Thursday, March 13, 2014

I meant to post something Wednesday ...

... but Will and I ended up watching "The Wizard of Oz" instead. If you're around my age and grew up in the States, you'll recall what a big deal "The Wizard of Oz" was back in the day, how it was shown on TV once a year and constituted a major cultural event. It was grand and totally scary. Some of my earliest nightmares were about the Wicked Witch of the West, and those flying monkeys still creep me out.

Ah, witches. When I was a kid, I loved reading about them. What was the attraction, I wonder? The picture book witches were almost always comical, but the witches in novels were more problematic--darker and more threatening. Bruno Bettelheim, who wrote extensively about fairy tales and child development in his book The Uses of Enchantment, thought that reading about witches (and evil stepmothers) helped children deal safely with their negative feelings about their mothers.

Watching "The Wizard of Oz" last night made me think about how we still don't have much use for unattractive, unfeminine women in our culture. Ugly (the Wicked Witch of the West)=bad and pretty (Glenda the Good Witch)=good. None of this is profound or new, I know; in fact, you barely have to scratch the surface of things to reach that conclusion.

Still, clearly one reason women fear aging--at least in western cultures--is that they fear losing their looks and becoming less feminine. But if watching the Oscars two weeks ago taught me nothing else, it's that women who let themselves age naturally are so much more beautiful than those that fight nature. There were at least two cases of plastic surgery gone wrong that made me want to weep.

In her comment on my last post, Pom Pom wrote, "We have a substantial fleet of fifty year olds at school this year [Pom Pom is a teacher] and we keep talking about having an after-school gathering for them because we'd like to affirm them, tell them what we love about them, and assure them that the fifties really are fabulous."

Pom Pom, I am all for this idea! You should do it!  As I approach fifty, I find myself looking to older women, particularly in books, to show me the way. Lately I've been reading Madeleine L'Engle's nonfiction and books by Margaret Guenther, an Anglican priest (right now I'm reading Toward Holy Ground: Spiritual Direction for the Second Half of Life and Walking Home: From Eden to Emmaus). These writers have lived so much and experienced so much, and they seem awfully wise to me in what they say about life and how to live it.

When I was younger, a lot of my friends were guys. Partly this was because I was passionately into music (listening to it and seeing bands) and most of my friends who shared my passion were males. But it was also because as a girl I was hurt very badly by other girls, and for a long time I didn't have much use for female friendship. When I was in my twenties I told an older woman friend of mine that I found men more interesting than women, and I remember her shaking her head, like she couldn't believe how wrong I was.

I joined the company of women when I had children, and since that time I have found great joy in the friendships I've made over diaper-changing tables and at little league games. And guess what? In general I find women more interesting, complex and, yes, wiser than men. And funny! I know so many funny women who can deliver punchlines and roll with the punches like nobody's business.

I don't think I'm afraid of growing old--like a lot of people these days, the main thing I fear about old age is dying badly (years in a nursing home slowly losing my faculties, that sort of thing). But I do like the idea of having spirit guides take me through my paces--senior girl scouts marking the trail for me (preferably with chocolate) and showing me the way. So Pom Pom, start that group and get a movement going! I'll be happy to join in.


debbie bailey said...

I agree with you about the plastic surgery gone wrong. They look so pathetic. Everyone knows what they're trying to cover up, but the women who age gracefully are so much more beautiful. I have a Pinterest board called Fabulous Older Women.

My 15-year-old has tried for years to get me to dye my hair, but I refuse. She thinks my Older Women Pinterest board is gross. Yes, this makes me very sad, but I'm hoping that when she gets some age (and wisdom) on her that she'll see the true beauty of older women. I hope to be a good example for her anyway.

Madeleine L'Engle is one of my favorite authors. Have you tried Elizabeth Goudge? Pure magic.

Angela said...

I am certainly enjoying my fifties....but won't be in them much longer.

Heather said...

I remember when I thought that 50 was SO OLD. Now it doesn't seem old at all to me. I do notice (only at 40) my skin starting to sag, the wrinkles, more physical problems, etc, etc. While I don't love this, I intend to grow old gracefully and hope to embrace all the changes that come with it. My husband's mother and aunt are fighting it all the way. Implants, botox, bleached hair, high platform heels, and intoxicated dancing at bars are only some of the ways they are trying to keep holding on to their youth. They are both 60+. It makes me sad. They seem so desperate. I want to be a 'real' grandma someday. One that bakes, has time to read to my grandchildren, and is maybe even pleasantly plump for some great hugs and snuggles.

Nancy McCarroll said...

Well I am older even than PomPom. Probably by at least ten years. Yes, growing older is a challenge, and my only advice would be: be true to yourself. That comes from my grandmother and my mother, both now long gone. But it is a truism on so many levels.

And think on that during Lent!

Pom Pom said...

We are going to have the fifties party, for sure. I want to do it in my classroom and simply serve cake and ice cream. No bars. No wine. Just affirmations. I like YOUR idea of senior girl scouts or guides! I might do that in my neighborhood. We could get together and plan projects that are conducive to REAL STUFF like serving and providing hospitality. I LOVE being 55. It is my favorite age yet.
And yes, yes, yes about the Wizard of Oz. I scampered up the stairs until I went to college, deliciously afraid of the Wicked Witch of the West, just around the corner.

Gumbo Lily said...

Frances, do I ever remember The Wizard of Oz being an annual event, and the whole family watching! You took me back in time. I, too, had nightmares of the Wicked Witch of the West cackling in my face, "I'll get you my pretty!" Ugh. But I never really liked Glenda either -- just a little too gooey and over the top for me.

Like Deb, I made a Pinterest board "Aging With Grace" or something like that. There are so many beautiful older women that inspire me to be real and be me. (Take a look at Pom Pom -- she's beautiful and nice) And my grandkids just love me the way I am. One of them compared my hair (salt (mostly) & pepper) to one of the barred rock hens. She said, "Look, that hen is so beautiful, she looks like Gram." Talk about melt my heart.

May you seek and find all the good things that come in turning 50.

Tracy said...

I wonder how I'll feel about turning 50 when it's staring me in the face - I've a few years to go before I have to think too hard about it.

I hated turning 30. Turning 40 was just ho-hum and the most upsetting thing was that Dh 'forgot' to get me anything. He hasn't lived it down - the kids remind him more than I do!

So yuck, to ho-hum, to....I wonder what'll be next?!

I reckon you're only as young as you feel and mostly it's my kids that make me feel old...or not!

wayside wanderer said...

Oh, I well remember how that movie came on in October. Those flying monkeys were the scarier to me than the witch. I just listened to a sermon where the pastor said the reason we are drawn to stories is because ALL of them are coming true for us if we are in Christ. I love that because I think it is true. I had a witch in my life and her flying monkeys were something I had to learn to overcome instead of being paralyzed by them. That might sound nutty, but it is a true story. :)