Clinical psychologist Mary Pipher has a new opinion piece about women in our ’70’s. Friend Phyllis sent along the link; she and I are both in the target audience. Pipher’s piece is optimistic, and I find it accurate in describing women I know — which indeed is a privileged or genetically lucky cohort.
“In America, ageism is a bigger problem for women than aging. Our bodies and our sexuality are devalued, we are denigrated by mother-in-law jokes, and we’re rendered invisible in the media. Yet, most of the women I know describe themselves as being in a vibrant and happy life stage. We are resilient and know how to thrive in the margins. Our happiness comes from self-knowledge, emotional intelligence and empathy for others.
Most of us don’t miss the male gaze. It came with catcalls, harassment and unwanted attention. Instead, we feel free from the tyranny of worrying about our looks. For the first time since we were 10, we can feel relaxed about our appearance. We can wear yoga tights instead of nylons and bluejeans instead of business suits.”
Self-knowledge, emotional intelligence, and empathy. Yes.
I do think key elements at this age are reasonable health, and enough financial stability not to have to worry all the time about a roof over our heads.
Pipher does talk about a woman named Jane Jarvis, who is happy despite living with difficult circumstances:
“Our happiness is built by attitude and intention. Attitude is not everything, but it’s almost everything. I visited the jazz great Jane Jarvis when she was old, crippled and living in a tiny apartment with a window facing a brick wall. I asked if she was happy and she replied, “I have everything I need to be happy right between my ears.”
Pipher also talks about loss, an unavoidable component of this stage of life. As I’m about to head to Panama to visit Minga’s family without her there, I’m mindful of the ache of loss but also of the richness of a 50+ year old friendship. You can only have friends that long when you are, well, old. 🙂
Pipher is writing a book called Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age. You know it’s going on my list.