Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 9, 2008

Let's hear it for crones!

My college roommate recently became a grandmother, which startled me into the realization that my generation has entered what is sometimes called the "crone" stage of life.

I looked "crone" up in daughter Katie's dictionary: "withered old woman." I didn't like that definition much, so I checked with my computer's Thesaurus: "ugly, frightening old woman." Things were not looking any better! So I consulted the Random House on-line dictionary: "a withered, witchlike old woman." It indicated its origin was the word carrion, which it defined as: "1) dead and putrefying flesh; 2) rottenness; anything vile."

Well, now I was feeling a lot better ... not!

Gee, I don't feel like a withered, ugly, frightening old woman on the edge of rotting. And I don't view my college roommate, sister, sister-in-law, mother, mother-in-law, aunts or older female friends that way either.

Since I didn't like what I found, I decided to keep looking. Eventually I came across this description: " . . . Crone is a term used to describe an ancient archetype, an aspect of the triple goddess (maiden, mother, crone), and the third phase of a woman's life. . . The designation refers to a perspective or point of view rather than age or biological change."

These words came from "Crone, Wise, Empowered, Self-Defined," by Bayla Bower and it was much more to my liking.

Bower continued: "A woman who calls herself crone is willing to acknowledge her age, wisdom, and power. . . . We are ... learning to trust the power of our inner knowing. We will not become invisible, trivialized or shamed by a society obsessed with youth and terrified of aging . . ."

That made me feel much better!

One of the tricks that is hard to pull off in life, yet is so important, is balance. There are societies that revere their older generation just because they are old and have experienced many things. But having lived a long time is no guarantee of being wise. Our society tends to go to the other extreme, emphasizing youth, without making much note of all the mistakes we make in that stage of life from lack of experience.

The pressure to remain perpetually young is especially great for women. They are encouraged to create a perception of youth by dyeing their hair, wearing clothes that are too small, trying to make wrinkles disappear, and nipping and tucking here and there.

Fortunately, there are other voices. I'm heartened to see magazines and other media finally acknowledge that women past 40 - with gray hair, a few extra pounds and wrinkles - do exist.

Many women "of a certain age" love who they've become. Among them are veteran actresses Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and author Maya Angelou . And Mom, mother-in-law Donna, aunts Edith and Kay and numerous older friends are also aging gracefully - not obsessed with their looks, but not "letting themselves go" either.

So maybe Sunday, Mother's Day, might be a good time to celebrate women of all ages. And as part of that, we could rewrite the definition of the word crone - shifting the meaning from a withered, ugly, frightening old woman to one that is seasoned, wise and caring. Let's hear it for us!

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