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September 2004
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November 2004

Ted Age 8


Dad Age 8=

[circa 1922] Daddy didn’t think those curls were as cute as his mother did, so he cut them off one day when she wasn’t looking.


addadada @ 2003-08-19 19:41 said:
wow....beautiful foto, lots of emotion...which comes to having one`s curls chopped off without mom`s permission.

airmemories @ 2004-04-19 13:58 said:
This is a really sweet picture of your daddy! I think those curls are cute too :-)

10 Questions From Crabby

It is a god-given right of crabby old ladies, Crabby believes, to point out follies and incongruities that hinder the pursuit of health and happiness. Here are ten questions regarding some dubious practices that, with a little effort toward solutions, could benefit life in general:

  • Why are prescription drugs advertised on television to viewers who have no expertise in their use? Some commercials don’t even say what disease or condition the drug treats.
  • Why has Martha Stewart been allowed to sell her prison memoirs for $5 million? Isn’t there a law against profiting from crime?
  • Why isn’t the New York City public transportation system subsidized? It costs $16 for a family of four to travel round-trip on a subway or bus.
  • Why, in the age of the Internet and online banking, must customers inform banks and credit card companies of their privacy preferences by snailmail?
  • Why does newsprint still rub off on your hands?
  • Why is health coverage attached to employment? The two are unrelated.
  • Why are cell phones so popular when more than half one’s calls can’t go through or drop off in the middle of a conversation due to dead spots?
  • Why doesn’t the U.S., like other countries, hold elections on the weekend or make election day a holiday so the lines to vote aren’t so long in the morning and evening?

  • How do fundamentalists of all religions become so certain they are right and everyone else is wrong?
  • Why do all news stories about the war in Iraq refer to troops or boots “on the ground?” The phrase sets Crabby’s teeth on edge every time she sees or hears it and now some fool writers are using it as a metaphor in other contexts.

Some Questions of Maturity

category_bug_journal2.gif A week or so ago, Clarence, at his Can You Hear Me Now? blog, posted an entry so provocative and intriguing I suggest you read it before continuing with this page. It’s short, titled Do You Ever Wonder?

Clarence’s rumination begins:

What I'm wondering is this: What road-map have you followed through your life? What drummer is playing the music you march to? Is there a guiding influence, a small, quiet voice you hear that "suggests" a course of action to take or which choice to make when several are available?

And it ends:

Is there a deeper purpose for your life? If so, what is it? Where are you going? How will you get there? Is it really up to you to decide? Who is it that determines what choices are set before you?

It is a valuable exercise, I believe, and an important step in maturing into our later years to take such questions seriously and to revisit them regularly. They cannot possibly be answered quickly and easily or maybe at all, and there are no right or wrong answers - only personal ones. I have pondered on this one many times: “Is it simply fate that has brought you to this point in time? Do you ever feel…your course has been set by one much greater than yourself?”

So far, I go – well, both ways, doing what some say is impossible: holding two conflicting beliefs simultaneously. I am convinced I have made each choice that changed the direction of my life on my own with no help or signpost from the gods or the cosmos.

On the other hand, when I imagine alternative lives I might have lived had I chosen other paths when arriving at crossroads, there is a dim, gray, unreal feel to them compared to the vibrant colors of the life I have lived. This life I have, then, feels overwhelmingly inevitable, that it could not have been any other way. And it is then I become equally convinced there is book somewhere where each event in our lives is written down, predetermined, and we have never had anything to say about any of it.

That thought invariably reminds me a favorite John Hartford tune from the 1960s, I Would Not Be Here:

Well, I would not be here if I hadn’t been there
And I wouldn’t’ve been there if I hadn’t just turned
On Wednesday the third in the late afternoon
Got to talking with George who works out the back
And only because he was getting off early

To go see a man at a Baker Street bookstore
With a rare first edition of Steamboats and Cotton
A book that he would never have sought in the first place
Had he not been inspired by a fifth-grade replacement
School teacher in Kirkwood who was picked just at random

By some man on a school board that couldn’t care less
And she wouldn’t’ve been working if not for her husband
Who’d moved two months prior to work in the office
Of man he had met while he served in the Army
And only because they were in the same barracks

An accident caused by a poorly made roster
Mixed up on the desk of a sergeant from Denver
Who wouldn’t’ve been in but for being in back
Of a car he was riding before he enlisted
That hit a cement truck and killed both his buddies

But a backseat flew up there, spared him from dying
And only because of the fault of a workman
Who forgot to turn screws on a line up in De-troit
Because he hollered at Sam who was hateful that morning
Hung over from drinking alone at a tavern

Because of a woman he wished he’d not married
He’d met long ago at a Jewish bar mitzvah
For the son of a man who had moved there from Jersey
Who managed the drugstore that sold the prescription
That cleared up the sunburn he’d caught way last summer.

Hartford’s lyrics don’t answer the question of cause and effect, but they do cheer you up when the mind gets too boggled to continue – which should not deter you from trying again. And again.

The Enemies of Aging

“To me, old age is always ten years older than I am.”

