Connie Schultz: Owning my age
Last month, I turned 60, and just like that, I swear, something changed in me.
It was as if my guardian angel reached into my soul and flipped a switch without warning. What a character, that one — a tall and wiry number with wild hair and a smoker’s hack. I’m not complaining. Let’s just say I really get it when George Bailey first lays eyes on his guardian angel, Clarence, and says, “Well, you look about the kind of angel I’d get.”
It’s a wonderful life, indeed.
My guardian angel refuses to give me her name. I call her Dorothy.
“I’ve been called worse,” she says.
Anyway, the day after my 60th birthday, Dorothy showed up and poked me a little too hard with her bony finger.
“Look,” she said, waving off my look of concern as she coughed into a paper napkin from Shake Shack, “time is running out, and you are wasting too much of it sucking in your gut — that’s not fooling anyone, by the way — instead of exercising your uppercut.”
“I thought we were supposed to be the change we wanted to see.”
“There’s only one Gandhi.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Sure, be nice. Be kind, courteous. Brake for animals and small children. All that.” She yawned. “But don’t be stupid. If you’re waiting for people to line up so that you can share your (air quotes) (SET ITAL)accumulated wisdom(END ITAL), you’re going to be one big waste of a carbon footprint. It doesn’t work like that at your age.”
“Some cultures value their older women.”
“This isn’t China,” she said. “And you aren’t French.”
“Don’t get mushy, is my point. Don’t preface your every opinion with an apology for having one. None of this ‘Forgive me, but I think’ or ‘This may be a stupid idea, but.'”
She thrust her hands toward the sky. “God, I hate that. Why do women do that?”
“Well, maybe we–“
She pointed at me. “Don’t. Just don’t.”
“One more thing,” she said, proceeding to slap her palm three times. “Practice, practice, practice. Own your age. And have some fun with it. Throw out an opinion or two on Twitter, and tell ’em how old you are when you do it. That’ll get ’em going.”
“But what if they–“
(SET ITAL)Poof(END ITAL). She was gone.
“We all have guardian angels,” my mother once told me. “The question is: Are we willing to listen to them?” Granted, she said this right after she caught me trying to plug my little brother’s nostrils with Vaseline while he was sleeping, but I think she meant this as a general rule of thumb.
For all of the 15 years I’ve been a columnist, I’ve been on the receiving end of angry mail from that small percentage of men who think a woman has no business getting paid for her opinions. Most of the time, these little droppings have come from the far right. Since the 2016 Democratic primary, however, some on the far left have joined in. They think we disagree, which is adorable.
Last weekend, after yet another round of my progressive bona fides being challenged because I voted for Hillary Clinton, I took it to Twitter: “Save your lectures, self-anointed lefty purists. No man is going to tell me what it means to be a progressive woman in America.”
All that time it took to get from the first sentence to the second sentence apparently convinced some fellow female progressives that I was talking about them. It never occurred to me that they would think this, because so few women have tried to cast me as a used-up baby boomer.
Until I took it to Twitter, I mean.
The profanity and ageist slurs, regardless of gender, were pretty boring, but there was the occasional gem. I am especially grateful to the person who called me “centrist roadkill.” It’s giving “feral feminist” some serious competition for the name of my yet-to-be-formed all-girl country-western band. I’ve been meaning to pull that together since 1964, when Dad took a picture of my little sister and me in our cowgirl outfits.
After two days of this, I shared what I’d learned in the previous 48 hours on Twitter: “Some want boomer women to volunteer for irrelevance. So sorry. Not happening. Welcome to 2017.”
See, Dorothy? I’m listening.