|Jeanne Hanson sky diving to mark her 80th year|
Gloria Steinem's gifts to womankind are many, but one of the greatest is her reclaiming of respect for women who are aging.
Gail Collins interviewed Gloria to report on her outlook at age 80. Her birthday is March 25, 1934.
It's important not just "what 40 looks like" or 50 or more--though she has done much to combat the idea that women are not attractive as they age. (Older men have more often been portrayed as sexy and interesting at sixty than women--though Meryl Streep and others are changing that.)
What's important is that Gloria's birthday plans included flying to Botswana and riding an elephant. She has not folded up her life and put it on a shelf.
Likewise, my friend Jeanne Hanson tried sky diving just before her 80th birthday. What a role model! (But I'll wait until 100 to do that--when I'm pretty sure an accident won't deprive me of any significant number of years.)
When I grew up, labels like "old hag," "old battleaxe" and "little old lady" were in the air--not to mention "spinster" and hours spent playing the card game "Old Maid."
The Beatles questioned "Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm 64?"
Now that I'm 65, that question seems shocking. Maybe it would be appropriate for "when I'm 84" or "when I'm 94."
The baby boom may be another factor, but in some circles aging is a way to gain respect, not lose it. I've attended several croning rituals to bless and honor the contributions of older women.
Of course, factors like diet, exercise, good medical care, and just plain good luck are behind the health and activity that some older women are enjoying today. Women who are struggling to eat or feed their families, who have had cancer or car accidents are less likely to be doing well.
Nevertheless, I want to thank Gloria for her part in the self-esteem and positive attitude I feel as a woman in my sixties today.