- Bernard Baruch

How many of us would think of ourselves as old if the world at large did not assign that category to us? My friend, Kent McKamy - who turns 69 today, is in good physical shape, works full time and has a variety of personal interests that keep him busier than many - told me this story last week:

Standing in the aisle while riding a crowded city bus uptown, Kent was surprised when a young woman offered to trade places with him. Embarrassed to take a seat from a woman and at being taken for being that old, he declined and wondered, “Do I appear infirm in some way I don’t realize?” He flexed is arm muscles, his legs, his butt and lifted his chin as he checked his reflection in the window to confirm that he was okay, but as he was jostled to and fro over the next 40 blocks, he had to admit to himself he wished he were sitting down.

It is a revelation to discover we are perceived by others differently from how we think of ourselves even when it is obvious our appearance warrants, from a young person’s point of view, that perception. Other times, as a result of the constant onslaught against imperfect bodies from the age and beauty police, we can easily be caught up in our own personal ageism.

Fran Pullara of the Sacred Ordinary blog left this comment on my recent entry about Younger Lovers:

“Now I have so much shame about my aging body that I'm not anxious to show it off to a hard-bodied younger man.”

Fran’s feelings about her body are not uncommon; I share them to a degree. But "shame," and in Kent's case, "embarrassment" at our imperfect, aging bodies? This is what ageism has done to older people. But it is not older folks who should be ashamed and embarrassed; it is the culture at large. It is

  • The advertisers who choose only young, perfect bodies to show off their wares.
  • The advertisers, again, who select older people to promote only the drugs for the afflictions of the aged, like constipation and arthritis.
  • The manufacturers who design attractive clothing  for no one past the age of 20.
  • Movie- and television-makers who feature older people only as unreliable witnesses and loony grandparents.
  • Government agencies, which allow older people to be warehoused in inadequate and even abusive nursing homes.
  • And publications, like today's New York Times, so steeped in widespread, unconscious, unchallenged ageism, they unblushingly publish this phrase in an editorial: "...poll workers, many of whom are elderly and have only limited knowledge of election law" equating age and ignorance, as though older people's intelligence is snatched from their brains by aliens on their 65th birthday.

Would the same phrase, substituting "women" or "blacks" for the word "elderly," get past the editors? I don't think so.

Although it is the people of the media and other institutions who reinforce, by repetition, even our own negative feelings about our age, there is another agent that undermines our self-respect . As Pogo so famously said, "We've met the enemy and it is us."

It is we who accept the culture's disgust at and fear of aging, and allow ourselves to become embarrassed and ashamed at the changes in our bodies. And it is we who must refuse to accept it.

There is some humor in Kent's story - an event that produces a sudden, rueful realization that our appearance, about which we can do little, is at odds with our inner image. We can have a little laugh among ourselves at such happenings but perhaps too, it is a wake-up call to acceptance and getting on with living despite the cultural bigotry toward us.

I suspect there comes a time in getting older when discomfort about a thickening middle, jowls and wrinkles abates while other things take on more importance. As we make our peace with the physical changes of aging - and we must if we are to continue to grow into ourselves - we can take a page from Popeye, “I yam what yam,” and from this quote Jill Fallon of Legacy Matters sent which our culture creators would do well to take to heart too:

“It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real, you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

- Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

EDITOR'S NOTE: I have three gmail accounts to hand out. First come, first served.

How Crabby Got That Way - Take 2

category_bug_journal2.gif David St. Lawrence, who is a man of 70 with an interesting blog of his own, recently emailed a kind note about this blog in which he also took issue with the name of my alter ego:

“I don't think your self-applied appellation of "crabby old lady" suits you, even used in a humorous fashion. In fact, I think you do yourself a disservice referring to yourself that way, because it creates a mindset for yourself that is at variance with the penetrating analysis you bring to so many issues.”

In case anyone else misunderstands, let me tell you about my mindset regarding Crabby Old Lady.

If I was not born ticked off about a whole lot of things, I was a young girl when they began accumulating. This has not always made me the most popular person in the room particularly because, aside from social courtesy which I have almost mastered now, my mouth too often has a mind of its own.

Not infrequently, I am accused of being a cynic, a label I accept if you will agree that cynicism is just the flip side of idealism, both kinds of people disappointed in human behavior. To digress, let me explain what I believe is the genesis of my cynicism.

In sixth grade social studies class, when I was 11 years old and we were learning some of the intricacies of how American government works, the teacher told us that elected officials make decisions based on their evaluation of what will do the most good for the largest number of people. I took that to mean, by extension, that people with other kinds of power operate on the same principle and it got mixed up for me, too, with the physicians’ precept, which I learned around the same time: “first do no harm.” To behave in this manner seemed to me the proper goal of all people, regardless of their power position, and it has been an important guide throughout my life.

It did not take but a couple years to realize that if my teacher really believed what she said, she was delusional. And I have been disappointed ever since, still hoping, a half-century later, someone in power, somewhere, sometime will behave as my teacher explained.

Instead, I have watched politicians of all stripes, corporate executives, low-level bosses, leaders of organized religion, petty bureaucrats and even paltry block association presidents operate entirely in their own self-interest – at least, as much as they can get away with, which is a lot – to the detriment of whatever it is to which they pay lip service.

It is injustice that makes me crabby, and the frequently-voiced admonition to me, “Ronni, life isn’t fair,” ticks me off big-time. Yes, I know that sometimes good plans go awry, and I know that to err is human, but most injustice is deliberate and it pains me that almost no one responsible is ever called to account.

