This isn’t a sudden realization; it’s been building for years. I am now older than the TV characters who seemed like quintessential grownups on shows when I was a kid: Kate & Allie, Alice, Anne Romano. Yes, all the women that spring to mind immediately were single mothers. There was always something I romanticized about packing up a car with my kids and just starting a new life somewhere in ways that, say, the characters on thirtysomething did nothing for me. (I only watched that show for the first time five years ago, DVDs rented from the library, on the cusp of 40 to see if I gleaned any knowledge about that decade of life.) Doubly strange considering I don’t have children. It always seemed fun to have casual boyfriends who maybe drank a little too much and would hang out with me and my kid (my fantasy involves only one child) from day one, no fussy modern rules about keeping my love life separate from being a parent.
I recently got caught up in a mini One Day at a Time marathon and there was an entire episode around a single’s bar that Anne reluctantly visited at her sassy neighbor, Ginny who waitressed at the behest. There is a scene where a desperate divorcee goes home with a gross guy because she’s lonely and Anne realizes this isn’t her milieu (she also gives away her age by agreeing with this woman that “the joint was really jumping,” apparently, a dated reference) . I watched the entire episode assuming Anne was like 40-ish, still cute, but had been off the market for a while. She does have older teenage daughters. I couldn’t stand not looking Bonnie Franklin’s birthday up and it turns out she was only 33 when that episode aired in 1977.
For reasons not even clear to me, I watched Twin Peaks for
the first time in 2015. I was close to a legal adult, living in the Pacific
Northwest when it debuted, so I have no excuse. I might have been scarred when
I tried to watch Blue Velvet on the only TV in my family’s house and my dad
woke up and wandered into the living room right at the Kyle MacLachlan hiding in
the closet scene and I had to quickly turn it off.
No matter, Twin Peaks is back and Mädchen Amick is still
frequenting the Bang Bang Bar at 46. Looking good, doing shots, and drinking beer, Rainier in a can followed by a “pounder” (heck, yeah!) when her friends are opting for wine. I would advise against drinking wine in a roadhouse, even in a small-town in the NW where sometimes you’ll find surprisingly good beer Also, the Bang Bang Club
looks awesome and I truly wish such a venue existed.
As an aside, the women of Au Revoir Simone who got their
start in Brooklyn in the early-aughts (ugh, I said aught), and closed out
episode three, must be flirting with middle age by now, right?
The cop (played by Sarah Lancashire, 52) on Happy Valley drinking with her sister (Siobhan Finneran, 51) who’s not supposed to be drinking while the Charlatans UK play in the background.
I love how many pubs are multigenerational.
I also love how British TV shows use actresses that look like real people.
From New York’s annual Best Of issue: Best 35th-Birthday Bar “Here’s a new one: ‘midlife millennial.’ That’s who Bryce David and his partners had in mind when they opened this bar and dance club, a spot for grown-ups who still want to rage but feel too old for the hangar-size dance bars like Output and Verboten.”
First off, no. Uh-uh. Millennials don’t get to start laying claim to middle age now too. I’m already bracing for an even Bigger Chill over the next decade.
Ok, just had to get that out of the way before playing catch up with some TV portrayals of elder women in bars.
The Affair: Helen is only drinking white wine alone in Brownstone Brooklyn because she got stood up by a Tinder date. “Tinder is more of a hookup site for millennials,” the server informs her, while suggesting Match.com because that’s where the divorcees hang out (hello, OurTime.com). It’s frightening to think I’d be roughly in the same dating pool as this character because I don’t look like Maura Tierney (51), own a home in Park Slope, or a housewares shop, and this probably goes a long way in explaining why I end up with 30 year olds with roommates not middle-aged salt-and-pepper drunk doctors, who hump you in the basement during a rainstorm while your kids are upstairs.
Doll & Em: I might say spoiler alert, but does anyone watch this? Plus, season two has been out since September. Keeping with the brownstone theme, Doll gets knocked-up by Ewan McGregor in the bathroom of what I’m pretty certain is Prime Meats. That’s all you need to know. Can 44-year-olds seriously get pregnant that easily? This is a legit question.
Transparent: I would say Maura (not to be confused with Tierney) is well past middle age yet the moment when one crosses into the next phase is a question I hope to not think about for at least another twenty years, sorry seniors. But still, she is a woman alone in a bar. Though because I’m apparently terrible at reading signals even on TV, I didn’t realize she was hitting on the harried attorney played by Sonya Walger (41) by buying her a glass of sancerre and suggesting tapas until reading a recap. The actress I always think of as Lost’s Penny (but also wives of a certain type in cable dramas a la Tell Me You Love Me and The Mind of the Married Man) could be the subject of a thinkpiece on the art of permanently looking 39. It’s kind of like Bernie Sanders superficially looking the same now as decades ago. Maybe you look a little too mature as a woman who’s only 30, but by the time you’re 50 you seem ageless.
