Old Women Power

My grandmother in her mid-eighties volunteering at a school.

Remember what Whoopi Goldberg supposedly told her family when she was a child watching Star Trek? “I just saw a black woman on television; and she ain’t no maid!”

It’s been at least 43 years since then. I want our culture to boldly go further. I want to see old women on TV without sitcom punchlines and laugh tracks. I want to be able to say the words, “old women,” without having people think: slow, weak, impaired, bossy.

I want to be able to say the words “old women” without having to garnish them with adjectives like “sweet” and “dear.”

I want the very idea of old women to conjure thoughts of people who are impeccable, stunning, expert, magnificent.

Andy winces when I speak of my own aging. It’s as if the statement, “I’m getting old,” has horrible meaning for him. I guess I usually say it when I’m touching the sagging skin under my face or breathing heavily from climbing the stairs, or having difficulty finding the word for the thing, you know, the—it’ll come to me.

I tell him not to cringe, that I don’t mean anything negative by referring to aging, but I think I need to work on my timing, perhaps deploy the phrase during moments when I’m feeling especially strong, wise and better than ever before.

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another, unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made of layers, cells, constellations.” – Anais Nin

Aging is surviving. It’s getting old, yes, and often stronger, wiser, better.

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The Grandmother Power Blogging Campaign is a collaborative effort of hundreds of bloggers writing about Grandmother Power from May 7th to 15th, 2013. This is my contribution.

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I will never be a mother or a grandmother, I don’t think, unless some radical unforeseen change occurs. But I might become an old woman. And I plan to harness every bit of power I can eke out of this body, this mind, this spirit. I plan to become a more thoughtful role model with every passing month. I plan to strive for more integrity with each new year.

I plan to make adventures around the country and take long walks high up into nature like my Aunt Connie still does. If my body breaks, I’ll write smarter. If my heart breaks, I’ll wait it out. If my hip breaks, I’ll follow doctors’ orders.

If my ears go, I’ll read. If my eyes go, I’ll listen. And if, by chance, I get to keep all five senses, I’ll read and listen more anyway.

I’ll choose the company of women who spend their energy and time doing awesome things: mathematicians, writers, artists, teachers, healers, mothers, students.

We’ll share stories with each other about old women who make us go, Wow: famous women like Gloria Steinem and Amy Tan and Jane Goodall, and anonymous women like my grandmother who volunteered in classrooms late into her eighties.

We’ll applaud women like my mother who started grad school and earned a master’s in her fifties, continues volunteering with Hospice into her seventies, and just nearly scolded me for doing this post instead of focusing on my first major fiction rewrite.

We’ll take charge and be the change. We’ll stay clear about what matters until pop culture follows. We’ll be so fabulous that in forty years the phrase, “I’m getting old” will come with high fives.

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Crave inspiration? Check out The Grandmother Blogging Campaign here.

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