Or, the old art of being a gorgeous crone
It’s funny how there are so many labels for women – not funny as in ROFL, effing hilarious, but funny as in really quite bizarre.
When I was at school, us girls were either ‘frigid’ or ‘nymphos’ – clearly no subtlety or nuanced perspectives being deployed there. But isn’t that the point of labelling? If you’re not going to be judgemental and reductionist, why bother with a label at all?
After education, like a lot of women, I went on to build a career, manage home, work and children, make it all happen. No chance for me to be a ‘stay-at-home-mum’, a mortgage dictated I had to be a ‘working mother’ – another criticised-whatever-decision-you-take scenario.
Along the way, like most women, I struggled with balancing that tight rope that is the ‘madonna vs whore’ complex. Important to dress attractively, but not too attractively. Important to be nice to clients, not so much as to confuse the male ones. Important to be super-smart and on the ball, but not so smart as to be a ‘ball breaker’.
And then, at last there is middle-age. Cue huge sigh of relief when, contrary to what the advertising industry might suggest, nobody apart from you cares a jot what you look like. For a brief period, and I do mean brief, it’s possible to believe you could be taken seriously.
Until that is, you have the sort of conversation that I had the other day when the topic under discussion (admittedly in a very supportive and positive context) was the Three Stages of Woman. Yes, apparently there are only three, and they are: The Maiden, The Mother and The Crone. Apart from sounding like a really crap Tarot reading, this did strike me at the time as being a somewhat limiting approach to womanhood. Possibly even as reductive as those schoolboys. I bridled.
But it did make me think about what it meant to be approaching the point at which I could officially be termed an ‘old bag’. In addition to Crone (and let’s face it that one’s a doozy), type in ‘old woman’ to the online thesaurus and you get harridan, slut, shrew, termagent, virago, old trout, hag, fishwife, gorgon, trollop, ball and chain …And there is of course ‘witch’ – used with such absence of aplomb by that remarkably un-impressive Australian Minister just recently.
And don’t get me started on all the words to describe young women!
Anyway, that aside, and back to aging gracefully, I thought if I was a crone, I might at least find out exactly what it meant. And, as you might expect – there is more than one definition:
- an old woman who is thin and ugly (Hah! Thin!)
- an ugly old woman
- a withered witchlike old woman (clearly no friend of Peter Dutton, but no mention of ‘mad’ you will note)
- an old woman considered to be ugly
…..call me a bit slow, but I begin to see a theme emerging.
And it’s all a bit depressing. Not a lot there to feel good about. But when I dug a bit deeper, the picture seemed to change. There was a more profound, reverent association with the earth mother. Gone was the fixation with looks (which I agree is a bit boringly kardashian) and a new and very different perspective emerged, harking back to the time when older people were respected:
- a woman venerated for judgement experience and wisdom
- a wise woman
- an angel of mercy, often appearing as an old woman
- fairy God-mother
- the wise woman and healer
Now, this is a bit better. When it comes to aging gracefully, here is something I can work with. It seems being a crone might be quite a good thing after all. I like the thought of all that experience being venerated, I like that I can bring my wisdom to bear and add value, I like that I can exercise my judgement and help make someone else’s life a little better.
And the fact is, it is extremely important to feel good about getting older which, lets face it, is what we are all doing. Research conducted by Dr Rebecca Levy at Yale conclusively proves that how you feel about aging has profound effects on the physical body. To quote the report: “the effect of more positive self-perceptions of ageing on survival is greater than the physiological measures of low systolic blood pressure and cholesterol, each of which is associated with a longer life span of four years or less. It’s also greater than the independent contributions of lower body mass index, no history of smoking, and a tendency to exercise — factors that have been found to add one to three years to your life.”
Not easy to be positive when society has a whole raft of negative labels to throw at you, but you know what? We can rise above all that.
So, here’s to wisdom, experience and good judgement. Begone, inner child, from here on in I am wholeheartedly embracing my inner crone.
Luckily for most of us, there are plenty of people in our lives who are happy to embrace our outer crones as well! Which makes a whole mockery of equating oldness with ugliness – a practice which reflects a very sad and tedious set of priorities. But most people, I find, (certainly the ones I want to involve in my life) do recognise beauty when they find it. Even if (and sometimes particularly because) it is hidden behind an old face.
And on that note, it occurs to me that, everyone – men and women alike – could equally benefit hugely from discovering their own inner crone. If they did the world would be a much better place. Just think! Imagine the positive energy if everybody engaged their own inner crone, exercised a bit of judgement and and celebrated their connection with Mother Earth (and there’s a lot of wisdom and experience in that old girl). Sometimes difficult, but not always impossible to conceive of a world filled with compassion and empathy, with everybody making wise decisions and acting on positive choices based on abundance and sharing, instead of acting out of fear and a sense of scarcity.
To quote the Native American Hopi people: “When the grandmothers speak, the earth will be healed”. And if now was not the perfect time to embrace your inner crone and let your voice be heard, I don’t know what is! Grandmothers- it is time to be heard!