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Special Interest

IS 29 OVER-THE-HILL FOR WOMEN?
Retired Executive Challenges New Study  |

Darlene Quinn, a former retail executive who forged a new career as a novelist when she was in her 70s, is distressed by the new study that concluded women feel like they’re getting old when they’re a mere 29, while men don’t feel their age until they’re 58. A quarter of women surveyed in the study, done by funeral company Avalon Funeral Plans, said they felt like they were over-the-hill when they found their first gray hairs, while men said age didn’t sink in with them until their sex lives were affected. Quinn believes that the secret to feeling young is to ignore the media and plot your own path.

“I keep hearing this phrase ‘over the hill,’ but I’ve never experienced it,” said Quinn, author of a story of intrigue in the retail fashion business, Webs of Power (www.darlenequinn.net), and its recently released sequel Twisted Webs. “I was 49 when I resigned as an executive with Bullocks Wilshire’s department store chain, and I didn’t feel old then, and I certainly don’t feel old now. However, I can see how some women could feel that way, particularly with how the media portrays women in film and TV shows. They are all either young and pretty or old and infirmed. In the movies, there is no middle age, so I can see why many women would feel like 29 is over-the-hill. If you’re a woman in Hollywood, and you’re over 40, it’s almost like you don’t exist until you’re old enough to play someone’s grandmother.”

For Quinn, her transformation into a published novelist in her 70s was like drinking from the Fountain of Youth.

“When I was a kid I spent Saturday mornings snug in bed listening to my favorite programs and letting my imagination run wild,” she said from her writing office in Big Bear, Colorado. “‘Let’s pretend’ became my M.O. and I spent a great deal of time in the worlds I created. But that was as far as it went when I was a kid. The stories I composed were in my head, either for my own enjoyment or sometimes acted out with my close childhood friends, but like it or not, I started my creative life as a writer, whether or not I used a pen and paper. It wasn’t until I was well past retirement that I’d use those tools, and it would make me feel a bit like a kid again.”

In fact, as far as Quinn is concerned, 70 is the new 40.

“Another thing that my friends my age who do not feel old complain about is news articles, books and even movies when they refer to a woman in her 60s as ‘elderly,’” she added. “What we say is that today’s 70 equates to the 40s of years gone by, in dress as well as actions. As long as there are no major health issues, there is no need to get old, and certainly no reason to feel old.”

During her career, she had been a consultant, a teacher and eventually a top executive in the world of high fashion retail. Of course, throughout that time, Quinn never felt the glass ceiling above her, nor the years behind her. Her focus was on her next challenge.

“Sometimes life leads us away from a path we might have chosen, and the key thing I want to remind people about who feel old – whether they are 29 or 79 – is that we don’t have to stay on those paths if we don’t want to,” Quinn added. “We have the power and the choice to start something new, to do something else, and to ignore the voices that say we’re too old or too set in our ways. They are our ways and we can change them if we want to. As long as I have breath in my body, I’ll continue to pursue my passions – and that is what will keep me young.”

About Darlene Quinn

Darlene Quinn is an author and journalist from Long Beach, California. Her first novel, Webs of Power (winner of the 2009 Indie National Excellence Award for Fiction) – and its recently released sequel Twisted Webs — is about the backroom wheelings, dealings and double-dealings behind the scenes of a national retail chain, based primarily on real-life people and companies Quinn encountered during her career in the retail industry. The sequel, Twisted Webs, was released in September 2010. As part of a nine-member management team for the Bullocks Wilshire Specialty Department stores, Quinn has the insider’s perspective on the rise and fall of major department stores.

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