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An Old Woman and the Virus

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

I am that woman. And I hate being old. It’s not just because my seventies inevitably means death is closer. It’s because I hate being dismissed, categorized as ‘ elderly’, as ‘lady’ . The assumptions about older women are crazy-making. We’re too often derided for being smelly, dismissed for being irrelevant, ignored as having nothing to say. And now, because of Covid 19, we’re part of that great mass, ‘the elderly,’ advised to stay locked away for our own safety.

Tough stuff. Along with being dismissed, I hate being told what to do. So I struggle with being responsible, not letting my hunger to be in control put me at risk. I grapple with the despair of this moment, longing for opening. Let me mingle again, in the stranger-filled vitality of London. Let me be part of it.

I have friends who suffer for the sorrow of our world, their compassion tracing rivulets of sorrow. I’m too selfish for that. My response is a fierce rage, an insistence on more---more time, more creativity, more meaning.

Being old inevitably brings questions. The search for meaning is a lifetime preoccupation. Being locked down makes it more anguishing. Few distractions divert me from questions like ‘does my current existence matter’; ‘why isn’t being a partner/grandmother enough’; ‘who really cares about me and who do I truly cherish ’. On and on the questions go, squirreling around the attic of my mind. The lockdown dulls my senses but doesn’t turn off the search for meaning in life’s absurdity. And I don’t expect to emerge from this phase of the crisis with any real clarity.

All I ask is time to keep asking the questions.

Let me be alive through this

Let me be alive after this.

Do not dismiss me, debase me, erase me.

Learn from me what is to be old.

Let me be.


2 則留言

Hi Rose. Having myself turned 70 last September, I know what you're talking about re "the elderly." I can't equate my experience to a woman's experience, yours or any other's, because our society just isn't yet susceptible to that equation. But I can share my response to the inevitability of age: Treat it as a joke. Take care of your bodily health by staying physically active, without hurting yourself by ignoring signals your body sends to "stop that." Take care of your intellectual health by, well, doing what you are doing, Rose. Stay curious, keep communicating. (Personally, I treat my weekly Economist as mental calisthenics, as I suspect David does.) Don't mention your age unnecessarily. I still think of myself…


Miriam Swann
Miriam Swann

You are amazing. I love this.


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