Older Women and How they Got That Way

When I was a young woman just starting out in the working world, I often worked with “older” women whom I looked down upon for being perpetually cynical, negative and hard-boiled. Often they were also the kind of women who might sit on stools at the bar in their fifties, sharing limericks (and possibly Tequila) with sailors. As a confident newlywed, I once admitted at work that my new husband and I had opted not to have a television at all.

“Ha!” one of them snorted. “I give you 6 months!”

Since I felt infinitely superior in my own lofty, more evolved sphere, I was able to let this kind of low remark pass but I remember thinking privately I will never become like them.

I don’t think I have, exactly; but post-divorce, much older now, I see the whole thing with a different lens, fully appreciating the loss of a soft, golden innocence, the piercing sadness of betrayal and the kind of resentment that can form hard, sharp crystals in the heart. Continue reading

Soup du Jour

 

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“Here it is. Just on the left there.”

The car slows down and a large sign comes into view – Sunshine Acres. At one corner, a laughing cartoon cow doffs a straw hat in welcome. It occurs to me – and not for the first time either – that elderly people are often lumped into the same category as little children. These dreadful names! The last place we visited was called Happy Haven. Must they use nomenclature that would be better suited to a Victorian lunatic asylum? As we pull into the driveway, my daughter-in-law, Nancy, makes enthusiastic chatter at top speed, rather like a monkey. I’ve heard her prattle like this before when she’s uncomfortable and it only serves to make me feel the same way.

We’re out of the car now, feet crunching on gravel and as The Director opens the door to us, a warm blast of the sweet smell peculiar to the old, hits me like a wave. Familiar feelings of dread begin to creep upwards from my bowels.

“Welcome! Lovely day, not too hot.”

With startling insight, I can now see who the model was for the cartoon cow on the sign. The Director is immaculate in a crisp tailored suit with piping and her platinum blonde hair is styled like a policeman’s.  She is smiling alright, but there is a certain oiliness. Even her breasts, restrained within the confines of her jacket, have a formidable, don’t-mess-with-me attitude about them. She pumps my hand firmly and ushers us further down the hall, where the sun is shining brightly in a room called The Lounge and people huddle in groups reading the paper or staring into space.

“Now isn’t this pleasant!” says Nancy chirpily to Bill who has not spoken a word all the way here. The Director begins extolling the virtues of having a life that is still very much your own, where independence is retained right up to the end. The end?  Nancy nods intently, hanging on every word. I wonder if she and Bill ever have a proper conversation. I wonder if they still make love. Continue reading