International Women’s Day is March 8th, so with the help of some of our female authors, we’ve decided to dedicate the entire month to women and their stories.
Dear Tim and David and Kekla,
I can never explain myself verbally, which is likely in part why I became a writer. I was trying, that night in the faculty lounge, to tell you what it is like for me, now that I’m an old woman. This is what I was really trying to say:
When I was young, though I didn’t know it, I was beautiful. I became aware of it the day before everything changed. I understood on that day that I had been moving through the universe in a slipstream of pulchritude, a sparkling force-field, a charmed existence that softened some hearts and inspired something else in others. One day I knew it, and the next it was gone. One day for knowing, one day for mourning, and one for wondering what I might have done with that beauty if I had known of it.
But then – lightness. I move smaller and unnoticed through the universe, since then, as if I passed some long initiation and now I get to go in peace, as if I am now acknowledged to be made of some finer material. I wonder how I lived before, with the weight of years-ahead-of-me, and ambition aplenty, and having to carry it all with the ideologies of femininity to face like a headwind. I can’t blame everything on the world, however tempted: Every day I shed something I didn’t recognize was my own strength, shed it like a snake sheds her skin, and I wondered at that papery being that looked something like me.
Now I am in the Sabbath of my life, the seventh decade, and in it I find a kind of rest. I have grown into my face. It is comfortable, not too tight, with just enough room to stretch into any given expression at any given moment, according to whim. My feet and ankles ache, but expectations are low. I have the comfort of grandchildren who are being raised better than their parents were. My dieting days are over, and yet my husband likes me just the way I am. I have a little less estrogen, my husband a little less testosterone, and the Venn diagram of our relationship overlaps a little more, sometimes even nests. I never shed my strength now – it means I am less shiny, but more interesting. My writing brings more joy because I have learned to admire where before I had envied, to pity those who are unkind, to see clearly that the line that divides coveting and surrender, pride and humility, resistance and forbearance, is a pale, wandering line.
I see young women as music, each particle of them vibrating at a register of loveliness. But I want to say this to them: One day you will cease to be beautiful and you will be old, and as hard as is it to believe, I promise you will be glad. What a remarkable thing is an old woman, if I do say so myself.
And that, dear friends, is what I was trying to say.
Martine Leavitt is the author of ten novels for young readers. My Book of Life by Angel, which received five starred reviews, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and winner of the CLA Young Adult Book of the Year. Other titles include Keturah and Lord Death, finalist for the National Book Award; Tom Finder, winner of the Mr. Christie’s Book Award; and Heck Superhero, finalist for the Governor General’s Award. Her novels have been published in Japan, Korea, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands. Martine teaches creative writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts.