About 7 years ago New York Times Style section included an article, The Bliss of Grandmother Hormones
The author, Dominique Browning, makes a remarkably frank comment about aging:
“When we’re young, aging looks sort of yucky; frankly, even though it is extremely un-P.C. to say so, it looks sort of yucky when we get there, too. Hence, the magical thinking around skin creams.”
It’s not clear what we’re to make of that comment. Is she saying that yes, older people are ugly and therefore worthy of discrimination?
But, she says, all these concerns about aging disappear when one enjoys the pleasure of holding “a six-pound newborn boy” against “a heart burnished with the patina of age.”
Probably true. As a single person, I get a lot of pleasure out of holding my cat. I loved snuggling with the dog when i had one. Age is a non-issue. Just mutual acceptance.
“I am quite sure, though, that I had never heard of grandmother hormones. That’s partly because women’s magazines, which largely pick up from high school curriculums to keep us up to speed on science and health, are not exactly geared to anyone over the ripe old age of 40.”
Maybe some of us who passed the “ripe old age of 40” lack maternal instincts. I always knew I’d be single and live with cats. I was quite surprised to find myself living with dogs. I never adopted puppies or kittens: too much like having children.
High school curricula (as well as most media directed to women) do indeed focus on younger women. But they also focus on being married with children, which is still considered the norm in many places.
Christine Brown, the Sister Wives star, says, “Being a grandma is the best.”
Lesley Stahl, the TV reporter, wrote a whole book on Becoming a Grandma. Being a grandma is supposed to compensate for the negative aspects of aging. Being a grandmother, she says,”carries an intrinsic moral authority and by definition conveys a sense of warmth.” Hillary Clinton talks about her granddaughter, Charlotte.
An AARP article identifies 20 famous grandmas who also happen to be movie or TV stars.
The association of “grandma” with “older woman” has become all too common. As I write in my book on aging, some people – and some companies – use the word “grandma” to mean “woman over 50.” One particularly horrendous ad ran with the the headline: “Software so simple even Grandma could use it.”
Grandma’s busy making websites and posting on social media. A little software won’t scare her.
But the stereotype persists.
Just try telling a doctor (especially an OB-GYN), “I never wanted kids.” Or wondering why your coworkers take up a collection for events surrounding marriage and childbirth. Or realizing people think it’s okay to ask why you don’t have kids (but you can’t ask why on earth they ever wanted to get married).
I’d like to write a piece on missing the maternal instinct and never, ever wanting to be a grandma. I’d write about the joy of aging with cats and looking forward to dying alone.
Somehow I don’t think the Times would be receptive.