An old friend just sent me this photo of me taken on Halloween exactly 50 years ago. I had chosen to be a boy beatnik and even painted a mustache on my upper lip with black, eyebrow pencil. Not only do I remember the photo being taken, I also remember vividly wanting to be a boy at the time. Why? They had more fun.
A year later, I recall playing tennis in the middle of summer with a boy my age. After a few minutes of play, he took off his sweat-soaked T-shirt. I followed suit. Within minutes, a man in a golf cart showed up and demanded that I put my shirt back on.
“Why?” I asked indignantly. “He took his shirt off, too. Why doesn’t he have to put his back on?”
“You’re a girl,” the man replied. “You can’t take off your shirt. Those are the rules.”
Reluctantly, I did put it back on but I was mad and not one bit embarrassed. Why did a man have more freedom than I did? And besides, the two of us looked exactly alike shirtless!!
I suppose I should have become a feminist and burned my bra but truth was I didn’t wear one. Besides, by the time women’s rights were the rage, I had long decided that my gender would NOT define me. In hindsight, it did, though I was not conscious of it at the time.
A few days ago, while listening to Goria Steinem on NPR I understood why. She is 81 now and was reminiscing about turning 60. “Remember how you felt at 9 or 10? When you could just go out and climb a tree and not think about anything else? You were just free to be yourself? That’s how I felt at 60.”
She talked about the role expectations of women in their 20’s, “to be beautiful and sexy” and their 30’s “to be accomplished” and their 40’s, to be “parental role models.” But as the 50’s fly by and hormones go south, (along with the anatomy) there is no longer the pull and tug to act or be in the mainstream of those social, gender expectations.
So, I’m thinking now that one of the BEST perks of getting older is a ‘Gloria’s’ sense of freedom. So youngsters, take note of who you dress up as tonight. It might just be the real you. 🙂