One very good friend has been banging on about the joy of the TV series Grace and Frankie for months, if not years. Her husband even proposed to her whilst she was in the middle of watching an episode and she was miffed that she had to pause the hilarity for him to pop the question. If you’re not au fait with the series it’s about two women in their 70’s who after 40 years of marriage are presented with the news that their husbands are lovers and are leaving them to finally live a truthful life together. Four series are currently available to binge watch on Netflix and I heartily recommend that you use the winter months to get cracking, especially as the new Jessica Jones is out soon but that’s for another time.
And so, after finally getting around to watching an episode I found myself instantly hooked and not only the excellent banter between the title characters, played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin respectively, but also the underlying questions surrounding older age and idea of becoming housemates with your friends if things in those decades go slightly south, or lonely.
When I think of my granny and her best friend Margaret (they are both called Margaret) who are now in their nineties and aside from being naturally slower at movement and less sharp in memory, they are compos mentis. They have also both been widowed between 15 and 20 years apiece and I cannot help but wonder why they don’t move in together. It should be noted that my family have wondered this for some time now, especially as Margaret lives in the very north of Scotland in a hamlet in effectively the wilderness. They see each other twice a year each one staying in the other person’s house for at least a month, due to the travel time, and then usually an additional trip for Margaret at Christmas and New Year as she doesn’t have any family of her own where she lives. Now this might be incredibly presumptive of us on the outside looking in, assuming that they’d want to have the constant companionship because if we put ourselves in their shoes that’s what we think we’d want. However, knowing especially how lonely my Granny gets often feeling invisible, misunderstood or alienated by the modern world surely it would be more enjoyable to have a fellow comrade, a partner in aged crime with whom to bitch about the outside world?
Enter Grace and Frankie. Now the journey to their cohabiting is far from ideal and probably not overly common, if ever experienced at all, however watching their life together develop makes their inadvertent choice seem ideal.They have their own rooms and their own space. They are still living independent lives, but they’re not alone. They come together to be each others sounding board, emotional support or simply to enjoy a martini or five (Grace). They lift each other up when they feel invisible to the outside world i.e young people, including their grown children and encourage each other to continue chasing their dreams and aspirations however genius or ridiculous — easy to open condoms anyone? One could argue that by being there for each other and going through this stage of life together with mutual respect, understanding and a lot of laughs they’re decelerating the ageing process. Basically they are not treating the other as old, infirm, senile, slow, confused, deaf… the list goes on.
My fellow female friends, largely the ones who have also seen the series, are also incredibly pro this decision and see the benefits of this kind of plan. Perhaps because we’ve largely all gone through the housemate routine —from university to backpacking to shared housing and cohabiting— it is a much more natural end point in comparison to the grandparents, and also parents, of today where it was the norm going from the parents home straight to their new family home. I’ve already made a pact with one of my best friends that we will eventually become housemates if our other halves, if we still have one, predecease us and we’ve not been sequestered into a home for the elderly. Now obviously this may change, I’m hoping we’ve still got a good 40 years ahead of us before we need to make such a decision, however, theres’ something comforting in the idea that if I am living alone when I’m 75 it won’t be forever.