In the early stages of this blog, in which I decided to carve out as my own the area of injustices committed against older people, I wanted a place to separate those complaints from the more general discussion of what aging is really like. I hit on the phrase “Crabby Old Lady” but at first I was nervous about it. After all, crabby old ladies are the ones who won’t return the ball when kids misjudge a throw and it winds up in their yard.

With more thought, I realized it fit if taken literally. I’m old, I’m a woman (if not a lady, in the old-fashioned sense) and I certainly am crabby. Additionally, the phrase lends itself to some humor which Crabby can sometimes muster. And now what has happened is similar to the Remarkable Transformation I wrote about last month in regard to the words “old” and “older.”

Crabby Old Lady has become the repository for my ill temper at injustice, my cynicism and my perhaps foolish hope that just maybe, someday, my sixth grade teacher’s delusion will be vindicated. And now, with steady use over many months, I no longer think of the phrase, crabby old lady, as a pejorative. Comments and emails sent to this blog lead me to believe that many readers have adjusted to my new use of the phrase too.

In an email, Mary Lee Fowler, who runs the Full Fathom Five blog (which you should read if you aren't doing so already) and who is a long-time writing teacher, crystalized my thinking about the difference between Crabby and me better than I had for myself:

“You and Crabby are a great team: Crabby protests and marshalls all kinds of facts to shore up her arguments...Ronni looks into her heart for universal yet near-ineffable truths...”

So you see, David, I don't think my mindset about Crabby Old Lady is "a disservice" to myself at all, although I appreciate your concern. A further benefit for friends who have suffered my rants through the years, is now that I have Crabby to piss and moan for me, I’m not nearly as annoying as I used to be.

Mommy's Mother


Ronni's Grandmother c1906

[circa 1906] Ronni’s grandmother Jessie, who was college graduate at a time when few women attended, became a schoolteacher and a writer for such magazines as Collier's and McCall's. She died of blood poisoning at age 35, a month after she gave birth to her daughter, Charlotte, by Caesarean section in 1916.


Is Ageism Retreating?

David Wolfe of Ageless Marketing, for whom Crabby Old Lady has unbounded respect, took issue recently with a statement on this site’s About page. He happened to read it on the day it was being updated, so the paragraph he refers to is no longer there, but the section he questions was:

“It is stunning how little popular writing there is about [growing old]. And it is shameful how older people are treated by every aspect of American culture.”

David took issue with that statement and says:

“Things are changing, and doing so in a large way. It’s just that we have a hard time seeing the changes much as travelers on a great ocean liner don’t readily detect the changes in the ship’s directions…

“A host of negative attitudes on aging that have been in place in the West for generations, even centuries, are dissolving. It is a wonderful time in which to grow old.”

Reasonable people can disagree and while Crabby Old Lady thinks any time is a good time to grow old (assuming you don’t buy into the prevailing cultural attitudes) she disagrees that things are changing in a big way. Until the culture as a whole treats older people with as much as respect and interest as those younger than 40 or 50, we will continue to be maligned, belittled, disparaged, discriminated against and abused. Crabby sees no significant decline in these attitudes and behavior.

Television is the most pervasive arbiter of popular culture, but the only time older folks are portrayed in television commercials is for constipation, arthritis and denture adhesive. Crabby hasn’t seen anyone past 30 driving a new car on television lately. Or wearing an iPod. Advertisers still believe the 18-49 demographic is the only one worth courting.

When 74-year-old Doris Roberts, who plays the mother on Everyone Loves Raymond, testified before Congress two years ago specifically on the topic of Aging Image in Media and Marketing, she noted that ageism is “the last bastion of bigotry.”

“…society considers me discardable: my opinions irrelevant, my needs comical and my tastes not worth attention in the marketplace. My peers and I are portrayed as dependent, helpless, unproductive and demanding…

“What these thirty-year old executives don’t realize is how impoverished their world is by focusing only on the limited perspective of youth.”


Crabby has spent a bit of time (yes, some wasted) checking out television for positive portrayals of older people. The only reasonable ones she has found besides Doris Roberts are Jerry Orbach on Law and Order (and he’s left the show now) and Tyne Daly on Judging Amy. For every not-too-loony grandparent portrayed, there are more than enough disparaging references to older people as when a cop on Law and Order referred to a witness as “a gummer who can’t hear either.”

Hollywood movies are no better than television. Kim Basinger, who is only 50, recently complained:

“It depresses me that there are so few roles written for grown-up women…For every woman in this branch like Meryl Streep or Susan Sarandon, who thanks to their talent are able to keep their career continuing, there are a dozen well-known actresses older than 40 who can’t get any roles anymore.”
-, 17 October 2004

Let’s do keep in mind about aging actresses that without modern medical procedures, their shelf life would be even shorter. And don’t cite to Crabby the movie Something’s Gotta Give starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton as proof of the existence of movies about older people. That was released nearly two years ago and there hasn’t been an engaging or highly-promoted film about folks on the latter end of life since then. One every five years is not good enough.

Age discrimination in the workplace outside of show business is rampant too, as Crabby well knows from personal experience. She won’t repeat herself today, but you can read her friend Ronni’s takes on this issue if you are interested.

