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I Am An Old Woman And I Am Still Heard

The 'Not young and cute enough to listen to anymore' thing didn't happen. I didn't stay young and cute, so maybe my stridency drowned out the apathy.

Birthday cake with a 60 on it and candles
CC0 2.0 image by Kim Hyeyoung on Flickr

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me. - Jenny Joseph, ‘Warning’

When I was living with my now ex-partner, we subscribed to the Hartford Courant. I regularly read one of their female op-ed columnists.

Once she wrote about noticing her opinion seemed no longer as valuable to male editors, seemingly because she had reached ‘a certain age’. That age was 40.

I paid attention because I wasn’t so far from forty and while I was still pretty cute, the columnist noted she didn’t look much different at forty than earlier ages, yet she thought she was glossed over, her opinions less often solicited, at editorial meetings.

Her opinion was definitely more valued, she felt, when she was younger and prettier.

Interesting, I thought, as I was a fairly opinionated and mouthy young(ish) woman myself.

I’d best be on the lookout for that, I thought, as I approached forty. I don’t want to be shunted aside just because I’m no longer wank material.

I just turned sixty and so far, I don’t think I'm any less heard than I was when I was a super-flirtatious belly dancer at 35.

Be strident!

I’ve never been one to hold back my opinion, although I’m working to tone it down. Maybe, like, you know, going ‘flamethrower’ instead of ‘nuclear’.

I never reached that point where I felt ‘unheard’. Although ‘heard/unheard’ wasn’t a recognized thing back in the ‘90s.

I just never stopped speaking up.

I have envied men over the decades, they who are oh-so-confident in themselves, sometimes to the point of insufferability, but more often in the best sense. Men don’t care nearly as much what other people think of them.

While everyone suffers from Imposter Syndrome to one degree or another, women specialize in it. We under-believe in ourselves, where men tend to over-believe, but here’s the thing: They get shit done, whether they have the talent and chops or not. They acquire skills by doing stuff, achieving things we chickies tell ourselves ‘we can’t’, and dudes will continue to rule the world until we grow some bigger labia, learn how to fail and not give up.

What I never envied men for is their ability to speak up. I had that covered. I offered my opinions, sometimes stuffed down one’s throat, I talked back, challenged, and made myself heard.

You can’t help but hear a woman when she speaks loudly and forcefully, or 'strident’ as our misogynist critics love to call it.

Embrace the insult, ladies. Strident is something we should be proud of! Men are strident, and what’s good for the gander…!

Within reason.

I wrote some pretty strident opinions for a small Connecticut alternative newspaper in my thirties. When I was digitizing my life a few years ago I ran across my old stories, and there were many I didn’t scan. I winced just to read the headlines. They were pretty politically, uh, strident. I’m embarrassed about them now.

But I never stopped speaking my mind. My first website was circa 1997, called Deify Yourself! It was a humor page of funny religious satire I curated from the Internet. You could self-declare yourself a deity, just as so many religious leaders have done (but I cautioned newbie deities not to abuse their power!) It went a bit viral early on in Australia when the Weekend Australian wrote about it.

Snippet from my old website Deify Yourself, showing a burning man (a GIF, not a real one), and "The Beginner's Guide to Self-Immortalization" (Not to be confused with self-immolation)

I don’t believe I have ever not felt heard. To be clear, that doesn’t mean my opinion was always acted upon, but people did listen. I spoke up in company meetings. My opinion was often solicited. Times had changed.

I’ve had to deal with ‘mansplaining’ on occasion, lecturing, people brushing me off, but I can’t say as I’ve ever felt unheard, like my stories or ‘lived experiences’ weren’t taken seriously. Not everyone listened, some ignored some were rude, some tried to talk over me, but I don’t know it was because I wasn’t a cute 30-year-old anymore.

No one gets ‘heard’ by everyone. Not even the Dalai Lama, who has to deal with the tone-deaf Chinese government.

I’m quite certain countless people wished I’d just STFU already!

Fuck ‘em.

