Denial, as some American comic observed in the late 1980s, is not just a river in Egypt.
Indeed, denial was what I was in, deeply, when it came to acknowledging that, in 2012, I had actually retired from my former role. That role, incidentally, was as Fashion Editor of The Jewish Chronicle, the oldest Jewish newspaper in the world and one of the largest if you discount The New York Times!
It didn’t feel like retirement because I was already involved in another business – the fashion and beauty website, SoSensational, which my long-time friend Cyndy Lessing and I had launched one year previously. Though “another business” is not an accurate reflection, since – for me – SoSensational was my first business; until that point, aged 61, I had always been a journalist and an employee of one newspaper or another, apart from an interlude as a freelance when my daughters (now in their 30s, with their own careers and children), were very small.
So retirement, despite the fact that I had begun drawing my work-place pension, didn’t feel relevant or real to me. I certainly didn’t feel retired. My work days were actually lengthier and busier than before and – much to my husband’s annoyance – I was also working at weekends and after dinner at least a few evenings per week (provided I had had only a small glass of wine).
Had I wished to sit in a comfy chair with my feet up sipping a cup of cocoa and reading Saga magazine, there was no time. The fact that I most profoundly and devoutly did not wish to take that path is probably fortunate, since our days were filled with learning and implementing both the technical and business aspects that go with building a fashion website. In the rare moments of downtime we were more likely to be found reading bulletins from WGSN, trawling other websites for ideas (and, it has to be admitted, potential purchases), or slipping off to the hairdresser to ensure our heads betrayed no signs of grey.
That was in the very early days. Cyndy and I are no less busy now, but a hugely increased workload is now shared with our three members of staff and the media sales team which sells our Directory. Occasionally Cyndy and I look at one another and wonder how we managed to run all the aspects of the site without our staff members.
Fortunately, Cyndy and I are not only good friends with handily complementary skills, but – like me – she has also always worked, initially in her own insurance brokerage business, and latterly as an award-winning image consultant. Her feelings about “retirement” are identical to mine: neither of us are ladies who lunch and while we appreciate time for a Pilates class (me) or singing in PopChoir (Cyndy), and we both adore spending time with our grandchildren, we would both hate not to be doing something valuable and productive, irrespective of our age.
Perhaps it is the privilege of having worked at something I absolutely loved throughout my career that gives me a different perspective on retirement from those who can’t wait to get the gold clock and then spend their days gardening or visiting art galleries. But the idea of doing nothing productive or stimulating for the next 20 years fills me with horror.
In many ways, our age is a huge advantage to us on our website. The grown up women who are our target demographic are aged from 45 upward, with many in the 55-plus age range, and really appreciate what we do on SoSensational: that we edit everything on the site in a way that helps them find the clothing, accessories and beauty products they want – beautiful, on-trend and stylish, but not looking as if they were borrowed from their daughters.
We can help them because, to a great extent, we are them: we have the same dilemmas about covering the tops of our arms but not wanting to look like old grannies when we do so; we want high fashion, but we don’t want it to look muttonish; we want to work the trends but we don’t want to look like fashion victims (which, to be honest, is an aspiration relevant to every age-group).
We want to help grown up women feel confident and look fabulous. For the foreseeable future, we plan to go on doing that. And, like thousands of others who are doing productive work past traditional retirement age, it is only common sense, with current predictions of longevity, to recognize that, if we have the ability to work and enjoy doing so, we should continue.