Even in this year’s presidential campaign, both candidates seeking the senior vote - supposedly the most sought-after demographic in the election - speak only of Social Security and prescription drugs, further cementing old age as time of decline, disease and debility. As former Denver congresswoman, Pat Schroeder, noted at the inauguration of GrannyVoters earlier this year:

“Part of that ageism, stems from how you’re viewed in the political arena as a bunch of greedy old grannies. All of us were frustrated with the shortsightedness of politicians when they talk to people our age. It’s all about how much our pills cost.”
- Rocky Mountain News, 13 September 2004

And the repetition of this shortsightedness is an additional reinforcement of the image of older people as unhealthy, selfish burdens to society.

This too-lengthy response to David barely scratches the surface of the many ways ageism is perpetrated upon western culture day in and day out. The extreme amount of marketing done for products and medical procedures to reverse outward signs of aging send the same message as outright prejudice. As Becca Levy, professor at Yale University School of Public Health, who specializes in issues of aging, frequently notes:

“Look at all the talk about plastic surgery and Botox. The message is, ‘Don’t get old.’”

It could be that the humongous chunk of demographic humanity, the baby boomers, will change attitudes and thereby, cultural behavior too, but the only evidence Crabby Old Lady has seen so far is the proliferation of television commercials during all three evening network news broadcasts for drugs that treat disorders of the aging – all negative images.

If, as David says, change is on its way, Crabby needs an acceleration of its progress: she'd like to find a job before she is dead.

Daddy and Mommy


Ted Charlotte 1940

[August 1940] Ted and Charlotte had photographs made for their wedding announcement - seven months before Ronni was born. That is an insignificant fact by today’s social standards, but was shameful in some circles in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s.


history @ 2003-08-13 10:18 said:
Sad how they`re looking away from each other.

wolfwimr @ 2003-08-17 15:28 said:
I am so glad you sent me this URL. I especially love the captions that supply an emotional `string quartet` accompaniment. The curly-haired boy your day once (unhappily) was; the shocked baby Ronni reacting to news of Pearl Harbor - your captions are truly inspired. And, I must tell you, the observation that your parents were sadly looking away from each other in their engagement photo really struck a chord.

I have a friend with a similar shot of his parents, and he feels the same. I will bookmark your site and check back. Thanks for the wonderful email - the image of your ex-boyfriend and ex-husband gabbing through the blackout while you slept is priceless. The fact that they got on well (under YOUR roof) says something about your enduring taste in men, does it not?

courtneyutt @ 2003-08-28 20:05 said:
This looks like two negs were printed on the same piece of paper - it`s great. And the hand coloring is beautiful.

tomswift46 @ 2004-04-25 07:22 said:
Lovely looking parents. Isn`t it funny how times have changed and yet we are still in the Dark Ages.

Magazine Hell

Everyone with a product to sell is looking to make a profit. The time-honored way of doing that is to identify a market need and fill it. What astonishes Crabby Old Lady, day in and day out, is how poorly many corporations do that, placing as many irritations and impediments in the way of the consumer as possible.

Take magazines, for example…

Crabby likes magazines. They keep her abreast of developments about her topics of interest, provide commentary on issues she cares about and many of her favorite thinkers publish regularly in magazines.

In addition, magazines are convenient. The stories are, compared to books, short and can be read through in odd, free moments. They don’t weigh much, they take up little space, and unlike the computer on which Crabby reads local U.S. and international newspapers, they are portable. They can be jammed in a handbag to read on the subway or stuck in her back pocket to fill time when she is forced to wait.

Lately, however, the difficulty in reading magazines threatens to surpass their usefulness.

Blow-in cards have been around a long time, but they have become more numerous, falling out from between the pages, sometimes in a flurry, and more than once, Crabby has had to retrieve them from the floor of a subway car – ick – and carry them around until she finds a trash bin.

Bound-in cards are their own kind of annoyance, making it impossible for the next page to lay open flat for the reading the magazine was intended. To tear it out creates more trash to be toted around, or piled up on the sofa needing to be picked up later.

How many trees does it cost, in addition to the magazine itself, to supply all the blow-in and bound-in subscription cards in every issue of every magazine sold in the U.S. every week and month? Crabby wonders. Wouldn’t one, in the front of a magazine do the trick?

And how about those full-size ads, sometimes several pages long, printed on heavy stock? No page turning is possible without ripping them out which invariably tears the surrounding text pages.

Another form of advertising - essentially an entire magazine of its own usually on the topic of health or to promote business and travel to another country - is almost always inserted in the middle of a story. What is insidious about these is they are designed to look similar to the layout of the magazine so that it is nearly impossible to find the continuation of the article with any ease. By the time Crabby has thumbed through its 30 or 40 pages, she has to go back to pick up the thread of what she was reading.

And although they are not a barrier to Crabby’s enjoyment of a magazine, she can’t figure out the point of perfume samples in those little foldovers. Perhaps Crabby’s nose is not as discerning as other folks’, but they all smell alike to her. Maybe it has something to do with placing scent on paper, where it was not intended to be used.

When Crabby’s most recent issue of Vanity Fair arrived a week or so ago, it would not open flat at any place in the magazine. As she has frequently done for many years, Crabby tore out each ad before checking the table of contents for stories of interest and this time, before tossing them, she counted the number of individual pages – blow-ins, bound-ins and full-page heavy-stock: thirty-seven.

Can all this trash possibly be profitable for advertisers? Or worth it to the corporate owners of magazines to so annoy their readers? Crabby Old Lady can’t be the only one who tears out all the ads without looking at them and she approaches her magazine reading these days with a sigh.

