I suddenly worried that perhaps the women – some elders, some baby-elders (middle-agers like me)—thought I might have been condescending to them, might have thought that I believed I had good stuff to teach them. The women at Temple Solel’s Rosh Chodesh group (a Rosh Chodesh group is a gathering of women who celebrate the Jewish holiday of the new moon) were uniformly lovely. Some were delicately wrinkled, some without wrinkles; some had black hair, some white, some grey; most were irresistibly appealing because of their intelligence, warmth, and enthusiasm. At the kind invitation of their leaders, I was presenting a program which I call “Wise Older Woman, Growing in Grace and Sass: Transcending Sexism and Ageism.”
I fought down a wild impulse to phone each of them at 1:30 am and clarify,” You know, I wasn’t attempting to TEACH you anything; I was just attempting to REMIND you of what you already know!” We need to remind ourselves and each other — in a culture in which it is not always easy to remember — that we are wise, older woman who is growing in grace and sass. The double whammy we face – ageism AND sexism—combine to form a deadly toxin of shame, embarrassment, and a feeling of not being young enough, thin enough, sexy enough. But deep in our hearts, we KNOW we are MORE than enough. We don’t want to boast, but a part of us KNOWS that we have the beauty that Eleanor Roosevelt described: “Beautiful young people are accidents of nature; beautiful old people are works of art.” We don’t want to bore the children, but we KNOW we often are blessed with the special insight, wisdom, and perspective that can come with age. No matter what our skin appearance, we KNOW that we can feel juicy with life, love, and creativity.
A lovely, elegant woman at the Rosh Chodesh group who had obtained my book previously somewhat shyly showed me that she had been coloring in the illustrations. “Is that okay with you?” she asked. I was delighted! The illustrations were purposefully made to be colored, as I am always drawn to adult coloring books and the promise of calm they offer. This woman trusted her instincts, and KNEW that she was honoring them with her art.
There was not one woman there who needed me to teach her a thing. Indeed, I am quite sure that each woman there could teach me a great deal. I think that is the beauty of a Rosh Chodesh group, or any women’s spirituality group: we all have hope, strength, and experience to share with each other. Together, we (and the men who love us) can remind each other –just in case this youth-obsessed culture causes us to temporarily forget—how precious, how unique, and how lovable we are. Part of us knows this deep inside: That is why we just need gentle re-minders. Re-member that YOU are a masterpiece, forged by your unique hardships, your unique memories, your unique growth, and your unique joys. And Mazel-tov! (Congratulations!) on whatever your glorious age is today!