Maybe twilight is the ideal time for marriage – the twilight years that is, 50 and beyond. Just a suggestion – Josei Jishin’s (Sept 20). Many single women, committed though they are to careers and independence, reach a point where marriage suddenly seems right. A decade ago that point tended to be somewhere in the 40s. Now it’s in the 50s and even 60s. Aging actresses and singers – lifelong singles, their fans had every reason to think – are setting the example and the pace, and ordinary women, the magazine finds, are following.
When actress Aiko Nagayama at 56 married an actor 16 years her junior in 1997 it was in effect a bold challenge to convention, and the next example Josei Jishin comes up with, singer Linda Yamamoto’s marriage at 50, didn’t happen for another four years after that. But since 2008, there have been four, and 57-year-old singer Sachiko Kobayashi’s planned November wedding will make five.
Numerically that may not be strikingly impressive, but these are very high-profile people whose ripple effect is considerable. Among non-celebrity women, “over-50 first-time marriage is increasing,” Josei Jishin hears from a marriage consultant. “Among our customers, it’s grown more than 20% in the past year, and 26% of our female clients who have never married before are in their 50s.”
Celebrities are not the only spur, of course. Another is the March 11 earthquake-tsunami, a reminder if ever there was one, of vulnerability and uncertainty and the need for moral support.
“Women who have lived quite happily on their own until now suddenly came to feel the importance of a bond, a tie to another person,” says the marriage consultant.
So it was with actress Mari Natsuki, 59, who married a singer eight years younger in May.
“Most women over 50 marrying for the first time were more interested in their careers than in their home lives,” theorizes marriage researcher Atsuko Okano. “Women in their 40s are still giving their all at work. Then they get into the 50s and start to slow down. Maybe they’re no longer as strong physically as they used to be. They know something of the ups and downs of love, and they have confidence in themselves.”
Besides, Okano continues, “For women, giving birth and raising children is a big responsibility – big enough to make career women hesitant about marriage. But past 50, that’s no longer a worry, which is another advantage of marrying at that stage of life.”
We’ll give the last word to actress Etsuko Ikuta, 64, who married for the first time at 58 in 2005. “I loved my work,” she says, “and if marriage was going to interfere with it, I wouldn’t marry. But then came menopause, and with it depression, and I found myself changing my mind. When you’re feeling out of sorts, it’s a comfort to know there’s someone coming home to you. I say, ‘Bring me my medicine,’ and there’s someone within range of my voice who gives me his attention.”
Of course there’s more to it than that. “He’s lived 60 years, I’ve lived 60 years, each of us respects the other. We’re partners who don’t hold each other back.” Perhaps that wouldn’t be true if they were in their 20s.© Japan Today