To facilitate a little contentment in her old age, Crabby is looking to reduce the number of irritants and she will now be evaluating the content of her magazines against the exasperation level. How many will she give up?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Not ten minutes after posting this story, Crabby discovered this new piece from Fast Company. Now if they would just apply their advice to their own magazine...

Younger Lovers

Millie Garfield, over at My Mom’s Blog, recently posted a story about a letter she read in the Boston Globe from a 70-year-old widow in a happy and satisfying relationship with a 40-year old man.

I was reminded that some years ago, there was a fad among the glitterati women of New York City of dating younger men. It got a lot of gossip ink wherein the young men were referred to as “boy toys,” suggesting that it was all just silliness and that perhaps the young men were “being kept” – gigolos. Older men, however, when they accompany gorgeous women young enough to be their daughters, get approving winks and nudges of the good-for-you-old-man variety. They have always had the privilege of dating and marrying younger women without the snickers older women sometimes get when the relative ages are reversed.

This snobbery undoubtedly relates to the fact that our obsession with the appearance of youth applies almost entirely to women. Men are allowed to age – and to be considered attractive - without resorting to toxins and surgery.

But because men tend to die younger than women and the ratio of men to women works out poorly in our later years, it would be useful for this tired prejudice to be overcome. There are signs that this is becoming so.

One hot summer day when I was about 41 or 42, I was slowly climbing up the subway stairs at evening rush hour, crunched up against the hundreds of others heading for the streets. Suddenly, a voice in my ear: “Would you go to the movies with me?”

When I looked back, I was surprised to see a young man of no more than 18 or 19, smiling nicely. I was flattered, but found his offer hard to believe and blurted, “I’m old enough to be your mother.” Without missing a beat, he answered, “Yeah, but I loves my mama.”

Obviously, this was a kid with a quick wit – in addition to good taste.

Some writers cite such Hollywood December/May relationships as Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, Madonna and Guy Ritchie as hopeful indicators of changing cultural views and such a shift, led by actors, is certainly welcome. It’s not encouraging, however, to the rest of us when even human sexuality expert, Helen Fisher notes, “These actresses aren't just beautiful - they have money! And power!" A far cry from me, if not thee.

Carolyn Heilbrun, in her book, Writing a Woman’s Life, acknowledges the well-known invisibility that envelops most women at middle age, but she goes on in a manner I find encouraging:

“We will move invisibly for a time, to relearn seeing and to forget being seen. As we grow slowly visible, we will be heard more and seen less. Our voices will ramify, our bodies will become a house for our new spirit.”

And there are younger men who find that spirit more attractive than mere youth.

Eleven years ago at age 52, on my first day of jury duty, I went to lunch with a young man who had been seated next to me during a voir dire and joined me when we were sent back to the jury room. He was smart, funny, charming, a delight to be with, and we hung out together for the duration of our public service.

When we were dismissed on the final day, he invited me to dinner and over the next weeks, one thing led to another until we found ourselves to be a couple. Although he was 27, he had fewer qualms than I did about our 24-year age difference and in the end, it made no difference at all. Yes, I knew things he didn’t, but he was curious when they came up, and he was expert in areas where I had little or no knowledge, so it was a fair trade and our relationship lasted for nearly a year. It ended amicably for reasons that any relationship can end, having nothing to do with age.

Though they did not note if the number of years between the spouses was few or many, the 2000 U.S. census discovered that 12 percent of marriages then involved older women and younger men. That seems a fair percentage of the whole and suggests that December/May relationships are not as remarkable as is supposed.

Love is rare enough in these times and we should embrace it where we find it. Age should be the least of our considerations. And as Millie notes on her blog, younger men have an advantage for older women their contemporaries lack. Encouraging the letter writer to enjoy her relationship with her 40-year-old, Millie says: “…go for it. This guy drives! Men closer to her age, if they drive, they do not drive at night!”

Baby Ronni


Baby Ronni

[7 December 1941] Mommy and Daddy were taking pictures of Ronni in her bath when a shocking announcement was made on the radio: Pearl Harbor had been attacked.


williambernthal @ 2003-09-11 12:47 said:
You can see the shock and dismay in Ronni`s face!

airmemories @ 2004-04-14 14:08 said:
Hi Ronni! I realize that I didn`t see the very beginning of your flog. I`m coming back to visit these precious early images of yours. Look at that face! I can still see the same curious look in you today!

tomswift46 @ 2004-04-25 07:21 said:
Wow! Wonderful one! I love to go back to the beginning of people`s Flogs. What a find.

Never Too Old

Doris Haddock’s first foray into activism took place in 1960, when she helped stop the planned use of hydrogen bombs in Alaska, saving an Inuit fishing village at Point Hope.

In 1989 and 1990, she walked 3200 miles across the United States, over a period of 14 months, in an effort to promote passage of the McCain/Feingold campaign finance reform bill. This year, she is a maverick candidate for the U.S. Senate from New Hampshire running against Republican incumbent and former governor, Judd Gregg.

Following her primary message, that our nation’s leaders have been corrupted by special interest dollars and no longer represent the interests of their constituents, Mrs. Haddock has pledged to take “not one penny” from special interests, relying instead on small donations from individuals.

“My victory,” she says, “will be a good sign that people can win elections without special interest money. And I will be free to vote on the merits of the issues, as I will have no strings attached."

Mrs. Haddack was invited to make this run for the U.S. Senate when the Democratic Party of New Hampshire candidate dropped out of the race on the day of the deadline to register for the election.

