Something big is about to happen to me in less than two months. According to my industry I’m about to become irrelevant. That’s right, I’m turning 50 at the end of September and that means I will age out of the most important television demographic.
I am part of an industry that is fixated on the interests, trends and entertainment consumption of 18-49 year-olds. That’s because television advertising rates for the most part are set at a higher value for this age group. Media Life magazine recently reported advertisers spend 10 times as much targeting 18-34 year-olds as they do 50-65 year-olds.
Soon I’ll no longer be one of them, my interests considered of far less value. I’ll be just another middle-aged woman hopelessly out of touch and most likely at some point not even caring.
I recently had a glimpse into my future while vacationing with my siblings in the Berkshires. One of our outings was a visit to a Saturday morning farmer’s market in a small town. It happened that one of the locals was giving a talk on how to grow mushrooms on a log.
My sister who is five years older then me was front and center watching the demo and asking questions. Standing next to her was a woman in her sixties equally as interested in the mushrooms. Off to the side was the woman’s family including her thirty-something son.
While she and my sister marveled at the presentation the woman’s son attempted to throw some levity into the moment. At one point he said he thought they were mispronouncing the word “shitake”. My sister didn’t get the joke and shot him down immediately. When the conversation turned to Hen-of-the-Woods mushrooms he said he heard they tasted like chicken. Once again my sister set him straight. He was playing to a crowd that just wasn’t getting his humor. Finally he asked my sister why she knew so much about mushrooms and a conversation ensued.
While all this was taking place my twin 19 year-old nieces were hanging back enthusiastically whispering to each other. I was pretty certain I knew why and it wasn’t about the mushrooms. The young man who was goofing on their mother happened to be the actor Justin Long.
As I watched the scene unfold I realized the moment for my nieces was all about the Hollywood star and for a couple of middle-aged women it was all about the mushrooms.
There I stood on the brink, at the ripe old age of 49 still aware of what a couple of 19 year-olds found important yet appreciating the more mature women’s enthusiasm over the mushrooms.
The thing is those mushrooms really were interesting. I could tell you all about them but I’m as guilty as the rest of my profession feeding into this youth obsession. I assume at this moment you’re still reading my post because you want to hear more about Justin Long and less about the mushrooms. Yes, I could tell you he teased his young niece and nephew saying, “Isn’t it true if you eat mushrooms off a log after midnight you turn into a toad?”. But what I as a middle-aged woman also want to tell you is that I learned if you grow those mushrooms the wrong way you could kill yourself!
What was the more relevant story that morning at the farmer’s market? Was a celebrity sighting by a couple of teens really worth 10 times more than a mushroom how-to that delighted a couple of boomers? Perhaps, but even Justin Long saw value in trying to entertain a couple of middle-aged women. I dare say he even learned something about mushrooms.