As Gen-X women cross the Rubicon of perimenopause, they’re hungry for stories that reflect their experiences. Most OB-GYNs seem mystified by the particulars of menopause. Gwyneth Paltrow would like to Goop-ify it. Even Michelle Obama seems flummoxed by the contradictions of aging.
Enter Everything Is Fine, a new podcast co-hosted by Kim France and Tally Abecassis that nails the experience in all its highs and lows.
France, 56, has a long-running fashion and lifestyle blog called Girls of a Certain Age, and the sort of hip bona fides that only a career launched at Sassy can offer. Abecassis, 46, is a documentary filmmaker who produced the podcast First Day Back (which was featured here in 2017) and was the subject of its first season; she emailed France after reading the latter’s writing on the Cut about her time at Condé Nast (where she was the founding editor of Lucky), vanity, and dressing your age. The two women’s formidable skills as interviewers and journalists create a dynamic discussion boosted by guests like Darcey Steinke, Soraya Chemaly, Ada Calhoun, and Jane Larkworthy.
They have found themselves at the forefront of a new wave of media focused on the topic. “Somebody said to me, ‘It’s a trend,’ and I was like, ‘How could that be a trend?’ We’re here to stay,” Abecassis said. I talked to them about their podcast, ageism, women’s media, and more.
The podcast comes off as very raw and personal. Do you ever worry that being so honest might cost you future professional opportunities?
Kim France: I made a decision after Lucky to just sort of — after having to be so careful representing a brand and having to be so careful about what I said and did and tweeted, that … I wasn’t going to really have a place for the Man in my life. That working for the Man again wasn’t going to happen to me. Being at Condé Nast for a long time gave me the financial security to make a decision like that … So, no, I don’t worry about it because I just feel like, I’m 56 next week, I’m a print editor, I’m unhirable [laughing]. Who’s going to hire me? Which is what led me to build the blog and work on my book and do this with [Abecassis], because I think that is the only answer — to reinvent however you know how.
I was relistening to your episode on invisibility, because that hits me so hard … it has the ability to make you feel angry. Yet it seems like your anger is often kept in check on the podcast.
France: I don’t know if invisibility makes me angry.
Tally Abecassis: It makes me bummed.
France: It bums me out a little, but like I said in our episode, nobody was given more advantages as a result of being young than I was. I got really good jobs at young ages, and I think in large part because I was young, and so it only stands to reason that now I’m dealing with the other side of that. But there are so many other things about being in this stage of life that I’m pleased about, that I think it keeps me from being too angry.
There’s something really refreshing about aging, where I just don’t care as much in some ways.
Abecassis: That’s what I keep saying to you, Kim. I give less fucks. I hear that so much!
France: And it’s what’s allowed me to forge a path for myself after Lucky, at 46 or 47 or however old I was when that happened. To be like, I’m gonna make a blog that says exactly what I want. If I think a designer’s overpriced, I’ll talk about how they’re overpriced. I’ll talk about anything with Tally. And I think, you know, it’s because of that.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but you guys hadn’t actually met before doing the podcast — it was sort of like a cold call.
Abecassis: This is true!
France: That’s exactly what it was.
Abecassis: Yes, it was the first time — I think, for me — that a cold email has produced a fruitful collaboration. I cold-emailed Kim because of her blog and because of some articles she wrote on the Cut about getting older, wanting to maintain yourself, etc.
France: She wrote to me, and my readers had wanted me to do a podcast anyway, and I knew that I was never going to get off my ass and do it, and so I was like, Oh, wow! This girl seems really cool, and she wants to do this, and it made a lot of sense. So we were like, Okay, we’ve got to talk on the phone and make sure we have some kind of chemistry. We talked a lot before we actually met in person to record the first episode. But we didn’t meet in person until the very first episode.
Abecassis: Instead of emailing, at first we had a weekly phone call, just to talk and get to know each other a little bit.
What’s the difference between having a conversation and writing about these same topics? I get the feeling it lends a sort of openness that’s not present in writing.
France: Well, you do a lot of editing yourself while you write, and most of us don’t do as much editing when we’re talking, I think. I was listening to our “failure” episode, and I was like, Wow, did you just say that? The things that come out of my mouth! I need to remember that people are actually going to listen to this. But when I’m writing, I’m much more disciplined about watching my own back, I would say.
Do you think that women’s media is getting better about addressing ageism?
Abecassis: There seem to be pockets. In Canada, there’s a magazine called Chatelaine — I don’t think you have it here. And then I bought Elle, because there was a thing about Everything Is Fine in Elle, the Canadian Elle, and both of them had covers that were related to aging, being comfortable in your skin, aging power, blah blah blah. They’re very pro-aging. All the articles were pro-aging, etc.
But then the fashion parts of them were just 20-year-old models wearing ridiculous clothing that we could never wear. And I was like, There is a real blind spot here — that you could be showing clothing that works better for what is obviously your demographic, because you’re obviously speaking to women over 40. Anyway, so the text to me seemed to be improved, in some way, but the photos [haven’t].
France: Because the fashion is so caught up in advertiser money and the clothes have to look a certain way, the clothes only come in model sample sizes, and the model sample sizes are teeny, like even teenier than what a sample size really is, and it all just sort of keeps the fashion looking the same. Even Mirabella magazine, which existed for a while, which was for women over 40, was the same way: The fashion just felt like a disconnect from everything else. I feel like it’s getting a little bit better, but people still prefer to look at that which is young and dewy.
In a way, the onus has been on women to make it part of the conversation as we grow into that age. None of our doctors know anything about menopause, and the media has been so slow to cover it, so we share information with each other.
France: People have talked about that a fair amount, and what it comes down to a lot is mothers don’t talk about it with their daughters, and so there’s shame around it.
Abecassis: There’s shame around a lot of aging. When I heard that term “age shame” for the first time, I was like, Oh! That’s a thing that I feel! Also, because I work in media, I feel like for a long time I was definitely trying to pass for younger, and that was another thing when the podcast came out — right off the top, I said I was 46, and I started getting all these emails from people I work with, like, “You’re 46?” And I was like, Fuck! What did I just do? And then I was doing the mental calculation of Who knows that I’m 46? — that kind of thing — because everybody, especially in TV, wants to be working with, unless you’re Martin Scorsese, the youngest person in the room, or the hot young director.
France: But it’s like all this conversation lately around people sharing their salaries. I think it’s very empowering to share your age, and have other people share their age, so they can see that 55 looks like a lot of different things, that 46 looks like a lot of different things. It’s a good thing.