Embracing Our Inner Dowager
By Wendy Reid Crisp,
Editor-in-Chief of GRAND magazine,
and author of “When I Grow Up I Want To Be 60”
When I was a kid, the town was full of old ladies. Everyone was a widow in those days – there\’d been two wars, a depression, and no antibiotics. (I started school the first year that penicillin was commonly available. Penicillin was to become a staple in our house: in the refrigerator, beside the milk, which sloshed around in a deep aluminum pan waiting for the thick layer of cream to be skimmed off, sat a row of tiny bottles with red rubber tops that allowed the easy insertion of a syringe by my mother, a nurse.)
Now dowagerdom confronts me. And, I\’m trying to be so careful. I don\’t roll stockings below my knees. I don\’t tuck lavender-scented hankies into my bosom. I don\’t even say the word “bosom.”
Every other dowager characteristic, however, I have begun to manifest.
Monday noon, at my office, I heard sobbing. A woman was crying in what is our town\’s only elevator shaft. Everybody\’s having a breakdown, I thought. Why can\’t they fall apart in their own homes? I\’m try to work here.
The crying continued. Finally, I went out to put a stop to this nonsense.
This is the limit! I thought, using a handy phrase that has been in the family since they stopped speaking German and one I didn\’t use until I was 60. She\’s locked herself in the elevator! How selfish! I\’m going right back in my office and call the manager.
I did. He was busy, however, handling a frightened woman on one line and the Otis elevator repairman on the other. Seems a safety shut-off occurred jamming a woman – a young friend of mine who was headed to my office – between floors for nearly an hour.
Following her release she was ready for a cup of tea, which I fixed immediately, just like old Mrs. Weatherbee would have done, and while my young friend drank it, I reminded her that it had been only an hour, and not 41 hours like that poor man in New York who even ended up losing his job and his friends because of his subsequent obsession with his entrapment; and even if something had snapped, she would have fallen only two floors, enough for a sprain, perhaps, but hardly fatal; and finally, let\’s get down to business here because I\’ve set this afternoon aside, and if we let all of life\’s little episodes detour us from our plans, there\’s no hope whatsoever for civilization.