Portlandia: Claire is how I’m afraid I’d appear if I moved back home in as much as I would be too uptight and rigid for a middle-aged manchild, but then I’d have to quit my NYC job to move to Portland and if anyone works there at all it’s service-oriented so I wouldn’t even be drinking pinot noir in a cream blazer, and this is all something I’ve given some real thought to lately because it’s possible that I’m over New York and what I’m doing here. So…the coworker’s boyfriend shows up and is all “Hi, are you ladies over 21?” and that’s a hoot.
Grace and Frankie is a mom show, maybe not my mom, but a mom show nonetheless. My focus on the 40+ drinkers on screen hovers in the 40s out of necessity not self-absorption. There just isn’t a lot of representation beyond that.
Despite Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin being 78 and 75, they play newly single women in their 60s, which is kind of remarkable in itself. On a “Say Yes Night” where one has to agree to everything presented, clothing styles were swapped and Grace was forced into checking out an old haunt of Frankie’s. Yet the dive had been gentrified into a bar full of clean-cut youngsters and whiskey flights. Thankfully, there happened to be old male twosome (one, John Locke from Lost) on the prowl who treated the ladies to a tasting.
Yes, this results in dancing on the bar and having a car towed because it’s that kind of show.
I don’t reject American remakes sight unseen (though I also can’t think of a successful example off the top of my head). The only thing saved the first few episodes of The Returned was that it stuck to Les Revenants’ script faithfully, language and geography aside. But if it hadn’t gone all American and expository and created unnecessary conflicts, we wouldn’t have been treated to this scene where Michelle Forbes (50 in real life–I have no idea how old she was supposed to be when a flood struck her mental institution in the ‘80s) drinks tequila shots and slow dances at what appears to be the only bar in town, the Dog Star, with Glenn, an indignant dam engineer played by the “Swagger Wagon” dad.
Broadchurch’s detective sergeant Ellie Miller, played by Olivia Colman (41), the type of regular person actress sorely lacking in the US, hasn’t been having a great time since her husband was accused of killing her neighbor’s son after sort of trying to molest him. Here, she’s out on the town with Eve Myles’ (36) Claire (who I will always think of as Gwen from Torchwood) a woman who may have aided her husband in a kidnapping and that she’s living with in a pseudo-witness protection arrangement but also because she has no friends because everyone in Broadchurch hates her. That’s what gin and tonics are for. They are also the oldest women in this pub scene.
These are the two gentleman they bring home. And no, it doesn’t go well.
There is a new TV show on Nickelodeon (or is that nick@nite, asks the grandma?) called Younger, based on the premise that a 40-year-old New Jersey woman recently left by her husband for a younger woman natch (kids say that, right?) can pass as 26 to get a job in publishing.
Nine minutes in, and it’s already surpassed all expectations.
Liza meets her bestie, a lesbian played by Debi Mazar, at Matchless and peak Brooklyn humor ensues: “Excuse me, I moved to Brooklyn because I couldn’t afford Manhattan. And now thanks to all these bearded cheesemongers and chicks that look like Macaulay Culkin, I can’t afford Brooklyn.”
A tattoo artist, Josh, who looks straight up 1999, orders shots of bourbon–skinny margaritas be gone!–and cracks a Lena Dunham joke before putting his number in her phone.
Liza gets made fun of for saying tattoo “parlor,” which Josh calls a lounge and reinforces his 1999-ness and conflicts with the olde-timey Brooklyn shtick being made fun of minutes early. Liza does not know who Lena Dunham is (there’s a Matchless connection). She also thinks Mumbai is still called Bombay, has an AOL email address, and no idea what Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Tinder, or any social media are.
I’m not sure if I can handle the remaining 51 minutes.
“Can I buy you a drink?” asks the lady from Hung that’s not Anne Heche or Jane Adams.
“It’s not even 11 in the morning,” teenage Norman Bates’ mom exclaims.
“Good that means the bars are open.” (Does it, though?)
Though someone must’ve imagined this is the kind of bar where women in their 40s would drink two martinis for breakfast, I’ve not really encountered a bar like this anywhere and especially not on the Oregon Coast. Bigfoot’s might be more like it.
Whether or not Girls accurately reflects an NYC anyone recognizes as true, I will concede that Sunday’s episode featuring Bar Matchless painted a North Brooklyn bar scene that’s pretty much the same in life as in fiction. If you’re over 25 you may as well be Peter Scolari in a pork pie and the few middle-agers clogging up the place are men only. (By the way, James Cameron Mitchell looks good for 50 and it’s telling that Alex Karpovsky, who’s definitely older than Ray’s 33, has his age missing suspiciously from his IMDB profile and was cagey about his years on earth in at least two interviews.)
At least I got to hear my favorite New Order song.