... 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.
Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb.
1 hour ago