In a culture that puts restrictions on aging women, Tamarack Verrall believes celebrating aging is a political act.
“Old women are here to be part of the change, not hidden history.”
I don’t feel old. Maybe it’s the word “old,”the images it conjures up in people’s minds. But I guess I am getting up there in age. Late 60s. Not really old, but not young.
I love my age. I don’t love what people have been taught about aging, especially about women as we age. I don’t love how old women are treated. I don’t love being underestimated, dismissed as out of date—or worse: disrespected, reviled, hated, seen as a dispensable burden on society.
I’m not the only one who faces these restricting attitudes. I rage and weep at the way old women are treated worldwide. I read of women who are thrown out to the street as they age, kept indoors as indentured labour, forced into widows’ huts, beaten, kicked, spat on, ridiculed, labeled a witch, labeled outcast, murdered. Silenced.
This cruelty ignores the beauty of what aging really is. I love that I can look back on my life and understand experiences better; I can see the patterns of how each step has led to the next, how each step has given me the knowledge to do what I do now. Each chapter has led to deeper understanding of who I am and what I have to offer. Every change has taught me something about what I am capable of, what my purpose is in this life.
I love how I can see how far we have already come in my lifetime. I love that I can sit with a woman older than me who can describe changes over the past 200 years drawing from the stories of her mother and grandmother. I love that we have the knowledge and experience to understand how far we have yet to come and question where we might be right now, were we not up against such resistance.
Together, we can see and understand this resistance more deeply and figure out how to undo it. Old women are here to be part of the change, not hidden history.
My hair turned grey in my mid-forties. I cringed at first as I began to experience the dismissal of “older” women. But then I embraced this change, and found new ways to counter patriarchal responses to age in women.
With every year, the reactions are enhanced: the dismissals, the assumptions, the disgust, the scorn. What matters more to me is the fear I see in young women.
I am still learning what this aging is. Looking into a mirror I surprise myself. I look different. My face, my skin, my body has changed and continues to change. Some things I used to do physically, I don’t do now. But inside I am still that 7-year-old girl running in joy along the shoreline of a lake. I am still 14, poring over stacks of books. I am still 21, learning how to formulate new plans.
Our communities suffer from the hatred and fear of old women. My heart goes out to old women everywhere who are mistreated. Old women have perspective, stories, experience, ideas, love to give. Old women deserve respect and love from the community.
By celebrating ourselves at every point in our lives, including in our aging, we take a strong and necessary stand. This is a personal and political act against the silencing of women. It is a strong and necessary stand against the pressure to look young, the pressure to equate our purpose in life with being desirable and available to men.
When we celebrate, recognize, and include old women, we bring to our discussions the full story of our times. I celebrate my sisters in World Pulse and beyond who are writing about and exposing the cruelty toward old women—and taking action to stop it. I celebrate news and photos of old women being freed, loved, listened to. I celebrate the important conversations we are having about how long we have been taught to fear aging as women.
For myself, I continue to grow, and marvel, and be grateful for what each year brings. I am grateful for the love across ages that exists here within World Pulse. I am grateful for the freedom we are collectively creating as women of every age to enjoy and explore our lives, our bodies, our ideas, our changes, our metamorphosis, as we celebrate each year for what it is.
I am grateful that, as women of every age, we are creating the freedom to enjoy and explore our lives, our bodies, our ideas, our changes, our metamorphosis. Together, we are celebrating each year for what it is.
I am grateful for the open discussions we are having with each other. We are gathering all of our perspectives from the years we have each survived. It takes all of us, with all of our ages, all of our ideas as they have changed and grown over time, to fully celebrate womanhood.
We are building a powerful and intergenerational sisterhood together.
This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe everyone has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller!Learn more.