I’m still catching my breath after a vigorous walk with a woman who became my friend after seeking me out because, she explained, “I like your energy levels.” I remain flattered. I remain so because this woman, of the same generation as I, harbors so much energy that she could power up the lights on Main Street.
Another friend, soon to celebrate her 70th birthday, actively seeks a new career as a lifestyle model (code for a senior citizen model). She squeezes this between her busy charity work, her weekend and holiday jaunts about the region, her tap dance lessons, and as a hostess for some of the best parties ever.
Then there’s my buddy who gives most of her week to several nonprofits as a volunteer—including volunteering as a gardener’s assistant who pulls weeds at Hearst Castle. She recently celebrated her big 6-0 at Disneyland.
Did I mention my professionally retired friend who writes a weekly newspaper column, runs a huge annual writer’s conference, volunteers for a few local nonprofits, and is still available for help when needed?
And then there’s another friend, since her retirement has a calendar so full with things like chairing her church fundraiser, teaching religious education, volunteering for several charities, that I’m amazed she can find time to host parties and keep up with her husband’s calendar.
When today’s local paper arrived in my mailbox, the front page photo captured a woman with gray hair (fabulously curly and long) resolving a little issue having to do with a project she leads for an after school program, when she’s not care taking pets, or running errands for other volunteer groups, or her grandchildren.
My apologies to the plethora of other post menopausal friends whose vignette I neglected, like the women who travel the world in search of spirit and stories, the women who write and craft beautiful books that earn awards, the women who started a whole new career, the women who care for the grandchildren, the women taking on political and social issues with aplomb, and the women who care take their aging parents.
Now I know why a male friend of mine wrote, “You post menopausal women are amazing. I could not keep up with you if I tried.”
Spouse simply shakes his head when I mention my next activity. And I wonder if I have senior citizen attention deficit disorder—except that I am at full attention and retention. I explained in an email yesterday, “I make a lousy slug.”
Admittedly, after a spate of social activity, I hole up (or hunt for sea glass on the beach), and I refuse to answer my telephone until my internal battery refuels. I’ve been known to savor nine slumber hours. But I also have a cadre of like-women who are up and on their computers when the rest of the world sleeps. While stars twinkle, we chat online.
I’ve got a feeling this will continue–judging by the stamina I witness from my women elders—all those post-WWII women who fear little or nothing. They still roll up their sleeves and get the job done—maybe a little slower than before, but they go do it.
Yet, as amazing as we are, we are invisible to others. During a recent shopping spree with my 30-something daughter, sales clerks flocked to her like pigeons for popcorn. In fairness, yes, I would not be shopping for hip-hugging jeans and spiked-heeled boots. But some of the women mentioned above would. Kathleen Bates’ character, Bettina, in the television production Six Feet Under, had the best line to her friend while shopping. It went something like this, Go ahead, stuff that gorgeous scarf in your pocket. We’re invisible to them. The mature women characters left with some nice stuff—without charge.
I’m not recommending this kind of behavior. But for one once familiar to people (sales clerks and men) looking at me, watching my moves, checking me out, it is quite the change to become stealth. I rather like it. It powers me up.
Maybe this invisibility is our secret power source. Maybe we’re no longer drained by needy youth. And maybe Anna Marie Ivers, the protagonist in The Gathering Basket, a book I wrote after my 50th birthday was right, “I am free of youth. Now I have the power.”