October got off to a flying start as Hurricane Ian bent our trees and knocked out the power. But by some sad miracle, the political texts kept coming. “Why haven’t you sent us money? Send money today!!!” crawled across my phone screen as I searched for candles and wondered just how bad it was going to get. The wind, not the texting. I knew the texting would continue unless the two paltry cell towers in our county blew over.
Hurricane Ian made me rethink my approach to political involvement. When I give candidates money (and I have to hold my nose when I donate to any politician who texts me), do they turn around and use my donation to send out more texts? And when I knock on people’s doors to canvas, do they find my presence as invasive as I find these text messages? There must be zero politicians whose goal in mounting text campaigns is to alienate the electorate. But here we are.
At long last the skies cleared, the wind stopped, we got power back after 36 hours without, tossed the fallen branches and threw out the mayonnaise. Then October took a much better turn. The third annual Third Act Quest Live Storytelling Event featured an inspiring lineup of storytellers of a certain age, sharing wisdom and ideas for us incipient crones. Online and affordable, this two-day conference is a great way to network and to get pumped up about our lives right now. Get on LinkedIn with founder Diana Place to hear about upcoming events.
And then my co-author Steevie Parks and I got to interview Jaki Shelton Green, Poet Laureate of North Carolina, for our upcoming book on juicy living after sixty. Jaki’s poetry is raw and visceral, nothing like the safe pablum of poet laureates of yore. In her interview, Jaki was intense, articulate, and wise as she talked about transcending racism, sexism, and ageism, and living as a queen on her throne. “I find that many women are practicing ancestor worship but passing by those of us who are still here,” she told us. “We must repossess the agency of the crone. We must not allow others to set it aside.” A fantastic afternoon with Jaki, and I can’t wait to share her many insights with you in our upcoming book.
In researching for our new book, in addition to reading Jaki’s poetry, I’ve had the luxury of reading many marvelous sources on related topics. Here are some recent raves:
The Queen of My Self by Donna Henes: I am not a woo-woo person, despite the fact that I lived in Berkeley for years (“Live in New York once but leave before it makes you hard; live in California once but leave before it makes you soft,” as my friend Mary Smich wrote in her newspaper-column-turned-hit-song, “Sunscreen”). And yet Donna Henes’ paean to New Age thinking is one of my favorite books (I just lent my copy to my co-author and had to apologize for all the notes scribbled in it). Henes makes the case that the Maiden-Mother-Crone
three-act model of women’s lives is outdated, and we should insert another stage, the Queen age, so that the model becomes Maiden-Mother-Queen-Crone. After all, sixty-year-olds and centenarians are just as far apart as newborns and forty-year-olds. Her exploration of what the Queen Age means for all of us is outstanding.
The Inside Story: The Surprising Pleasures of Living in an Aging Body by Susan Sands: This book is all about accepting our bodies as they are now and listening to them. Sands advocates forming healthier relationships with our bodies and cultivating gratitude for all that our bodies do for us. And Buddhism.
Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, The Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer by Barbara Ehrenreich: I absolutely adored her book Nickel and Dimed, so I was sad to read a column a while back by Barbara Ehrenreich saying she’d had enough of diagnostic testing because she was old enough to die. And die she did, but not before publishing this stellar book on the wellness epidemic as a fate worse than death.
Fifty-Five, Underemployed, and Faking Normal: Your Guide to a Better Life
by Elizabeth White: This book was recommended by the folks at Old School Clearinghouse as an antidote to focusing only on middle class women in the money chapter of my new book. Elizabeth White
has on her resume Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and a stint at the World Bank, and yet found herself unemployed in her fifties with limited prospects. An attempt at starting her own business failed and she became an advocate for those who find themselves in reduced circumstances, their prospects dimmed by ageism in hiring. Sobering and mind-expanding.
I’m switching up my usual pirate costume to be a witch for Halloween, in honor of the new romance novel I’m writing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which starts November first). Vampires of a Certain Age will be my first novel after teaching romance writing for Secure Senior Connections. They say that teaching a subject is the best way to master it, and I look forward to applying all I've learned about romance structure and characters to this November project.
I hope your October was grand, and that Halloween was a fine festival of the shadow line between universes. May November bring you much to be thankful for. Let us be thankful for our fellow Queens and Crones, and let us tell our stories to one another for the benefit of the future crones around us.
I typically publish two blog articles (published online on the 10th and the 20th) and this newsletter every month, so you hear from me (or a guest blogger) a couple of times a month. Below is a brief extract from last month's blog - click the links for the whole enchilada! If you've ever considered getting your voice out there, I welcome suggestions for topics, or a fully written guest piece in line with my philosophy for the site. Drop me a line......
It was March 19, 2020, and I was driving home after spending the spring break vacation with my son and his family in Panama City Beach. It was a strange vacation. We were all aware of the rapid spread of the Corona virus, yet there was so little information. My son scolded me every time I touched my face. We didn’t know if we should mask to go pick up groceries or disinfect the groceries before we brought them into the condo.
On the drive home I felt the world shut down around me. I was working as the Center Director of a Sylvan Learning Center. At that time, they did not have an online option and there was no way they were going to stay open. When the owner called on March 23 to say my job was being terminated, I was not surprised.
Having spent most of my corporate career in the training and development field I was used to layoffs. Anytime there was a downturn in the economy, training was one of the areas that was cut. My previous layoff had been in 2017. That job was outsourced overseas and I was asked to train someone younger than me to do my work. I was 64, one year from Medicare, in a new community where I did not have much of a network. It was a scary time.
One day last summer I was walking into the grocery store in shorts when a young man ahead of me looked over his shoulder and gave me the once-over. He started at my feet and looked interested, then quizzical, then somewhat abashed as his gaze travelled from conventionally attractive legs to round middle to my almost-seventy-year-old face. At that point he turned and scurried through the door.
I remembered that oddly amusing incident this week after reading a woman’s guilty post. She asked how she could consider herself anti-ageist when she loves being told she looks young for her age. Bingo. I want to have it both ways too: I want to be revered for my wisdom yet seen as attractive (which in our culture, so far, means young).
The actor Jamie Lee Curtis is a reformed plastic surgery client who tells her daughters, “Don’t mess with your face.” Going under the knife must be such a temptation in Hollywood, where a woman’s last fuckable day is her fortieth birthday. It must be tough to live in a company town where one’s entire standing is based on superficialities (Not that the rest of the country is all that deep).