ELDER MUSIC: September 16
Retirement Blues

Age Quotitis

Everyone likes quotations, right? The ones we like best are usually those that confirm our prejudices. A whole lot of others allow us to believe we have learned something important or useful or wise or clever but are so banal that we soon forget them.

And every now and then we come across one that in a few remarkably well-chosen words speaks a truth or crystalizes a previously muddy thought we've had or even shows us the way forward.

Quotations, I think, are always personal; what thrills or delights me can mean nothing to you and vice versa because we necessarily bring our own experience, beliefs and feelings to them.

I've been perusing a book of quotations collected by Kathleen Cannon titled, She Said What? Quotable Women Talk Aging and subtitled, “More than 1000 quotes on aging, youth and growing old.”

The inclusion only of women is stultifying. The book is divided into such sections as retirement, wrinkles, reflections, growing up, etc. and with every page I wondered what men have said on that topic – whether they are generally in agreement with women or see the world of aging differently.

In addition, a heavy reliance on quotations from actors (I'm guessing about 50 percent) gives the quotations a certain sameness coming from the point of view of women whose livelihoods depend upon their physical attractions.

Nevertheless, there is no such thing as a quotation book that is not at least entertaining and what I said above about actors notwithstanding, here are two who speak harshly but true:

“There are only three ages for women in Hollywood – Babe, District Attorney, and Driving Miss Daisy.” - Goldie Hawn
“I have no romantic feelings about age. Either you are interesting at any age or you are not.” - Katharine Hepburn

This, from Diane de Poitier who is described as a French patroness who lived between 1499 and 1566, reminds me of Gore Vidal's famous bon mot: “It's not enough to succeed. Others must fail.”

“She was born in the year of our Lord only knows. The years that a woman subtracts from her age are not lost. They are added to other women's.”

Someday, somehow, I will find a way to use “the year of our Lord only knows." It's too good not to and Ms. de Poitier won't know I've stolen it.

Not infrequently, I take off in these pages about how ageist language perpetuates the stereotyping that dehumanizes elders. In efforts to make my point, I have been known to carry on at great length - and then along comes a writer named Elaine Bernstein Partnow doing a much better – and more succinct - job of it:

“Language is a boxing match in which we must spar daily, warding off the negative suggestions that age is our worst enemy. Indeed, it is our best friend.”

Contrary to the zillions of messages that bombard us day in and day out about creams and pills and surgeries to make us appear young again, a lot of women have embraced their old age each in their own way:

“It is a mistake to regard age as a downhill grade toward dissolution. The reverse is true. As one grows older one climbs with surprising strides.” - French novelist, George Sand
“Don't deprive me of my age. I have earned it.” - American poet, May Sarton
“She had settled down to age as if she found it very pleasant company.” - British novelist, Phyllis Bottome
“What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner.” - French novelist, Colette

And I could not agree more with this from the women we all cheered when she said, “This is what 40 looks like these day.”

“Remembering something at first try is now as good as an orgasm as far as I'm concerned.” - America activist, Gloria Steinem

To end on a political note:

As you know, I am in the earliest stages of a long project researching the history of old age. In that regard, I am reading French philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir's treatise, Old Age, published more than 40 years ago. I had recently marked the following when it turned up in the quotations book:

“Society turns away from the aged worker as though they belong to another species...old age exposes the failure of our entire civilization.”

In light of one political party whose 2012 presidential and vice presidential nominees would kill the social programs that sustain elders in the U.S. and keep them from sleeping under bridges, here is a beautifully poignant statement for us all to ponder from an American writer, Margaret Willour:

“Old age needs so little but needs that little so much.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmermann: The Cat Cowboy


Good stuff...and you managed to slip a little politics in there quite pleasantly.

I enjoy quotations too, Ronni.

One of my favorites was said by a very talented funny lady named Gilda Radner who famously said:

"I base most of my fashion sense on what doesn't itch."

In these past eighteen months of tending fulltime to the needs of my 92 year old MIL at the end of her life, and being one of those people who believe the answer to every problem or question can be found somewhere in the pages of some book, I have been voraciously reading books about aging. I recently came across one by M.F.K. Fisher, whose writing I have always enjoyed. It is a collection of stories simply titled, "Sister Age." So far, it is proving to have been a good find.

Beautiful. Gloria Steinem says it for me.

I've always liked Bette Davis' comments on age: "Growing old is not for sissies."

“Just remember, when you’re over the hill, you begin to pick up speed.”
― Charles M. Schulz

Says it for me.

Good points and food for thought.
Three books that might interest you on several levels, not currently listed in your list of books might include: along the lines of you wonder what men would say.
"The Force of Character-And the Lasting Life by James Hillman, "Life Gets Better-The Unexpected Pleasures of Growing Old, by Wendy Lustbader, yes another woman but good current view of aging. "Spirituality and Aging" by Robert C. Atchley, scholarly but very well done and he is an associate of Reb Zalman.
Ken Pyburn

Loved the de Poitier quote.

Thank you for this, Ronni. Will have to search out this book I'm afraid, after this sampling you've provided of what it contains. Can't wait to read all of it.

Ronni, would be hilarious to read famous comments our mothers said. The ones that stick in our heads, ones we swear we will never utter. But then we do.

Yes, I've always loved quotes, but you are so right--they seem to serve our "confirmation bias". One that I have always loved that sticks with me is: "Be a friend to all, but let no one abuse you". That quote has brought me peace when I had to let go of a friendship. It is the only quote, along with a couple Winston Churchills that I can call up from memory. (Be a friend to all---is attributed to Chief Joseph)

No matter how horrible a problem I faced at any given time my mother would say, deprecatingly, "May all your troubles be little ones."

Each time I get up from a chair I think of Sophia Loren who says, something like, to defy age when you get up from a chair, don't groan... She also says, "There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you truly will have defeated age."

I don't know who said it, but I've always liked, "Age is a state of mind."

Colette's words make me chuckle, though I think I managed to enjoy much of the experience as I was going along.

Then, Oscar Wilde said, "One should never trust a woman who tells her real age. A woman who would tell one that would tell one anything."

Your political comments wreak of ignorance as bliss. You are the ignorance and as I leave you to your rambling idiocies I am rewarded with bliss. Take your pomposities and revel in them. The economic pie of entitlement spending, downgrades of our credit, and ballooning of our debt will put our seniors in the poor house and our children In the dog house. You noise ones are burying your heads and Obama is fiddling as the me burns.

The Margaret Willour quote is brilliantly, painfully accurate.

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