Saturday, October 29, 2005

Age: Not a label, but a badge.

Instead of wearing a scarlet M and believing ourselves to be over the last possible hill, maybe we should proclaim ourselves in a different way. Overjoyed for what we've achieved. Overjoyed that we're still here. Tolerant of things we used to get ourselves in a mad wad over. Proclaiming that now, finally, when some in the world would want to believe we're done, over, bye-bye, shut up, that we've finally arrived.

We spend so many years fretting over all our insecurities and worries and fears. And if we can't finally shove that aside by the time we're forty or fifty, when will we? What does it take for us to say, "Don't judge me by my age or the effects of gravity or whether I'm perfectly perfect on the outside. Judge me by my contributions, what I give back and what I've learned, whatever wisdom I've accumulated (or had thrust upon me without my even quite knowing it), what I'm willing to fight to the death for"?

Gray hair isn't a sign of mental decay, is it? Wrinkles and reading glasses don't add up to diminished returns, do they?

There's a woman we both know in California who passes herself off as learned and wise and ripe, and yet she lies about her age. Doesn't that lie diminish every one of us? And who is she really lying for—the world or the little voice in her head that says, "Time is running out?"

Friday, October 28, 2005

Uncertain? Certainly.

In the New York Times on October 25, we stumbled across “As Feminism Ages, Uncertainty Still Wins,” a review of Ms. Wendy Wasserstein's latest creation, "Third." An excerpt of that review follows:

"...Ms. Wasserstein has shepherded her fearful brave new women (who have usually been roughly the ages of their creator when she conceived them) through single motherhood (with "Heidi"), lonely peaks of success ("The Sisters Rosensweig") and the fishbowl of national politics ("An American Daughter"). Now this cozy alter hitting menopause. And she's still having problems figuring out who she is."

Well, our hat is off to this heroine, who much like ourselves is often perplexed by that very existential of questions: Who am I (after all these years) and why can’t I answer the question?

The fact is this: The more we grow up, the more we realize that we cannot be certain neither about the external world nor that vast internal world within ourselves. We are no less in flux than that stuff that swirls around us. Age doesn’t fix us in time. We do not “arrive” and say, “Ha ha! I’m here!” then whip out the lawn chair and sit all-knowing (and bored) for the rest of time.

Our uncertainty is an opportunity to experience wonder and awe. The gaps in our understanding are chances to learn or change direction. Or, more likely and most importantly, confronting our own uncertainty is the mother of all chances to accept and experience the depth of our own humanity.

The aforementioned review concludes as follows: “…Ms. Wasserstein is politely asking audiences who have grown older with her to acknowledge their fears, their limitations and the possibility that they might be wrong on subjects they were once sure about. In taking her uncommon women through the decades, she sweetly but shrewdly suggests that life is an unending identity crisis."

Crisis? Yep. Or, you might prefer the words "Construction Site." As the Postcard from the Hill (insert) states: “Every time I think I’m finished, I see I’m still a work under construction…” (RIPE, page 123). This means change. Lots of it. Risk. Opportunity. Falling objects.

Bring your hardhat.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Why the sticky on the nose?

This book, our book, is about growing up. It's about how it feels to grow up and how it hurts to grow older and how, in the end, it's all for the best. It is, we'll say again, about how it all feels.

And that is why the lovely woman on the cover has a yellow sticky stuck on her nose. That sticky is the equivalent of the filter society places in front of us. So that despite who we are on the inside, despite what we offer up in abundance, despite what we have often become and accomplished, there is a label which says "old" or "aging" or "getting there" or "forget about her" or "invisible." These are simple, stupid labels attached to visual cues, nothing more.

But, that sticky is also something else. It is also, and equally, her voice talking back. Confronting society. Taking a stand. Her mantra is "despite." Despite you, I am full and vibrant and growing. Despite you, I am on the way up, not on the way down. Despite you, I am what I truly am and not what you think you see. Despite you, I am ripe.

And so, without further ado, we inaugurate the daily sticky.

*If you are interested in this book, please see our website at The book is available at bookstores, including If you are not interested in the book, that is fine, but please support, celebrate and spread the concept of ripeness.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Why the word "ripe"? Why a movement? Why now?

Women of a certain age (and you know who you are) are suffering. Maybe not loudly. Maybe not openly. Maybe not even fully aware. But they—we—are suffering nonetheless. Ageism is running rampant. The worship of youth is knocking down other subjects of veneration. Pedestals are being overturned, only to be built under people who have not lived enough to stand upon them.

For a woman of a certain age to look in the mirror and feel fully proud, fully pleased, fully accepting is a rare event to say the least. There is a sort of conspiracy afoot, is there not?

Let's consider:

Why do more and more advertising briefs specify a target audience between the ages of 18 and 24 (maybe on a generous day, the top end is stretched to 35) when the majority of disposable income is located elsewhere? Is it because 18 to 24 year-olds are dipping into other people's pockets to make influential purchases, or is it because more and more of us with disposable incomes respond to messages tailored to the 24 year-old brain? Because more and more of us want to be 24?

Why are female characters in movies who display the hutzpah, know-how, professional seniority and life experience of much older women typically given to female actors in their twenties, even at the risk of the film's story losing credibility?

Why do ads which ask us to consider a diverse panoply of anti-age products consistently feature models who have no wrinkles?

These are crude and obvious examples, but it is just to say, again, that we are surrounded by images of youth where youth is not even appropriate, and this perversion of reality to sell appeal cajole seduce, has created another Enemy, and She is Us.

We don't spend a lot of time whining about the contents of the previous paragraphs, because we're intelligent women, and we know, well, we just know what we know: That it's a lot of b.s. We skim over it, ignore it, move on. But what our intelligence is less capable of combatting is the judge that resides within us. Perhaps the existence of this judging female voice predates modern marketing. Perhaps Cleopatra was driven to the asps because her beauty was, at last, leaving her. But we would place bets that this is not the case. As strong as we are, as smart as we are, as self-effacing and outward looking, the constant, non-stop societal obsession with youth has seaped into us, turning us too often against ourselves, when we are, in fact, better—and stronger and wiser and fuller—than we were ten, twenty, thirty years ago.

This is why we chose the word "ripe." Because women of a certain age are mature and ready and open and capable. This is why we must create a movement. Because the tide of youth-obsession must be turned. And this is why we must do it now. Because, every day that goes by that the inner judge is not beaten back, is another day not fully lived.

Let us be ripe. Let us see ourselves as ripe, not raw. Let us spread the respect of ripeness. And let us begin immediately, beause ripe won't wait.