“I was at home taking a rest,” she recalls. “They said: ‘You have to decide before 5.30 tonight whether you want to do it’. I went up to where you have to sign and talked to the chairwoman of the Democratic Party. She said: ‘Your name will be recognised’.”
- quoted in:, 14 October 2004

This would be only a mildly quirky campaign story that, which maintains a neutral political point of view except on issues of aging, would not mention except for one small fact: Doris Haddock, better known – and widely so in the U.S. - as Granny D, is 94 years old.

The late Gray Panthers founder, Maggie Kuhn, said, that “old age is an excellent time for outrage.” It is also an excellent time, when children are raised and there is more free time, to give something back. I’m not saying we should all run for national office as Granny D is doing – though if it’s your passion to change things, why not? If Washington politics seems too big a leap, there are plenty of local issues that could use the wisdom older folks have gained through the decades. Granny D’s advice in a speech to college students works just as well for older folks:

“Look around every now and then and wonder what all this life is about. Who is served by all this life? Life serves life, and we are happiest and at our best when we let our full life force – indeed, our divine life force - rise within us as we engage our lives in service to the world, to the life around us. We are happiest when we are serving life and adding to its health and bounty. We are simply made that way, made for cooperation and joining of every kind.”

U.S. readers can see Granny D on Thursday, 21 October, when she meets her opponent in a debate that will be broadcast live on C-SPAN at 7PM ET.

“I’m looking forward to the debate,” said Mrs. Haddock. “I certainly have the facts on my side, while his major accomplishments are voting for the Iraq War, billionaire tax cuts, and preventing the government from negotiating lower prescription drug prices.”

You can find out more about Granny D, read her stands on the issues and her speeches at her campaign Website.

In Search of a Quiet Afternoon

Last Saturday afternoon, Crabby Old Lady and her friend David spent a delightful two hours at a preview of a new play, Dirty Tricks, which stars Judith Ivey as Martha Mitchell.

After the performance, on what was a perfect, crisp fall day, Crabby and David settled in at an outdoor café to discuss the play over iced tea and lemon tarts. Just as Crabby was launching into what she intended to be a brilliantly nuanced critique of Ivey’s performance, she was interrupted by the deafening roar of 50 motorcycles blasting by the restaurant at full throttle.

The hellish noise brought Crabby’s train of thought to a full stop. So great was the blast of unmuffled engines that she could feel her blood pressure spike, and she let loose a string of unprintable epithets that were, fortunately for the café guests at neighboring tables, lost in the din.

This, of course, is not an isolated incident. Unnecessary noise, in decibels high enough to cause both permanent injury and "mere" annoyance, is everywhere today. Just as the U.S. is bent, through the incessant marketing of cosmetic surgery, on turning every old person into a grotesque parody of his or her youthful self, it is also intent in filling every quiet moment with noise.

Inventors of sirens for fire trucks, ambulances and police cars have made a science of creating screaming wails that Crabby suspects cause more heart attacks than the emergency vehicles are racing to treat. A visit to any large European city reveals humane sirens, easy on the ears, that still serve the purpose of freeing up traffic without breaking eardrums. Why don’t we have them in the U.S.? Crabby wants to know.

Crabby Old Lady is always amazed, when she visits other American cities, at how relatively quiet even rush-hour traffic is. In New York City, all drivers believe leaning on their horns will unblock an intersection and true to the nature of the town, more than three seconds of immobility is cause for horn rage.

No one is going to change New York driving habits any day soon, but more pleasant-sounding horns would go a long toward making the city more civilized. And truck horns? Who decided a bigger vehicle needs a louder horn? What is the point?

Since 9/11, New York has added a new noise source – helicopters. The rule here is that no flying machines may cross over Manhattan; they are confined to the rivers and bay. But the powers that be, since our 2001 tragedy, in the name of security, now allow helicopters to fly over and worse, hover at low levels even in primarily residential neighborhoods. When there is an event such as the Republican Convention or the visit of a foreign dignitary, give it up. A conversation even inside one’s home is no longer possible in a normal tone of voice.

Indoor noise pollution has reached intolerable levels in recent years. No store owner, even the local deli guy, believes we want to shop without music blasting our brains. Crabby is certain some marketing researcher has determined – erroneously – that we spend more money if we can’t hear the price when we ask. Crabby walked out of Macy’s about a year ago when, as she entered, the music was so loud and raucous, it felt like a punch in the gut. She hasn’t been back and has now found other sources for the kinds of purchases she’d been making at Macy’s for three decades.

Even movie theaters, which for all of Crabby’s life played quiet, background music in the dim auditorium prior to the start of the film, are now an assault on the senses. Screaming announcers promote local stores and exhort viewers to answer stupid trivia questions.

Many restaurants, even expensive, elegant ones, are little better. The music is frequently so loud, two people cannot converse quietly across a table. Asking for it to be turned down is a sure way to rotten service.

The inventiveness of noise polluters is astonishing. Last week, Crabby found a whole new annoyance in an elevator. The car pinged – loudly – as it passed every floor. Ping. Ping. Ping. Ping. For 53 floors. She seems to recall that this was once called Chinese water torture.

And don't tell Crabby to get an iPod. She still believes music is for enjoyment, not filtering out noise.

