If there’s one thing that gets to me, it’s the present-day advocation of ‘cronedom’. I am all for genuine crones, in their place – namely, elderly women in fairytales who have murder on their minds. What I object to is the concept that the state of being a ‘crone’, that is, a female in late-middle-to-old age who is ‘wise’, yet a million miles removed from ever again having sexual intercourse, is something that women should all be looking forward to as they age.
To my knowledge, it was Germaine Greer who is, at least in part, responsible for this concept. That is, that older women should look to the witch or the crone, as opposed to Joan Collins, as a model. Now, it gives me no pleasure at all to criticise Germaine Greer. I think that, unlike most people, she’s often witty and unfailingly interesting, and I could not have agreed with her more about Steve Irwin. She’s a firecracker and, even when she does seem to me to be insane, I would far rather have more Germaines in this world than all the bores by whom we are actually surrounded.
However, I find the whole ‘You’re an old cow now, embrace it,’ concept tremendously depressing. Are the prototypes for women as we age really limited to Zsa Zsa Gabor or the old bag from Hansel and Gretel? Can’t we just go on much as usual, but keeping a keen eye out for the time when bare legs should no longer accompany short skirts, and when continuing to wear our hair below our shoulders will make us look as though we should be appearing in a pantomime and being booed by little children?
It’s like the way middle-aged women carry on about being invisible to men once you’re a female who is over forty. (Invisibility, indeed –why is everything to do with older women bound up with notions from fairytales?) Well, I don’t think that the invisibility business need come to pass at all. First up, it’s quite possible that some of the women saying this were invisible to men when they were still only in their twenties. Second, it’s inescapable that there are a lot of men who are sad old goats and with whom it’s a point of honour not to date any woman over the age of twenty-five, but never forget that this isn’t all of them. Please don’t let the presence of sad old goats in the world convince you that no man can see you anymore.
When I was in my late thirties and had just emerged from a very significant relationship, a friend of mine saw fit to console me with mention of Helen Mirren. That is, that I shouldn’t despair about being old and single when I had women such as she to look up to. This horrified me, as Helen Mirren is something like a quarter of a century older than I am. However, even though I find, having seen her being interviewed and winning an Oscar, Helen Mirren to be affected and conceited, and therefore quite an irritating person, I do give her credit for exemplifying someone who has ignored all the assuming-she-is-invisible-to-men-because-she’s-menopausal balls and is thus reaping the rewards.
This, to me, certainly seems preferable to sinking into cronedom, and the risk of, for example, becoming one of those old women who live alone in apartment buildings and boss everyone else in the building around and generally take it on themselves to run the whole show. Completely give up on being a sexual being and, before you know where you are, you’re presiding over body corporate meetings and having everyone who knows you wishing that you were dead.