60 is the new 40

I don’t feel sixty. In my head, I’m still 35 and totally cute. A writer friend of mine who was the age I am today when we met online said the same thing. Mentally he was still a handsome hunk who could get any babe he wanted. Hell, he was married five times. He told stories of how one year in Hollywood as a struggling screenwriter he snorted $50,000 up his nose. (That’s over $232,000 in USD today!)

Maybe that explains why his career choice didn’t pan out. He passed away a few years ago.

If I never bought the insane notion I wouldn’t be heard, I did buy the insane notion I wasn’t attractive at forty. This attitude was juiced, in part, by going on dating sites and not being nearly as in demand as I might have been years prior. I got over the romantic entitlement but some male apathy, I’d learn two decades later, was the toxic influence of porn on men and online datings’s degradation of everyone’s social skills.

As I approached fifty I felt less angry and irritable. Things that bothered me just a few years ago no longer did. I cared less about what people thought.

Now I am sixty, and am I an old woman? At my birthday party, friends told me I was the youngest 60-year-old they knew. (I hope that doesn’t mean I’m prone to tantrums and drama queen theatrics!) I find myself watching my aging process less with disappointment and depression than curiosity. I keep myself up for myself, and don’t give a damn whether people think I don’t dress properly for my age, which I don’t. But I find myself this year scrutinizing my Summer Bimbo clothes thinking maybe it’s time to reboot. I bought some new pretty new tops that show less wrinkles skin. I won’t dress as sexy as I once did (like, last year!) but I will not look like those women who’ve given up on themselves. I’m not an old lady. Yet.

New Year's Eve 1954 photo of my mother's family, including my grandmother in the back flirting with some guy and my great-grandmother in the back with a highball and a cigarette in one hand

You see the woman in the back flirting with the gentlemen next to her? That’s my grandmother. The woman on the other side with the highball and the ciggie? That’s my great-grandmother. When she was 73 she had a 50-year-old boyfriend who was madly in love with her. She had two sisters who notoriously held naked pool parties. And my great-great-great grandmother was an English servant girl who married the son of her employer which scandalized his family.

I descend from a long line of temptresses and tarts.

I aspire to be my great-grandmother when I get to be her age. Maybe with a cannabis gummy instead of the ciggie since I don’t smoke. But def the highball.

Unfollowing the unheard

When I blogged on Medium I read countless stories of women who complained they were ‘unheard’ when they told their abuse stories. There were always some commenters, almost always males, who suggested she was lying, or exaggerating, or seeking attention, or just made a snide remark in an effort to ruin her day.

“Women aren’t heard!” many would lament, ignoring the countless comments from supportive, believing women and men, some truthtellers failing to acknowledge their stories were pretty lame, and the ‘abuse’ they described sounded more like an immature partner who didn’t know how to handle conflict. Failing to persuade others is not ‘not being heard’. Not getting what you want isn’t ‘not being heard’ either.

But it still takes great courage to tell one’s trauma story. Some will hear, some won’t. That’s life.

Many people are unheard today because they’re afraid to speak up. There’s a Big Chill on free speech, with many not willing to risk their jobs or their families’ safety. You must choose your words carefully on social media; others are literally roaming the platforms looking for something to destroy someone over.

Or they send rape and death threats and ‘swat’ your home.

Censors won’t shut me down, or shut me up. I’ve still got Substack and Wix. Substack’s idea of ‘hate speech’ is, as it turns out, actual hate speech. Not opinions fragile, spoiled, coddled flowers don’t like.

I am 60 now, and I grow less and less concerned with what others think of me. Maybe I’m turning into a man!

(Ha ha. Relax.)

I am loud and strident.

Speak up, speak out, speak loudly, and be stridently strident in your stridency, no matter who you are. Make them hear you. Whether they want to or not.

I am an old woman, long past forty, and I am still heard.

Did you like this post? Would you like to see more? I lean left of center, but not so far over my brains fall out. Subscribe to my Substack newsletter Grow Some Labia so you never miss a post!




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