There is no escape today from the insult of constant, loud, irritating, painful noise. Research shows that noise pollution is a serious public health problem causing, in addition to hearing loss: headaches, stress, fatigue, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart and digestive problems, immune system problems, aggressive behavior and learning problems in children.

Isn’t that enough to cause legislators to make a course correction in our headlong rush to fill every cell of our brains with sound every moment of the day? Or maybe it's a conspiracy to keep us so distracted we won't notice the serious problems our nation faces - including noise pollution.

Crabby Old Lady isn't looking for total silence. She would, however, like to be able to enjoy the normal, small pleasures of life without the ceaseless assault on her tender, aging ears.

Music on My Mind

category_bug_journal2.gif In an entry he posted over last weekend, Fred First of Fragments From Floyd laments the fading of memories once evoked by popular music from his youth.

“…until lately,” he writes, “the songs have been able to reconnect me with the spirit of that age; with specific people, events, eras in my life - even the moods evoked by certain perfumes or the smells of places where specific things happened…But I am less and less able to squint my eyes and see the where of it, the who, even the when. It is becoming music that still finds - will always find - a welcome place in my heart, but my mind less and less can tell me why.”

Aging is a much longer and more diverse process than adolescence; we each do it differently and, of course, we cannot predict how it will happen. It’s another of those little jokes Mother Nature saves up to spring on us unexpectedly.

Unlike Fred, my experience with music from bygone days, so far, remains strong and clear. When I hear even a scrap of Peggy Sue, I’m back in high school, most particularly at a party when that Buddy Holly tune had just been released, and it’s all we played for the entire evening.

I know exactly why a painful sadness came over me when I heard the Theme from Zorba the Greek recently for the first time in several years. And when I rediscovered Manhattan Tower a couple of years ago, I all but became the little girl I was when I first listened to it a half century ago.

Hearing Hi Lili, Hi-Lo sung by Leslie Caron can send me into a whole string of memories of my father. It was his favorite song.

Sometimes, one’s taste changes so radically that some music from times past is no longer tolerable. Two old favorites, Janis Joplin and The Doors, are now extremely irritating to me (with the exception of Janis’s Pearl album) and though I can recall the mood and some events from the years when they were in regular rotation on my phonograph, they don’t resonate for me anymore.

Fred consoles himself for his loss with this heartening thought:

“Time passes. And it sweeps with it some our most precious memories. There is nothing to it but to make new ones.”

One of Fred’s readers, Trish, left this smart comment for him:

“Hark Carolyn Heilbrun on the pleasure that old age affords of living in the now. Many of our greatest sages report that the more we can do this, neither projecting fancifully into the future, not pining uselessly into the past for pleasant or bitter memories, the more likely we are to experience the flow state, the spiritual bliss, the existential serenity and the just plain freedom from depression that many of us wish we could have, if only for a few minutes of relief.”

What about you? What is your experience with music and memories?

Embracing One's Inner Old Lady

On my first day in Manhattan 35 years ago, having just stepped off a bus, I stood on the corner of 50th and Broadway orienting myself as to east, west, north and south to determine which way to walk to my destination. It was noontime and the crowd was the largest and busiest I’d ever seen, a whirlwind of bodies weaving in and out and around one another, each independently intent on their individual goal.

As I sorted out the street signs from the profusion of gaudy neon, flashing store front lights, and walk/don’t walk indicators, a single voice made itself apparent above the din of traffic and several hundred people. When I located the source of the shouting, I was mortified to see a man – in a propeller beanie – yelling, “Pervert, Pervert, Pervert,” while pointing directly at me.

No one stopped as they passed, but they glanced at him and then at me, and I wished with all my might to be made invisible. In a panic, I took off in the direction I hoped was the one I wanted, with his pointing finger and his words, “Pervert, Pervert, Pervert,” following me across the street.

A few minutes later, as I waited for my friend in front of the entrance to Saks Fifth Avenue, taking in the amazing crowds of New York City at lunchtime, a well-dressed man of about 30 suddenly grabbed my arm and asked, “Are you married?”

Having escaped the verbal assault just 15 minutes earlier and shocked again at being singled out by a stranger in this strange, new town, I managed to stutter, “Uh, well, uh, yes.” The man looked at his companion as they walked on and said, “Damn, I’ll never find anyone to marry me.”

Welcome to Gotham, little girl.

I’ve come a long way since 1969. You can’t scare me in the street anymore, but you sure can piss me off.

Walking down Fifth Avenue last week near Lord and Taylor, I was accosted by a young woman handing out leaflets. Using my best New York survival tactics, I thought I’d sidestepped her, but no. She followed me down the block. I kept walking. She spoke:

SHE: We’re having a sale. Fifty percent off every haircut.

ME: No thanks.

SHE: You need a haircut. We’ll do it for half price.

ME: No thanks.

SHE: You’d look so much younger in a shorter hairstyle.

The woman had already overstepped the unspoken, New York bounds for a leafleteer and now, critiquing my appearance, she had gone too far. I stopped in my tracks and faced her up close.

ME: (Loud enough to catch glances from several passersby) Leave me alone. I don’t want to look younger.

Did I say that? I wondered as I stalked off. In a culture in which youth and wealth fight it out daily to be America’s number one desirable goal such a statement is heresy.

So call me a heretic. About a year and a half ago, when the price of a cut-and-color passed $200 before tip, I gave it up. I’ve been growing my hair since then and it’s long enough now to pull back in a sort of bun on the back of my head held in place by one of the several hair clips I have collected.

