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Non, Monsieur! We're not past the sell-by date... our fabulous and fun 50s are our best decade yet

 

Yann Moix
Yann Moix
Proud mum: Helen Carson
Helen Carson with son Pierce on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame
Helen with Pierce as a baby
Una Brankin
Una Brankin
Una Brankin with husband Declan

Yann Moix sparked outrage last week when he claimed that women over 50 are 'invisible' to him and he prefers his partners to be half his age. Here, proud 50-somethings Helen Carson and Una Brankin hit straight back.

‘It was a watershed and liberating moment with the image of a lonely spinster just another myth busted’

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Proud mum: Helen Carson
 

Helen Carson (52), lives in Belfast with her son Pierce. She says:

The naked chauvinism of writer Yann Moix ruffled a few female feathers last week with his claims that women over 50 are 'too old' to love.

And while his preference for 25-year-old women with their 'extraordinary' bodies placed him firmly in the creepy old man section for me, it's obvious he doesn't follow 50-something Liz Hurley on Instagram who seems to get better with age.

At 52 I suppose I should be outraged at his comments but to be honest I've had plenty of time to get used to inappropriate, oafish, sexist comments... and not just from men.

As an award-winning author he should know better than to unleash his unashamed ageism in a women's magazine. Just because he's well read doesn't make him emotionally literate.

Monsieur Mann's brazen sense of entitlement aside, turning 50 was a watershed moment for me. Life may begin at 40, but expect even bigger things from the next decade.

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Milestone birthdays signify both change and reflection and my 20s were characterised by becoming an independent person with a life outside my parents' home.

Looking back I was uncomfortable with myself, unsure of how I should look and my style choices. I railed against the conservative demands of my job when I had to ditch my leather jacket, ripped T-shirts and chunky boots for a sombre suit and heels.

My 20-year-old self never ventured out the door without a full face of make-up - Pan Stik, Rimmel kohl liner and a de rigeur pink pearlised lipstick. It's toe-curling now but I thought I was all that, strutting up the street with rock music playing in my head.

My social life consisted of weekly gigs and weekend drinking - it really was party central most of the time. But it was a huge contradiction as I actually craved the stability and love of a marriage and family which, not unsurprisingly with hindsight, never happened.

Youth may be put on a pedestal in society but you can keep those early years. While I had a great time in my teens and 20s, struggling to find my identity growing up in the Troubles in Northern Ireland, there isn't enough money in the world to make me want to go back.

Having previously bought into the bad press around ageing, I dreaded turning 40. I felt that my life as I knew it was over, with a bleak, uneventful future devoid of any new opportunities ahead. How wrong I was.

My 40th birthday was on a Saturday and the first thing I did when I woke up was look at myself in the mirror. But rather than resembling Methuselah it was the same reflection staring back. My ageist attitudes revealed, it was the point I accepted and embraced whatever was to come next.

I became a mum in my 30s, in fact I had my 34th birthday in hospital when Pierce was just three days old. While motherhood is a game-changer, getting older was the biggest shock of my life.

Rather than feeling spent, though, I now know my mind better. Gone is the pressure to present a certain image with most of my days now spent make-up free or just a quick dab of tinted moisturiser and lipgloss when I'm going out.

My fashion sense is more relaxed - you won't catch me in a Kardashian-inspired crop top. Likewise, I've no urge to swap a slinky dress or well-fitting jeans for the high-waisted horrors reserved for mums hitting a half-century.

Growing old is liberating and rather than rendering me too afraid to take a chance I've been emboldened to do more.

My weekly routine now includes a Saturday morning Parkrun and I started cycling to work last year, having not been on two wheels since primary school. It's not about having a six-pack like Davina McCall but getting outdoors and seeing the beauty and joy in life.

I've taken my film student son to Hollywood twice in the last few years to encourage him to think big and believe anything is possible because there's not a moment to waste in life.

Last year I got back to writing rather than my previous office-based editing role, having desperately missed the interaction with people reporting gives you.

And while my younger self imagined a happily married future the reality is that singledom suits me. It's the ultimate freedom and any choices are 100% down to me. The image of the lonely spinster is just another myth busted by turning 50.

Modern women have a lot of work to do to crush the vile stereotypes perpetuated by men like Monsieur Mann. His ideas - a bit like himself - are well past their sell-by date."

'Age brings with it more confidence, a great gift for those of us who struggled without it in our youth'

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Una Brankin
 

After she turned 40, Julie Christie noticed that men stopped looking at her in the street. The exquisite star of Dr Zhivago felt she had become invisible to the opposite sex, a fate much more difficult for the once beautiful.

The cosmetics industry thrives on the fear of invisibility that comes to us all in middle age - and long before Yann Moix's generous cut-off point of 50 (a ringing endorsement of the theory that older men chase younger women because the idiots fear death). But when you get used to it, there's a certain relief in invisibility.

Since I turned 50, I don't worry so much about how I look. I don't fuss about finding exactly the right accessories to complete an outfit or freak if my roots are showing a little.

The fine lines are no longer a source of dismay, although I do hate the fact I can no longer eat like a horse without it showing on my waistline.

It's all about acceptance and realising nothing will turn back the clock, unless you have a combination of an exceptionally gifted plastic surgeon and excellent genes. The trick is to look as fresh as possible, not as young as possible.

And - apart from early nights, a healthy diet and a subtle make-up - a good attitude is key. Bright eyes and a genuine smile render a face so much more youthful than Botox and fillers, and if we can manage the challenges of the menopause, there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful in our fifties.

We're - hopefully - not as broke. The end of the mortgage is in sight, debts are decreasing and, if we're sensible, savings and investments are increasing. Holidays are more affordable.

As for work, you now have a wealth of experience to do your job well, without the nagging insecurity from your younger days about not being good enough.

Age usually brings with it more confidence, a great gift for those of us who struggled without it in our youth. It's no longer as hard to walk into a room of strangers, to speak up for oneself, to tell annoying people where to get off. It's easier to ask for your tepid soup to be re-heated in a restaurant, to return a less than perfect product, whereas once you wouldn't have opened your colloquial 'bake'.

Your circle of friends may have shrunk since the peak of your socialising days, but those that remain are the tried-and-tested old-faithful, the ones you enjoy and can rely on.

Most importantly, for me, is having the luxury of more time to spend with both friends and family. Time is the best present you can give elderly parents and relatives. You can't beat the wisdom time brings.

By 50, with the high dramas of youth behind us, we can even take comfort in our relative invisibility. There's a certain freedom in not being judged on our physical appearance, and it's far more rewarding to gain approval for our work or character, or ability to connect with others on a deeper level. Shame it seems to have by-passed the superficial Yann Moix.

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