A week or so ago I blogged about Emily Harrison - a brilliant young poet. In the course of this blog I described myself as 'wrinkly' and a 'crone.'
Francis commented - quite reasonably - that these are derogatory terms; I belittle myself by bringing up my age in this way. These are not terms I would use to describe a man. She's right - I wouldn't use them to describe a man. And there I stop, and think - I'm not sure what words I would use to describe a man my age. Geezer? Certainly not. 'Pensioner' sounds far too old, and doesn't include gender. Drawing attention to receding hairlines is too personal.
And - taking this a step further - 'wrinkly' and 'crone' are not words I would use to describe anyone other than myself. I use far kinder words when thinking of my friends. Mostly I use their names - that is enough to underpin the feisty, independent, funny women that they are. At a push they are 'older women' - that gives them dignity, gravitas.
The trouble is that I don't feel dignified. My head is still somewhere in my twenties. But I know my body carries all the indignities of its sixty years. I walk down the street and men look through me. I am sure my grandchildren will, before long, ask if I remember the Romans. And the only way I know to manage this dissonance is to laugh at myself - at the incongruity of dancing round the kitchen while waiting for my hot chocolate to cool down; the way I rub my arthritic knees and then think, maybe, I should go to Nepal in the winter and trek the Annapurnas.
Which leaves me in a quandary. I don't feel I fit the term 'older woman' - it smacks of common sense, and comfortable shoes. So, what do I call myself? I'm happy to laugh at myself, and to use terms like 'wrinkly' and 'crone' - I'm happy in my own aging skin. And there are huge advantages to landing, healthily, into late middle age. Women my age are invisible. We sit in corners in cafes, and people take no notice. We earwig conversations - during a recent trip to America I scribbled, word for word, an argument between three women regarding the need to affirm the self-esteem of their teenaged daughters, all of whom were launched into serious diets. They talked as if I wasn't there. (In evolutionary terms, our usefulness lies in caring for grandchildren. And if invading soldiers are unable to see us, we are more likely to keep those children safe.)
So - how to incorporate all these advantages of aging? 'Crone' - maybe is too harsh; it smacks of Macbeth's witches. But 'wrinkly' - that feels, to me, a wry way of laughing at myself. It doesn't take the realities of age too seriously.
But I do take Francis's point - maybe I have not done other older women any favours.
So - what words would you use? For older women - and men?