interviewer a columnist and during Covid I left and set up my own media company – noon.org.uk – to try and tell a more positive story about the later stages of women’s lives. I did that because as a senior editor (and Chair of Women in Journalism for seven years) I could see that the media, the mirror that we hold up to ourselves and society, was not a true reflection of the women I saw around me, but instead a distorting lens. I realised as I hit 50 that older women disappeared in the mainstream. I experienced it myself; when I tried to run an older woman on the cover of the Magazine I edited there would be push back. I’d be asked to use a pic of the woman when she was younger. Women were used in media as ‘eye candy’ summed up for me by an editor who barked at me to ‘brighten up the page’ ie run a picture of a pretty girl. We’ve moved on from sexy ladies being draped over cars to sell them, or used under packets of peanuts in pubs, but if you think about the women we are mostly shown in ads or on TV they are still overwhelmingly young. Or if they are older they are women who look freakishly young, or it’s Helen Mirren, Judi Dench and Miriam Margoyles (allowed because they are national treasures). The rest of us Queenagers? Not so much – our research shows that over half of women 45 plus feel invisible and unvalued by society. At Noon our mission is to change that because it’s so dumb – we Queenagers aren’t done, we’re just getting started. It’s just that the world hasn’t caught up with how fabulous we are. The Queenagers I see are wise, wonderful, full of vim, passion, experience ideas and energy – we’re coming into our prime. But there is a massive mismatch culturally between the contribution we make  – women aged 45-65 are behind over 90 per cent of all household consumer spending decisions, Forbes Magazine calls us Super Consumers, yet we appear in less than 10% of adverts – and the value we are ascribed. We need to harness the consumer power of the Queenager pound to drive change; if companies want our cash, then they need to represent us authentically!

I am also campaigning to get companies to recognise and promote older women; Queenagers are a pioneering generation, we entered the work force in the 1980s and 1990s in the same numbers as men, campaigned for better pay, maternity leave, flexibility etc but have been thwarted at the top. Only 14% of senior business executives are women and that’s been stuck at the same level for the last nine years. We need more female leaders to make society fairer. I want to shine the light on the gendered ageism (that’s where sexism meets ageism) women face and eradicate it. That sounds like a big ask but we can change this. Just think about how we’ve already massively changed the stories we tell about sex and race in our lifetimes.

What has been massively heartening to me is how this Queenager movement is growing. Just look at this article today citing our Noon research to try and get the travel industry to change its marketing habits and speak to Queenagers. It’s not just travel, either. Last week I spoke at a huge conference of leaders in the Power industry – they were discussing how to hang on to more women in that sector. I told them they need to think more carefully about Queenagers and what they want from work. The answer, according to our research, is purpose, flexibility, to feel valued and seen and to be doing something worthwhile. But longevity and particularly what Queenagers want is rarely on people’s agendas… that needs to change. We matter. We deserve to be seen and heard.

Most of all, I want to celebrate and support the amazing women in our Queenager community. Everytime I hear from one of you about a new friendship you’ve made through Noon at one of our events, or retreats, or trips, it warms my heart. What I know from leaving my old job and world and starting this movement (at 50) is that starting a new chapter is hard. It takes grit and guts – change is difficult. The only way it can be done is by seeking out the support of a like-minded new tribe. I set up Noon because when I left the Sunday Times – I was made redundant after 23 years – I felt terribly lost, beached, despairing. When I looked around for a website or place that might help me make the changes I knew were necessary in my life, I couldn’t find anything that fitted the bill; the redundancy part of the HMRC website was NOT what I was looking for. I set up Noon and this Queenager movement to be the change I wanted to see in the world; to be the helping hand that I was looking for myself in my own dark hour of transition. Everything we do is about supporting women of 45 plus (there is no upper limit to Queenager-dom)  to start a new chapter, move into a new phase. We know that we all hit many pinchpoints at this time. In our Queenager research (the largest study of its kind) we find that over half of women of 50 have been through at least five massive life events, including divorce, bereavement, redundancy, looking after elderly parents, supporting a teenager or other child in trouble (particularly around anxiety and mental health). They’ve also experienced mental and physical abuse, bankruptcy, empty nest, the end of life-long friendships, menopause and other health issues and loneliness. Many women at this point find themselves in need of some new friends. Perhaps your current mates don’t quite get you, or aren’t fuelling your sense of adventure for a new phase, or your certaintly that there is really is so much more to come if you could just find that new phase or new path. Well if that sounds familiar, you’ve come to the right place. What I’ve learnt through making such a transition myself is that in order to reinvent, to become the next version of you, then you need a new tribe. Old friends and family are often too invested in the old version of you to support your shape-shift into something new.

That is what Noon and this Queenager newsletter is all about. Building a community, supporting women, making them feel better about this point in our lives – helping them reinvent. Why? Because our research shows that the more we go through at this point, the more we are Forged in the Fire of the midlife collision (or midlife clusterfuck, often all of these things kick in at once, thoroughly derailing our lives) then the happier we can then become. We find that the women who have been through the most end up the happiest. That having given their lives a good prune, they emerge happier than they were before. Truly in their midlife prime. That is the Queenager promise, that we’ll help you through the pinchpoints of midlife into the sunny uplands of Queenager-hood. That by helping and supporting each other we can really make that happen.

So truly, welcome to the Queenager fold – come and check out a Queenager event soon. Coming up we have a Noon Tours ski trip, a talk at the Saatchi Gallery in London with me and the amazing June Sarpong and a private view of her Pieces of Africa exhibition on November 26th, and then the amazing Trinny being interviewed by me for the Noon Book Club on December 11th. Tickets all available on those links.

If you fancy coming to some of these then do become a Paid Subscriber, only £6 a month or £50 a year. Come and join the fun.

The Queenager with Eleanor Mills is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

Lots of love

Eleanor

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