“riding elephants” . . .

by mulberryshoots

Well, I guess Gloria Steinman is turning eighty next Tuesday. In a NYTimes article today, (where else?) she’s quoted as saying the two things she wants to do for her birthday are to “get out of Dodge. . . and to ride elephants in Botswana.” Why do people think they have to come up with outrageous wishes as they age? It’s almost as though if you don’t come up with something exotic, that you aren’t justifying your place in the constellations of people in the perceived world. And don’t get me started on so-called “bucket lists” either.

I can say definitively that I have no desire to ride an elephant, not when I turn eighty and certainly not ever. Elephants are really big and they are a long way from the ground, aren’t they? And besides, it turns out that Steinman has been having writers’ block for some time and maybe she’s looking for material to write just one more book. Why can’t she let herself just stop looking for some raison d’etre to justify her age or her profession or identity?

Did you know that she is Christian Bale’s stepmother? Yep, she married Bale’s father when he needed a green card and before he died shortly thereafter from cancer. Let’s see, what else? That Gloria Steinman is the “face” of feminism also seems a little P-R-ish to me. What is feminism these days, pray tell? On the front page of the Sunday Times today is an article about a new line of “warrior toys” for girls in the 10-12 year old range. In case you haven’t heard about it, they are bow and arrow sets in bright pink patterns that allow girls to play-act that they are Katniss Everdeen from the “Hunger Games” trilogy. After watching the first two installments last weekend when my daughters were here visiting me after my ankle surgery, I have to confess I’m a true Katniss fan. I’m not sure if it’s Katniss though, or whether it’s celebrating Jennifer Lawrence’s fierce personality and talent as she plays the character Katniss in these movies.

So, let’s step back a minute and look at how far Feminism has come since the 60’s: the love-ins and bra-burning that went on in the Kennedy years, short as they were, alas. For one thing, no matter how militant, there were no icons in the Gloria Steinman era like Katniss (aka Jennifer Lawrence.) Worlds apart and eons apart. Now, young girls are able to read the Hunger Game books (which my granddaughter, A. has read) and there’s a kind of personal freedom about being able to make choices in young females today that is palpable–a more direct way of communicating, a less passive avoidance of things that people have had trouble talking about. I wouldn’t call it a form of feminism because it feels more holistic, a part of a female’s life rather than an add-on or if-only. That doesn’t mean everyone has it. Or practices it. But it’s here and before, it was not even perceivable. That’s the way I experience it anyhow.

Back to riding elephants. If that’s what shows people that an eighty-year old can still do something, more power to her. It reminds me of when the elder George Bush would dive out of airplanes and parachute when he turned eighty, or was it seventy? In any case, I’m making the case that we don’t have to do that to show the world that we are still viable. I’m not even planning to get on a horse, for that matter. Maybe I’ll learn a difficult piece by Debussy on the piano, or read through a transcription of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons movement, “Spring” which is the favorite of my husband’s nephew who has been helping to cart me up and down the stairs when I have medical check-ups for my ankle surgery.

To each her own. Haha. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? Not to have “his” in that phrase? That’s how far we have come baby! Let’s celebrate!