• Stephanie Hammond

When I grow up ...

When it first came out, I really identified with Michelle Shocked’s song “When I grow up I wanna be an old woman”. It reminded me of an experience I had when I was about 18 or 19. I was visiting an old woman - she could have been my age now. Certainly she was a lot older than I was. She was such a grumpy old thing. Kind to me, but grumpy about her fellow inmates in the ‘old folks home’. She was furious with one of them, swearing she’d touched a soft koala I’d given her. I thought about her a lot over the next few weeks and couldn’t think what I could do to help her be different.

Then the thought came to me that it’s not my job to change her - or anyone. All I can do is change myself. I wasn’t happy with that thought at all. Then I picked up a magazine and I read this:

If you want to be known as a sweet old woman, start now!

Wow! Did that make an impact on me. I realised I was worried that I’d be like her when I got old. This quote had served as a reminder over the years. I forgot it periodically and something would remind me. Like the time I looked at my mother-in-law who was such a miserable woman and said to myself: “If I ever live to be 50 I hope they take me out and shoot me!”

Why I thought I had to become like the people around me, I don’t know. But these two experiences have been my motivation. When I turned 50, I was so thrilled with life. My 50s were the best decade of my life until then. I was interested in life, had amazing friends, loved tramping in the outdoors, and was living the life of my dreams. I was so glad that no-one remembered my wish when my mother-in-law was 50!

But the other? Will I ever be known as a “sweet old woman”? I guess that the time has come to reflect on that question. First, what is ‘old’? I’m now 70 and I do wonder on the odd occasion what do people think of me, if they think of me at all.

Do they think of me as a ‘sweet old woman’? Honestly, I don’t think so. But what I do think is that they don’t think of me as the bitter old woman I had the fortune to befriend when I was a teenager.

Luckily I have a long time ahead of me to fulfil this directive. At 70, I think of myself as being middle aged. Not an old woman. I’m a woman with many years of life left and I want to live life to the full. I’m still working towards being known as a sweet old woman. Every now and then I think I need to recommit to that goal. I’m heartened to think that I’ve got another 70 years ahead to hear someone say to speak of me as a sweet old woman.

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