A Dirty Word

On Tuesday night I was a guest at Linda Borowski’s neighborhood book club, where fourteen women gathered in a comfortable circle. They had bought my novel A Bird in the House a few weeks before, and so were prepared with thoughts, questions, and comments. They listened to me talk. We drank wine. It was a really lovely evening with genuinely kind and interesting women.

At the beginning there was some discussion about the opening sentence of the novel…“Two women—one old, one ancient—sat on plastic chairs on their front porch.”

The objection was that the old woman was sixty-four. There was a hurt that ran around the circle. Did I really think that 64 was old? I don’t remember my response. I think I’ve probably blocked whatever I said, or maybe it’s my old memory failing me.

But now I’m questioning: What is “Old” anyway?

In the beginning of the novel, 64 year old  Dee feels old, weighed down, dragging through her days. I should have said that to the book club. I’m pretty sure I didn’t.

But now I’m questioning further.

If you feel perking, happy, and enthusiastic about life, is 64 old?

I know. I know. If you’re around that age, you don’t want to be thought of as old. You’re only as old as you feel, right? I understand fully. Old is a bad word.

But, hell—let’s get real here; you can retire at 62 and get Social Security. At 65 you can go on Medicare. If you’ve reached those numbers of years on the planet, Honey, you are no spring chicken. You aren’t a teenager, or a Millennial, or part of Generation X Y or Z. You might be a Baby Boomer (born 1946-1964). Or maybe you’re part of that Silent Generation (born 1927-1945).

At 75, I’m part of the Silent Generation. I am old. It is what it is. But seriously…I have no intention of being Silent.

How old is OLD to you?

P.S. Thank you, Linda Borowski and neighbors.
It was fun. And I have lots of things to think about.


15 Replies to “A Dirty Word”

  1. Isn’t it sad that being old is considered a negative thing? For me, at 81,it is the best time of life. My gerontologist daughter has asked me to speak on panel of “Aging generative feminist activists” next month- that seems the right positive spin.

  2. Hey im 64. I got divorced after 40 years. I now paint during the day. Sing and play my guitar at partys and other events. Ive never. Felt so alive or dreamed it would be possible to be so happy!


    I looked in the mirror this morning
    Just as I started to shave
    I heard this ominous warning
    Girl, you’re fast approaching the grave

    My hair has turned to silver
    My skin is crepey and lined
    My breasts now rest around my waist
    But I’ve still got a great mind

    Cause mirrors get old, too, you know
    They can make you look like a stranger
    I am going to live to be 120
    So I am just a teenager

    Nothing is like it used to be
    The only constant is change
    They’re not making mirrors like they used to
    That mirror is a lying thang

    By (Ms.) Ricky Winn, October 8, 2018
    Age 76 going on 77

  4. I agree with everyone, Annis and Ann in particular. I am 71 and, hey, I am old. I don’t like that America denigrates being old. We should be honored and revered, especially us crones (Wise Women.)

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