Although it has taken awhile to become accustomed to my new look, I like it now. It is part of what distinguishes me as me. I am well aware it’s an old-fashioned style and it is conceivable there is a shorter cut that would shave a year or two off my perceived age. But to do that, I would need to want to look younger and that desire has now passed me by. I have embraced, it seems, my inner old lady, though I wouldn’t have known that if the young woman with the leaflet and rude attitude hadn’t confronted me.

Our obsession with youth or, at the very least, the appearance of youth, has become a cultural sickness on which the billions annually spent for potions and surgeries (and expensive hair styles) could support several third-world countries. What are we thinking in doing all this? It is the destiny of everyone, barring early death, to become old and there are far more interesting and worthwhile things to do with our time and money in our later years than chase after an impossible illusion.

Oh, and by the way, that guy who yelled “Pervert” at me on 50th and Broadway? Shortly after our confrontation, I discovered he was well-known to New Yorkers. His name was Larry and he had been standing on that same corner in his propeller beanie shouting “Pervert” at random folks for longer than anyone could remember. I saw him now and again over the years, though he never picked on me again, and then he disappeared - one of the eight million stories in the naked city.

No Apologies

Older folks get enough off-handed bad press, you would almost think there is such a thing as age discrimination. So much so that the reverse is a remarkable occurrence. A reader named Melinda emailed a piece from Salon, published in May 2003, titled “News Flash: Having children won’t save you from a lonely old age.” Because Salon requires a paid subscription, I will quote liberally.

The writer, Laura Miller (our kind of young woman) was responding to one of her readers who, in wondering about children being a hedge against loneliness in old age, said:

“Sure, being old is bad…but do children make it any better?”

What I like about Ms. Miller - a lot - is that she quickly dealt with the question about children and concentrated instead on that “old is bad” statement which is a too-commonly held belief.

“What this reader, and plenty of other Americans, feels but scarcely dares to articulate,” writes Ms. Miller, “is the fear that when she is old her company will be of no value to anyone except those obligated by blood to share it.”

Ms. Miller then correctly identifies the problem: that people don’t want to face “in a forthright and unflinching way,” what it means to get old in a culture that unreasonably celebrates youth.

“…it’s almost impossible to locate any corresponding appreciation for the value in having been around for a while.”

Ms. Miller tells us that while she is not old yet, she has enough experience, so far, to have learned a lot.

“Some of it has been just stuff – facts, data – but I’ve also acquired a sense of how all that stuff fits together and how to figure out which parts of it matter and, even more important, which don’t. I believe I’ve gotten more open-minded, more tolerant…This, I think, makes me better company to others, and I know it’s made me a better companion to myself. Is there some reason why this pleasant development shouldn’t go on, well, developing?”

Oh, yes, Ms. Miller. It does go on developing and it gets better and better.

What is also terrific about her story is that Ms. Miller takes Garrison Keillor and “pompous, deluded bores” in general to task for being the only older folks who “acknowledge their own store of experience and…share what they’ve learned.”

Not anymore. It’s been 18 months since Ms. Miller published her story and since then, the list of excellent Older Bloggers over there on the left rail continues to grow, each one answering Ms. Miller’s plea: “Still, we could use a lot more expert soloists demonstrating their variations on the theme [of getting older].”

My favorite line in Ms. Miller’s story is,

“Getting older isn’t something to apologize for, for crying out loud.”

You betcha, Laura. We’re refusing to do that here every day and we appreciate your help.

Half the Cold, Twice the Time

category_bug_journal2.gif Those of you who are regular readers may have noticed that nothing has been posted here in about a week. Chalk it up to a bad cold, a very bad cold. I barely remember the past few days - mostly I’ve slept around the clock. It’s a joke Mother Nature plays: the older you are, the harder bugs hit.

When I was a kid in the 1940s and 1950s, before the miraculous vaccines we have now for childhood diseases, at least one kid a year did not return to school in the fall, a victim of polio. Once or twice a year, a house in the neighborhood would be marked off limits with a big Health Department sticker on the door – QUARANTINE - because someone there had contracted a highly contagious disease - whooping cough, maybe, or smallpox. Sometimes people died.

So a cold was hardly remarkable. When I got one, my mother handed me a couple of extra packets of Kleenex and sent me to school. I don’t remember feeling sick. I studied, played, went to after-school classes and activities and hardly noticed the cold except for the annoyance of the runny nose. It was gone in two or three days.

Not so anymore. For about the past decade, colds come on like a speeding train - one minute I’m fine, the next I’m not – and leave me feeling like a train wreck. I’m down for days - exhausted, sleepy, stuffy, headache-y and miserable, incapable of much movement or coherent thought. The residue – mild versions of the same symptoms – hangs on for a week or two or more.

It is one of those changes that comes with aging nobody tells you about: just when "the days dwindle down to a precious few," more of them will be lost to what you had expected, based on youthful experience, to be a minor irritation.

I have been blessed with good health for all my 63 years, as have my family who mostly cruised through life with little more than an occasional cold or flu and then, in extreme old age, collapsed and died within a few weeks. I intend to do the same.

Meanwhile, there is a corny, old joke about aging that needs reinterpretation: “It takes twice as long to do half as much.” I haven’t run into that in general yet, but it surely applies to recovery from a cold.