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ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: Emma’s got me thinking about sex…when I’m 90 

Emma Thompson gives an award-winning performance in Goodbye Leo Grande as a middle-aged woman who pays for sex with an attractive young man.

We see her wearing a goofy suit for the first time, with the kind of haircut that was last popular with housewives in the 1960s.

She is ashamed of herself and her body and is depressed from a sexually unsatisfactory marriage for years.

By the time her relationship with the young man is over, she has relaxed her hair up and is finally able to view her completely naked middle-aged body—one that is now sexually aware—in the mirror.

I contrast this with two images of middle-aged women that were in the news last week.

The nearly divorced Jerry Hall — wife of Rupert Murdoch, all long hair and glamorous outfits — and the gorgeous filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson, who at age 55 has renewed her wedding vows with her 32-year-old husband, actor Aaron.

Emma Thompson gives an award-winning performance in Goodbye Leo Grande as a middle-aged woman who pays for sex with an attractive young man.  We see her wearing a goofy suit for the first time, with the kind of haircut that was last popular with housewives in the 1960s

Emma Thompson gives an award-winning performance in Goodbye Leo Grande as a middle-aged woman who pays for sex with an attractive young man. We see her wearing a goofy suit for the first time, with the kind of haircut that was last popular with housewives in the 1960s

You don’t get the sense that they ever felt sexually deprived like Thompson’s character did before her renaissance.

The reality is that the richness (or otherwise) of our sex life does not depend on age.

Some people don’t enjoy sex much in their thirties; others consider it the ultimate goal.

I remember a friend who barked at me when I started a new relationship (and was clearly in the early throes of lust) that it wasn’t all.

Of course not – but it’s a lot of fun nonetheless.

When you’re young, it seems utterly impossible for anyone over 50 to have sex of any kind. But as the years go by, that benchmark shifts later and later.

I’m now at the stage where I wonder what happens when you turn 90. Is it possible? Would one want it?

Was it a modern dumping for Jerry?

Perhaps I should ask non-year-old Rupert Murdoch, whose ex-wife-to-be alluded to the passion in their relationship a few years ago when she described older men as “much better lovers.” I heard Rupert dumped Jerry by text message. Whatever his sex life is, if that’s true, his 90s manners are clearly missing something.

A view of a chocolate box from the Royals

Another somber royal portrait has appeared, this time of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It’s not terrible, but it joins the genre’s utterly mediocre ones.

It would be tempting to think it’s harder to get a brilliant painted portrait now that we’re inundated with photographic images.

Would we have been as critical of portraits of Elizabeth I or other kings and queens if we had had photographs to compare them to?

You only have to look at the great works in the National Portrait Gallery collection painted over the decades – or at the vibrant array of artists in the BP Portrait Award – to see that painted portraits can still be miraculous.

I suspect when it comes to royal portraiture, the artists feel frozen in their desire to please large audiences and are unwilling to take the risk of the ‘well, it doesn’t even look like them’. -criticism.

That’s not really the point. Painted portraits are not intended to be fully accurate representations. When that is attempted – as in Jamie Coreth’s painting of William and Kate – you get an interpretation of a chocolate box rather than something of real artistic value.

If you want the truth, speak to a ‘former’

Last week I was announced in the Daily Mail as the ‘former editor of British Vogue’.

Later that evening, I was similarly captioned when speaking on BBC’s Newsnight about whether Britain reflected the 1970s with the unions on strike and Kate Bush at number 1 on the charts.

It feels strange to always be labeled as the ‘former’, as if you don’t have a current identity.

As a ‘former’ I have become obsessed with how many commentators are former people.

You cannot turn on the radio without hearing a former soldier talking about Ukraine, or a former politician expressing their views on this government.

And thank goodness for that. Freed from the constraints of loyalty to your job, we “former” people are able to speak the truth – unlike government spokespersons who scurry on the news rounds of the day, or fashion journalists who can’t risk insulting someone they need to stay put.

If you want to know what’s really going on, yes, a “former” is exactly who you need.

Kate’s talent is now central, not her image

Back to Kate Bush, who has a new generation of fans thanks to the lavish use of Running Up That Hill in the latest series of the Netflix drama Stranger Things.

These newcomers to Bush judge her purely on her music, which must feel immensely rewarding. When she came on the scene, it was indeed her songs that became the wallpaper of our college days, but it was also her style. Her fabulous curly hair, her cupid’s bow mouth, her swirling hippie clothes.

What more could you ask for than to be appreciated for your talents after the allure of your once youthful appearance begins to wane?

Do not treat guests in Ukraine like pets

We have a mature Ukrainian couple living with us and we are often approached by others in the same position, suggesting that their guests and ours would like to meet regardless of age or profession.

It’s like when you’re a parent of a small child and everyone who has a child of the same age suggests a playdate, desperate to keep their offspring entertained.

The intentions are good, but it seems condescending to assume that Ukrainian visitors, because they share a common nationality and language, get along.

People talk more about “their Ukrainians” than about their cockapoos, as if bringing them together for a merry walk in the park would be appreciated.

It may well be, but I can’t imagine how I would hate it if the tables were turned and I was expected to get along with every Brit thrown in my way after I fled to a foreign land .

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