Sunday, October 19, 2008

When I Grow Up

Watch this vid. Now, please. It only takes a minute, it will make you smile and tap your toes, and we would like to talk about it. You know you can't participate in the discussion if you haven't studied the assigned text, so please just click. We will wait for you.

Now, wasn't that sweet? Uplifting? Fun? (Oh, and, yes, that was Michelle Shocked doing the vocal. Here is her longer, edgier video for the song, "When I Grow Up.") My legions of loyal readers know that Roxie's World is proudly ad-free, but we brought you this commercial message from Kaiser Permanente's "Thrive" campaign as a way of kicking off what we hope will become a series of posts on the theme of growing older, particularly growing older while queer and/or female. We've even debuted a new post label -- aging -- to mark the occasion and to remind us of our commitment to the subject, in case it slips our (aging) minds. It's something we've been thinking about since June, when we did that post on the California wedding of pioneer lesbo activists Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. We followed up on that with a poignant late September post, "Grow Old With Me," that meditated on the different widowhoods being faced by Joanne Woodward and Phyllis Lyon after the deaths of Paul Newman and Martin because of the unequal ways their relationships were seen in the eyes of federal law. Those posts, the loss of a dear friend, the deaths of several friends' parents, and even the upheavals in the financial markets have had us focused rather acutely on issues of age, time, change, loss, and futurity. Lately, we can't help projecting ourselves forward a little and trying to imagine what life will be like, how we'll adjust to inevitable changes, and how we will -- individually and collectively, emotionally and politically -- negotiate the many challenges that will arise as the largest generation in American history enters its senior years.

It's a set of questions and concerns that brings to mind the conclusion of a favorite old poem by Adrienne Rich, whom Moose thinks of as the most morally strenuous of contemporary writers. She tends to channel Rich whenever she is grappling with a complex problem and is tempted to take a short cut or let herself off the hook for something. Rich doesn't allow that, but her rectitude is tempered by great tenderness, as we see in the closing lines of "Nights and Days," from Rich's 1978 collection, The Dream of a Common Language. The poem is addressed to a lover and, like this post, preoccupied with imagining the future. After conjuring a series of pictures and dreams, it concludes:
and I ask myself and you, which of our visions will claim us
which will we claim
how will we go on living
how will we touch, what will we know
what will we say to each other.
Moose likes the way the lines effortlessly join the abstractions of vision with the practicalities of "how" and "what" we will say, do, or know. Oh, and she admires the dual, passive/active role played by the word "claim," which is another way of connecting abstraction to the individual's action and agency in choosing how to go forward.

How will we go on living? Is the question melodramatic or overly earnest? Picked up a newspaper lately? Your earnings statement from the third quarter of the year? A little melodrama may be called for, but Rich's poem is more accurately described as a call to consciousness -- to moving forward with mindfulness and a sense of connectedness and consequence. It seems to us such a frame of mind is in order, and so it is in that spirit that we launch this series of reflections. We invite your input, too. What are your concerns as you experience your own process of aging and the aging of those with whom you are close? What are the visions that sustain you or that you would like to see realized as a way of aging with less stress (on individuals and families) and more fun?

What we really love about the Kaiser Permanente ad is that it shows a variety of women all having a roaring good time in their aging bodies and in the company of their aging women friends. We like seeing images of old women laughing and dancing and drinking wine and falling happily into one another's arms, though we'd have liked it even better if the ad had shown differently abled bodies joining in the fun. Still, a vision of older women reveling in their physicality rather than hiding it as if it were something shameful and sharing the deep pleasures of one another's company is a vision we would definitely like to claim as we move forward in our own aging processes.

Our personal stake in this? Well, let's just say the series on aging may culminate near the end of March when someone in Roxie's World hits the half a century mark. You are all invited to the party, kids, as long as you promise to bring your pom-poms. Shimmy on, ladies and boys!


  1. I want to be old in yr neck of the woods. time for us to invent the next century....

  2. Absolutely. You already have an elegant garden apartment in our imaginary queer/canine/fun folks retirement village. :-)

  3. YES! When I grow up, I want to be an old woman: AMEN! Yee Haw! So incredibly cool. Ah, I have thought about that much for the past several days, Rox, as I’ve spent time with my 88 yr old Mom. Blind (macular degeneration), her mind is still acute, if a little slower, as she reads Pride and Prejudice through Talking Books, looks forward to Emma, debates politics with my siblings (who are NOT in the same place), and creeps slowly on her cane through her living facility with friend after friend greeting her with glee (“there’s my friend Mozelle!”). Her name is #2 on the Frequent Flyer (for exercisers) Kudos posted all around the Manor in which she resides: only one other resident has been to exercise class more often than she. When I grow up, I want to be an old woman, writing, reading, debating, exercising at 88 yrs and older. And my ambition is to move faster be more nimble, more agile than she, and she applauds that.

    As Moose will tell y’all, I, Goose, somehow do not mind getting older. I’ve always liked my age (though the teenage years and the 20s were really, really hard). But the 30s, the 40s, the 50s—it just keeps getting better.

    A few visions that have sustained me:

    #1. The importance of having fun. One of my grandfathers is legendary for saying to his doctor when in his early 60s, big damned handsome drinker that he had been as a swaggering Adonis, that he had promised a “pretty young woman 40 years earlier that he’d never take another drink” and so he was sorry but he just couldn’t have a glass of red wine a day to relieve his stress. Moose promised me nearly 20 years ago, when we were celebrating our first 5 years of bliss, that she’d make me laugh every day for the rest of my life. She has kept that promise, and I think everyone should make that promise to themselves and to all of their beloveds. Now a caveat is in order here: no one is as funny as Moose, so promising to make oneself and one’s beloveds smile will undoubtedly do. Just google “smiling as healing” or “smile” or, best of all, check out the Wikipedia entry on Gelotology, and you’ll see how important this vision really is (and perhaps understand why I find “politically correct” shushing of the importance of having fun in the campaign irksome).

    #2. The importance of poetry. See Muriel Rukeyser, The Life of Poetry.

    #3. The importance of music. See Michelle Shocked, this particular Roxie’s post. Remember Beethoven, and don’t forget opera.

    And then there’s the importance of rest (DEB, you should try to relax and get more: this election will turn out ok, trust me), so I’m signing off and going to bed. I’ve a big drive across the state of Texas tomorrow, so need my shut eye.

    Let’s EMBRACE AGING, folks. Let’s refuse to fall in love with debility. As Rox says, let’s keep this conversation going. We need True Progressivism now, True Hippies who do not covet $$$ and really want to redistribute wealth and want to make of our national and international congregations, commonwealth.

    Imagine there’s no heaven (above us). I wonder if you/we can. Let’s seize it, spread wide our narrow hands to gather paradise. And let’s laugh at and with ourselves as we do so, old women all.


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