Nupur Lakhe writes a personal essay about The Bold Type while shedding light on ageism through Sheila Heti’s and Nora Ephron’s work
Talk about women and ageism and it has been something that has always existed. Women after a certain age were always considered and perceived in a different way. ‘You are too old to dress up like this,’ ’25? It’s time you get married,’ ‘You should have kids before your clock runs out.’ Society has always had something to say. They somehow find the right to judge women with age. Netflix’s show The Bold Type is one series that was able to tackle this issue among the many issues faced by women in an incredible manner and Indian blogger, Nupur Lakhe decided to talk about the same. Nupur Lakhe (she/her)is a Book critic and Writer. When not reading, she is a daydreaming mum and a coffee enthusiast.
Here’s what she has to say!
The Beauty of the Bold is a personal essay, with notes and musings featuring a theme and an emotion that I believe women go through while indulging in an OTT series, one full of youthful exuberance. The Netflix series I speak about here is – The Bold Type. As I write of it and its many resemblances to a Sally Rooney book, I also shed light on ageism through Sheila Heti’s and Nora Ephron’s work. To view these three young women slipping into their late twenties from the lens of my 30s is a fleeting feeling of lost time and opportunities. But do adventures stop at a number?
I have tried to merge both, The Bold Type and the literary aspect to give way to something potent and with the intuitive feeling of reliability. I’m sharing the same through books while quoting a few authors.
The beauty of the bold
A few months back, as I lay sick in bed nursing the virus, like a host who is not happy about a pesky guest overstaying the welcome, Nora Ephron came to my rescue. As I devoured her essays, there was a coalescing feeling of lightness and wisdom. This incredible combination of womanhood and ageism, amidst various others, seemed up my alley as I often muse about the age issue: in a trial room while trying on clothes, or shoes, when I meet other women, and when I imagine myself at a certain number. Ephron explosively writes- ‘it’s true that now I am older. I’m wise and sage and mellow. And it’s also true that I honestly do understand just what matters in life. But guess what? It’s my neck.’ I do indeed feel bad about my neck most of the time. But lately, at an instance, what I encountered were my pent-up sentiments about my vigorous 20s. Was I pondering over lost time? Ephron through her many musings, says we tend to carry a regret towards our youth as we age. For her, it was not staring at her neck lovingly enough, for me, maybe it was the uncalled levity towards living it.
As the show rolled into its last episodes, my feelings for it changed somber from one of anticipation. What I did not forestall was the sobbing that accompanied my somber mood. I sobbed like I had not in years. Not for me, not for anyone, and never for a show or movie. As it neared its end, I allowed myself this window of vulnerability, embracing my raw emotions. Even when I was crying like a child, I knew it was bizarre. What had it stirred in me that opened the banks so hard and brought the outpours? Unable to concentrate on reading the book that lay open in my lap, I tried to gather the occurrences from minutes before.
When I started watching The Bold Type series a year back, I announced it as a guilty pleasure. Why guilty pleasure, a friend asked. My reply was automatic. It has elements that allow you to dream and tuck you into environ of impossible things. But watching it is pleasurable. And so naturally, it became a savannah I could dwell in – a magazine to write for, surviving a whole day in high heels, and living with friends in an apartment in New York. This American pop-culture show was brimming with everything far-fetched. To think I was entering another version of Sex and the City was wrong. It was something niche. The guilty pleasure effervesced soon, and now it felt like being in a Sally Rooney book. I could see a few of Rooney’s strong baits dancing on the screen in terms of characters and elemental form. It held a potency: the enthusiasm of youth and a worldview. Just like making mistakes is a vital part of understanding oneself, so is asking questions. What they add up to give are adventures. It reminded me of my youth and the fanaticism I lived it with. But only if it had inched in a different direction, and only if I had an inkling of where I was going wrong, I would be closer to my desires now. I often wonder what I lost. I did gain very little, but I lost more than I could even regret. My husband disagrees. He says, “It is never too late to begin. I want to believe him.”
I am currently reading Motherhood by Sheila Heti, and on the opening page, she writes, ‘Literature, I knew was the only thing that could have begun in forty.’ There is much I owe to literature. My agreement with what Heti says is firm, especially when I am always at the cusp of evaluating in secrecy the things I am old for. She also precedes this declaration by saying how the worldview begins to form at a young age and not at forty. A glimpse of this worldview is evident in the minds of these three females, our protagonists- Jane, Sutton, and Kat. Their life stories have a condensed format of personal, professional, and thinkable. And with these thinkable categories of thoughts arise challenges that raise more questions than they answer. Jane’s vertical- The Failing Feminist, is proof of how sometimes we as women fail other women no matter how much we evangelize our inner feminists. But to muster the courage and begin is laudable. Words hold power, but freedom too. To write about a woman is to unleash a part of yourself, anonymous but existing. Its ironic success feels justified. Sutton’s choice of not succumbing to motherhood speaks volumes about the clarity of her decisive mind: for her to go against the grain of mothering while having her pillars of support. And Kat, well if women had minds and empathy like hers, the world would be a better place. Her capacity to create and reform is invincible.
As I fantasized about being one of these women, or all three together defying my current age, there was one, in particular, I most admired Jacqueline, the soul of Scarlet magazine. As a writer, I wonder if I will ever find a mentor like her who could help hone my skills. And as a woman, I am a fanatic who will always adore her. Few people have the gift of always saying the right things. She is one of them. It feels rather bizarre to write about this show, its characters, and the energy it exudes: bursting youthful vibe slipping into the late twenties. But it also feels right: reminiscing the age of free-spiritedness, sitting on the comfortable couch of the 30s, and yet coaxing myself to think about what could have changed?
It gradually came to me, this blubbing conduct of mine. These three women were living a dream someone ordinary like me imagined in her head, creating it as holistically as possible. Seeing Jane move away from Scarlet, carrying a bag of everything she learned from Jacqueline, stirred me. For a writer to find a craftsman/ craftswoman who can help her mold is a fortune unsaid and undeclared. And what I saw at that juncture was my vulnerability taking shape in the form of Jaqueline, Jane, and this world of magazine and publishing. My tears questioned my timing – Am I late in life, defeated by age? The answer to this lay at an arm’s reach.
This writing charade might come across as an act of lunacy to some. So what is it? An age issue? Applaud for The Bold Type? Or an act of liberation? I would raise my hand for all of them.
The Bold Type not only slashes stereotypes but brings to focus women of various backgrounds with a progressive mind working on the dialogue of reformation. Not only women, but it also has men who support these ideas, change, accept being wrong, and make amends. With bold themes and issues under the umbrella- the characters bear it with aplomb.
As I said, the answer – was I crying over lost time? – lay at an arms reach: Literature and writing are not time-bound. There is no definite age to embrace it, own it, and evolve with it. Every time I pick a book or sit at my desk to write it frees me like no other. At night when I scribble in the notebook, is when I feel the boldest- unleashing my words with frivolity and thoughtfulness- minus the impairing eyes of judgment. Sheila Heti in Motherhood writes, ‘But you know what you should be grateful for: following this tiniest thread of freedom, which is to write.’
If there are these younglings at your perusal, making you dream through their youthful life, there is also Jacqueline. A woman, starting anew in her late numbers. The women from this series, The Bold Type, amplify that while being bold must look like an option sometimes, it can also be a choice. My soul screamed with the three of them on the sidewalk- it was a roar of will and hope. The tears seeped no longer from cracks now but from reaffirmation in myself, my wisdom, and the selection of struggles that comes with age. Does it not?
If you love what Nupur Lakhe has to share, do check out her other works here.