Randi Kreiss

Take heart: The old women will lead us

Posted

Nancy Pelosi to Donald Trump: “No.”

Sorry if you’re in the first bloom of youth, girlfriends. The ground under your tight, smooth butts is shifting.

Suddenly, older, even old women are cool. Both The New York Times and The Washington Post ran stories recently about the 70-something generation of women who are feeling healthy, wealthy, wise and unstoppable. Of course, wealth is defined in an expansive way, not relegated to money but embracing richness in life experience, strong loving relationships and empowerment.

This is a tectonic shift in our social culture. My grandmas and most other women of their generation were tied to home and hearth. When they were in their 70s they wore housecoats and babysat grandchildren and, since most were widows, just tried to blend in as helpers and supporters. They didn’t claim power or independence for themselves. No one asked them what they thought.

As the new normal goes, women of a certain age fling off the burdens and obsessions that stress out younger women, and they fly. To hear some 70-somethings tell their story, this is a thrilling time of life. They can work or choose to pursue other passions. They are painting and strumming guitars, kite-boarding and hiking and biking and traveling the world on their own.

They say there is liberation in older age, not having to mind children or husbands or The Rules. Women are feeling giddy with a new kind of freedom that women never knew, even a generation ago.

Part of me wants to say, not so fast, girls. Yes, times have changed, and we older women can travel solo and manage corporations and run marathons, but there are real health and social issues that set in after 70. We can celebrate the headlines of the new old age but be mindful of the small print.

For example, I Googled “old woman” and found “hag,” “old bag,” “crone,” “witch” and “bitch.” Why didn’t I find “Golda Meir” instead? Meir, Israel’s fourth prime minister, served in that office until she was 76, having led her country through years of razor’s-edge diplomacy and tragedy, including the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics and the Yom Kippur War.

A steely fighter who ordered the Israeli Mossad, or secret service, to hunt down and kill the Palestinian terrorists who killed 13 Israeli Olympians, she also was famous for saying, “We hate war. We do not rejoice in victories. We rejoice when a new kind of cotton is grown and when strawberries bloom in Israel.”

The Iron Lady, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, relished the power of her position and her fearsome reputation around the world. She is known to have quipped, “Being powerful is like being a lady: If you have to tell people you are, then you aren’t.”

Here at home, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in her ascendancy at age 78. She came up the old-fashioned way, by building strategic coalitions and reading the political tea leaves. I didn’t pay too much attention to her until she stood up to President Donald Trump in that first televised Oval Office confrontation over funding for a border wall.

In her soft, low, steady voice, she said to the leader of the free world, “Don’t characterize the strength that I bring.” She didn’t even say please. And when he demanded money to build a wall she has called “immoral,” she simply said no.

Trump has not publicly insulted her or demeaned her or commented on her looks or her age, as he frequently does with other women. When he was running in a primary against former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, he said, “Look at that face!” And Fiorina, who was 61, said, “I’m proud of every wrinkle.”

In her book “Women Rowing North,” Mary Pipher sees the last third of life as the best, most transcendent, most ecstatic time of robust health and adventure and sexual pleasure. Not always, Mary. It is also a time of loss and creaky knees and social isolation. As I recall, it was pretty good being 25.

Still, the great good news is that advancing age does not have to limit any woman living in America today. And there are real perks to kissing off the hair colorist.

If you’re a young woman, be patient. One day you too will be old, with all the goodies that age confers.

Copyright 2019 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.