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 usMoose 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.
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.
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!