I laugh because in my own experience, women become invisible after 50.
When I turned 50, it was my perception that in the street, I received less eye-contact; in shops, (especially fashion boutiques), I was ignored; in the Post Office, I was treated as a number, even though I had being going there for years. In my profession as a nurse,(a predominantly female profession,) when I turned 50 I found that amongst the younger generation of male physicians, I was often completely ignored for my opinion or my expertize, in favor of a younger and more attractive RN. I suppose you could put that factor down to chemistry, which really has no place in a professional setting, but it illustrates my point, which is, that aging women are considered less important.
Having said that, statistics are beginning to evolve, that counter that theory. Older women in the work place, in politics, in entertainment, in fashion, are deliberately exposing their presence and their value. Traditional patriotic practices and views are being gradually sculpted to include the older woman’s profile. The needs of older women to be represented and served in society have evolved from the proverbial Tupperware party in the fifties, to being major purchasers and consumers of significant worth. Such celebrities as Catherine Deneuve, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Tina Turner, Grace Jones and Whoopi Goldberg, have certainly made a huge positive impact on the perception of the older woman, in fashion and entertainment; and the media have begun to feature older models such as Jacky O’Shaughnessy, and Dafne Selfe.
Hilary Clinton, Sheikh Hasina Wajed: Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; President of Liberia, are formidable examples of powerful women in politics.
As an older woman, I find myself more assertive, more sure of myself, more confident, and less “mousy” than I was. I still enjoy dressing fashionably and slightly bohemian. I know that my legs are not as attractive as they were, and my body is starting to sag and stretch in directions that I never thought would happen. Yet, in some ways I am happier than I was too. What I held as important in my twenties holds less priority in my life now, and I still have ambition, although my goals are quite different. Yet Love, is as important now as it ever was. Love has many different faces, and has grown and evolved into a state of grace, which I try to extend in my everyday encounters, and in my efforts towards promoting peaceful social change. I do not feel any older, ( except in my joints…); my hopes and my aspirations are as vibrant as they ever were, but with more wisdom to guide them.
Indeed I have come to agree that “Age has no reality except in the physical world. The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom. Think of love as a state of grace, not the means to anything, but the alpha and omega; an end in itself.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
Of course, for many women, the representation of aging is less important than their actual experience of it. But in the face of all the noise about "the battle against ageing", there are many who struggle to accept their changing bodies even while they celebrate their growing contentment and changing attitudes.
So I have picked a few poems to cheer you up, make you think, and to give older women more exposure as a subject in themselves. Not the most eloquent of writing available, but better than getting numerous references to pornography, when you type in the words “the beauty of older women “, or such, into the Google search engine….
The Old Gods
By Dannie Abse
The gods, old as night, don't trouble us.
Poor weeping Venus! Her pubic hairs are grey,
and her magic love girdle has lost its spring.
Neptune wonders where he put his trident.
Mars is gaga – illusory vultures on the wing.
Pluto exhumed, blinks. My kind of world, he thinks.
Kidnapping and rape, like my Front Page exploits
adroitly brutal – but he looks out of sorts when
other unmanned gods shake their heads tut tut,
respond boastingly, boringly anecdotal.
Diana has done a bunk, fearing astronauts.
Saturn, Time on his hands, stares at nothing and
nothing stares back. Glum Bacchus talks ad nauseam
of cirrhosis and small bald Cupid, fiddling
with arrows, can't recall which side the heart is.
All the old gods have become enfeebled,
mere playthings for poets. Few, doze or daft,
frolic on Parnassian clover. True, sometimes
summer light dies in a room – but only
a bearded profile in a cloud floats over.
Born in 1923 and brought up in Cardiff, Abse has published 14 books of poetry; much of his work draws on his Welsh roots and Jewish inheritance. His most recent collection is New Selected Poems 1949-2009.
by Anne Stevenson
Memory, intimate camera, inward eye,
Open your store, unlock your silicon
And let my name's lost surfaces file by.
What password shall I type to turn you on?
Is this the girl who bicycled to school
A cello balanced on her handlebars?
Shy, but agog for love, she played the fool
And hid her poems in the dark of drawers.
First love of music bred a love of art,
Then art a love of actors and their plays,
Then actors love of acting out a part,
Until she'd try on anything for praise.
Siphoned to England, she embraced her dream,
With Mr Darcy camped in Hammersmith,
Bathed in a kitchen tub behind a screen,
Pretending love was true and life a myth.
Waking with a baby on her hip,
Yeats in her shopping basket, here she is,
Thin as a blade and angry as a whip,
Weighing her gift against her selfishness.
Three husbands later, here she is again,
Opposed to her own defiance, breaking rules.
Not mad, not micro-waved American,
She trips on sense, and falls between two stools,
Finding herself at sixty on the floor,
With childhood's sober, under-table view
Of how in time love matters more and more.
Given a creeping deadline, what to do?
Look at the way her wild pretensions end.
One word, its vast forgiving coverage,
Validates all her efforts to defend
Every excuse she makes, and warms with age.
Stevenson, is an American writer and poet, born in 1933. She has lived in Britain for over 40 years and is the author of more than a dozen volumes of poetry, books of essays and literary criticism, a biography of Sylvia Plath and two studies of Elizabeth Bishop.
“I had a dream about you. The seasons changed, but you did not. You were the same old person you always were, only older. And I was the same old person I always was, only younger. Yes, I’d discovered the Fountain of Youth, and since we were such old friends, I was going to let you have a swig for 10% off the suggested retail price. ”
Jarod Kintz. We had a Dream about You
By Linda Chase
He turns my hand in his hand
as if to catch the light,
separating my fingers
to see my rings, one by one.
Questions and answers follow –
country, stones, when, from whom
and then my other hand
because this ritual has been
going on for fifty years
and there are no surprises,
as he counts the parts of me
and the decorations I choose.
But today I wear a bracelet
he has never seen before,
knowing that it's to his taste,
that it will spark new attention
beyond his routine inspection.
Between the larger stones,
sit dashes of orange abalone,
keeping spaces in between
irregular chunks of turquoise.
He fingers them around my wrist
and I'm a girl again, fluttering
through her jewelry and her life.
Chase, born in 1941, is an American poet, living in Manchester, where she set up the Poetry School
In her book, Women who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., writes of the the Myths and stories of the Wild woman archetype, (a subject for a whole other blog.)...
She tells us that "within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful source, filled with good instincts , passionate creativity, and ageless knowing."
She says that over time, the spiritual lands of the Wild Woman archetype have been plundered and spoiled into something unnatural to please others.
She says, " we all began as a bundle of bones, lost somewhere in a desert, a dismantled skeleton that lies under the sand. it is our work to recover the parts.
The Wild Woman is rising again.
She is already having her Debut.....
Happy Independence weekend!
This is a picture of my Mother, Gillian Woodfield who inspired my next poem :
by Susan Golden
Her firm embrace shines a beam straight through my heart to hers.
I know she has known pain
Her years of experience show in her aura and her poise
as the stigmata of life bleeds from her wrinkled hands
Yet her style and grace hold upright and proud like a sunflower in full bloom
holding her face to the sun
Her womb, no longer fertile, still holds the seeds of time
Her buttery perfume fills the air calling the butterflies to her garden
filled with damask green and snowdrop pearls
Her tears water the Pandora of memories hidden under the soft blanket of moss
She releases my grasp and guides me to the aging gate
"From here, you must guide yourself my darling"