As mature women, writing about mature women, are we cognizant of what we are “feeding” each other in our messaging? The impact of what we explicitly write is important, of course, but inference and implicit messages can be both damaging and damning.
Not long ago I read a poem that was circulated and sent to me by email. The sender of the poem, and perhaps the author of the poem, meant well. But meaning well does not always lend itself to critical thinking, the very process that presupposes mindful, rigorous analysis, before we adopt our perspectives or beliefs.
This poem waxed maudlin on the beauty of growing old as a woman. It inferred that I was somehow to take heart that as an aging woman the lines on my face were the very “history of my family.” The verses build on this underlying message: As an aging woman I am to revere these “wisdom lines.” It declares my loved ones “will return” to find “their history in my face.”
I say to that, bulls**t! This may be so for the author of this particular poem, but lacking is any clarity that this is their point of view only. Therein lies the potential damage and the unwitting damning of a woman’s right to choose: When a woman is given only one perspective to choose from, any other perspective becomes opposing, and thus, either implicitly or outright wrong. Do you recall the famous words, "You're either with us, or you're against us"?
Like that famous line, for this poem to give message that every aging woman should love the lines on her face is both audacious and divisive. My facial lines are my facial lines. They are mine to think about or to do with in any way, shape, or form that I please. Lines on the face are just that: lines on the face. Please, do not infer, suggest, or implicitly tell me I am to adopt your point of view and revere these facial lines as my family’s history.
And speaking to that particular point, I am not responsible to hold my family’s history anywhere on or in my body. Nor do I want to. Quite honestly, I would be stupefied if I had an adult child come to me, look me in the eye, and declare, “Mom, I see my family history in every line on your face.” I really would need to compose myself before I responded thoughtfully to what I would call a thoughtless remark. For myself, I cannot think of a single time, when having looked at my own mother, that I ever thought her face represented our family story.
My mother’s face, my mother’s body, was a creation of her own perspective. Who she was and how she appeared was the result of the story she personally wove about herself. As her daughter I will not take responsibility for the choices she made. Nor would it have been my mother’s place to hold me accountable for any line on her own face. The idea is ridiculous to me, romantic nonsense that is misleading at best. Do we really need to manipulate by using inviting and charming words that disguise blaming others for who we have become or how we now appear?
As women growing into our maturity, can we dispense with acquiescing words of soft, syrupy sentimentality? Rather, might we adopt a decorum of directness? Could we allow ourselves to not be nice all the time? Haven’t we won the right to claim our authentic selves, the best of who we are, along with the worst of who we are? And as sisters to one another, can we allow ourselves to accept each other as we are, and as we are not?
This can be a time in life to face who we are, lines and all, liking them or not! We have a choice. We have choices, period. Hell, we women have created the choices needed to live life more fully and joyfully. Our maturity is what has helped to shape our sharpness, giving us an edge up on intuiting what is real from that of banal platitudes. As one mature woman, I will not go timid into the night. Rather, I come out with the swords of my lived experience — swinging! Don’t peddle me flowers, I’m looking for sisters with sharp swords.