After entering my sixties, I had few role models from my childhood left because people tend to start dying off eventually. Since I was the baby in my family, and had moved away from my home roots as a young adult, I wasn’t sure how to proceed with old age. To better understand what I’m trying to say, you’d have to know that when I was growing up and where I was growing up–in the 1940s and ’50s in the deep south of northern Florida–not much was expected of girls in my family, except to be nice girls so we could grow up to be nice old women.
Beyond, of course, learning to keep a clean house and cook, to bear and take primary responsibility for raising the babies, washing mending ironing and sewing the clothes, and pitching in in your spare time when an extra hand was needed in the fields or dealing with a livestock emergency. If you did all that, you were a right smart woman, one that would have the approval of both the authorities of the church and the neighborhood gossips.
No one expected girls to go to college. That’s where you were in danger of being brainwashed. You were further discouraged from thinking for yourself. That was the devil working on you, making you act above your station. Money was scarce. If anyone had to spend money on a college education, and the need was indeed questionable since they would learn how to farm, then let it be spent for the boys. Boys were the ones that grew up to become men who were expected to take monetary and emotional responsibility for a wife and family.
I was taught not to say anything unless it was nice. Moreoever, it was better for boys and girls to be seen and not heard, especially if what could be heard was ideas or thinking different than the village norm. So what was I thinking then, when I started writing a blog and imagined that I could say exactly what I wanted? I thought it would be easy to let the words and ideas fly and fall where they may. I should have known that you can’t undo sixty years of upbringing and write exactly what you’re thinking as you’re thinking it. I try sometimes, but I think the upbringing is too ingrained.
My mother gave me a glimpse of what that might be like as she grew older, so I think the implant is in the genes, but–you know–that damn upbringing to always be a lady and don’t make people feel bad, especially about themselves was there. She told a doctor who was preparing to give her a gynecological exam after she was in her eighties, for example, he could take a flying leap; no man had touched her since her husband died twenty or more years before and she certainly wasn’t going to let him do it now as old as she was! Gave me the strength to start saying “no” to a few of my doctors who always had new ideas for surgeries. But then Mama died, and before long I was back to being the “nice girl” again.
Then, just as I had begun to lose all hope, just last weekend in fact, through some impulsive move I yet can’t explain, I clicked onto a random link in a WordPress blogs listing and found myself reading Margaret and Helen. Helen, who does most of the writing but spends a lot of time on the telephone with Margaret, is 82. At last I had found my new role models, not just for aging, but for saying what you really feel and want to say, but with humor and downright good writing.
Helen’s grandson explains that he grew up listing to his grandmother Helen’s one-sided telephone conversation with her friend for more than sixty years, Margaret. What he heard time and again was so funny that he decided he would share the two with their family, and eventually the rest of us, through a blog. So he started it off and taught Helen what to do. They’ve been blogging for a relatively short time, and already their hits number nearly half a million. I’m not altogether versed on what hits mean, but I think it means they’re doing real good. ‘nuf said!
Theirs is one of those blogs I read and laugh out loud, and then have to nudge hubby (while he’s sitting at his Mac next to me and my PC) and read them out loud to him. I don’t think he minds at all because he laughs too. We share a similar sense of humor. The last three posts are priceless: Those Damn Poor People Ruin Everything, Harold the rat is back, and Harold isn’t a Muslim either. Here’s a link. Just go right in and begin reading. And when you’ve finished that one, check the sidebar for Recent Posts and click on down the list for as far as you want or can go before your side starts hurting from laughing.
As for Margaret and Helen, all I can say to them is: “Ladies, I’m not in your league yet, writing or age wise. I’m only 66 and counting, but when I grow up I want to be just like you!”