August 22 , 2013, Vol. 11, Issue 17
I’ve been on vacation this past week with family in Colorado, so I thought it was a great time to have a guest columnist. I get to work with a lot of funny people, but I have to say I really enjoy Gina Barreca’s writing — as well as her speaking. She is one hilarious — and insightful — woman. I also thought it was appropriate to feature Gina on the heels of my last issue about Baby Boomers because Gina is one. And she definitely has something to say about that . . .
Meeting planners frequently tell me that they just really want their guests to laugh and have a good time, and take home a bit of wisdom that will make them smile when life throws them a curve ball. Gina delivers all of that with the wisdom that comes from living a full and engaged life. In my book, her columns are always worth reading — and learning from.
Gina Barreca: Women over 40 –
Not Seen, but Definitely Heard
By Gina Barreca
Ever notice how women get noisy as we age? Ever notice how the quiet, deferential, focused good girl hits a certain point and morphs into a combination of Betty White, Bette Midler and Mae West?
Over 38, 40, 50 — every woman comes to the stage when she ceases to be the ingenue at a different age — we start making trouble: talking back and speaking up without waiting for anybody else’s cue.
Increasingly political, assertive, articulate and outspoken as we age, many of us become, paradoxically, the girls we were once: wild, hearty, courageous and playful.
I believe this happens once you start calling us “ma’am” and we stop crying about it. We all remember our first “ma’am” moment. Initially it’s a shock to realize we’ve moved from “darlin’” to “ma’am” — and few women want to put that experience on their “best day ever” list.
Yet slipping off feminine propriety is like stripping out of a too-tight dress.
And kicking off the goody-two-shoes pretense is like sending a pair of high heels flying across the room after a long day.
The big changes in women’s lives are not menopause or the end of child rearing or any other Margaret Mead anthropological slide show; the biggest thing that happens to any woman is when she stops being the ingenue.
When she hears herself addressed as “ma’am,” there’s a kind of emotional Doppler effect: Her identity as the youngest and most sparkling woman around rushes past her.
All she can hear of professional and personal praise she once sought or of the wolf whistles — sought or shunned — she once heard is the sound of silence.
And neither Simon nor Garfunkel is singing.
In that silence she finds her own voice and she learns how to use it.
We’ll tell you the truth and we won’t sugarcoat it; we’ll laugh only when your stories are funny; we’ll argue until the sun goes down or comes up again without batting an eye — let alone fluttering an eyelash in a flirtatious attempt to get you to settle down.
We don’t want to settle down any more; we’ve been settled, like some western township, and now we want to kick up the dust and tear down the fences. Not only won’t we settle down, we won’t settle for less than what we’ve always wanted: a good time and a fair fight.
No, this is not an advertisement for menopause or a polemic against a fully realized, string-bikini-wearing youth; every phase of life has its delicious moments. And I’ve always believed that the one unforgivable sin was to wish your life away by trying to hurry through it. When my hair was long and my attention span was short, I was tickled pink to be ogled. Now I am tickled pink to be heard, especially because it’s tough to be ogled and listened to at the same time. Frankly, the whole ogling thing gets old faster than cheap pantyhose.
You’ve probably noticed that you can hear women over 40 even when you aren’t looking. Not that we give up on looking good. For proof of that, just glance at advertising foldouts in women’s magazines declaring how 40 is the new 30, 60 is the new 40, and death is the new life in order to get us to keep buying products made from (but more expensive than) caviar and precious metals. (I’m not even kidding: there are now skin products supposedly created with 24 karat gold extract. I guess if financial times got really tough, you could always pawn your own head.)
What you’ll hear less of, however, are apologies, pleas for favors and requests for permission. Grown-up women understand that what we need is a welcoming place to be exactly and unapologetically who we are. Like every human being, we need friends, significant work and somebody who wants to make sure we get home OK. But let’s not kid ourselves: good insurance, excellent food and great sex are also important, and not necessarily in that order.
You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough. You just have to live it up.
Gina Barecca is the author of They Used to Call Me Snow White . . . But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use of Humor available on Amazon.com.
FAMILY VACATION TIME
Through Thick and Thin
The Newcomer gang all met in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, last week. I think it was truly an official family gathering this year as we had matching T-shirts made to order. As this is the family I married into, I’ve been told the legend of the slogan emblazoned on them, but am still challenged to explain it. What can I say — I wasn’t there! Suffice it to say, Carpe Diem!
The air is thin in Colorado, but the feeling of family is thick when we gather and acknowledge the importance of being loved and accepted just the way we are. And actually, I think this family is quite interesting and civilized in that our gathering is all-inclusive. I could say it includes my husband’s ex-wife (from many years ago), but the truth is it includes me. And, although his eldest daughter and husband have split, the family of four was all there — traveling all the way from Prague.
There were four grandchildren from 11 to 18, and I would venture to say it was a very peaceful, fun and rewarding gathering. We spent our togetherness time hiking, talking, cooking, hot springs soaking, eating, shopping, dining, tubing, walking dogs, talking, playing poker (Tripoley) — that was funny. Just a few years ago we taught the youngest to play Tripoley (poker), and this time she was setting the game up for us. Dang! Why can’t they stay that age forever? After all, as the adults concluded, we’re not getting any older.
And, to top it off, the 3 dogs had an especially barking good time.
Summer, you gotta love it. I hope yours has been filled with whatever version makes your heart sing and your spirit soar. Take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.
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