Watch Out, world

Lenore - Santa Rosa, California
Entered on April 20, 2009

I believe in outrageous old women. You see them in restaurants leaning forward to whisper some delicious comment to friends, and then laughing a deep, resounding laugh. People look and can’t help smiling.

An eighty-year-old friend reunited with an old love and spent her last years happily living with him. “We’re shacking up,” she laughed, “living in sin.” This from the starched principal of a school for forty years, hiding the fact she was secretly outrageous.

I love old women who wear sweatshirts and sneakers to church; who unabashedly continue to participate in all life offers; who make the best of things. In my exercise class they use light weights and rise slowly from their mats, but their bodies are strong and their will to live stronger.

Outrageous old women no longer care about the opinions of others. They speak up at political meetings, write letters to editors, appear at rallies. Outrageous old women care deeply about people, issues and the world, and they are iconoclasts. They’ve been around long enough to see regimes topple, leaders fall from grace, ideologies explode. They know what matters and it’s never power or possessions.

Outrageous old women celebrate whenever they can. Having already lost loved ones, they gather with friends and family regularly. For ten years I’ve had the good fortune of meeting with a group of old women who have been gathering for birthday lunches for sixty years. There are eight members now, most of them widowed, but they still laugh and carouse like champions. they’ve survived everything and shed their insecurities. They’re learned to love unreservedly.

Patronize an outrageous old woman at your own peril. I’ve seen many an elderly female patient order nurses, doctors and clergymen from her purported deathbed only to rise again and go on with life for months and years to come. They “do not go gently into that dark night,” or anywhere else for that matter. I’m a social worker. I know.

Outrageous old women fight back when anyone tries to rob them. Yelling obscenities they sail into the fray, canes flying and sensible shoes kicking, and read about them in newspapers. This may be the beginning of a trend.

Actor Sean Penn warned his audience at an awards ceremony that if they didn’t support equality for ALL people, they would someday be shamed as grandparents. I like that vision – it suggests enlightenment on a grand scale. It also suggests that Sean Penn is the progeny of an extremely proud and outrageous old woman – someone like me. I’d bet on it.