I’ve been thinking a lot about old dykes ever since my friend Arleen’s 60th birthday party. (I was going to say “older” dykes, but then I read this great thing by Old Lesbians Organizing for Change. They use “old” instead of “older” to “refute the lie that it is shameful to be an ‘old’ woman.”)
For most of my life I’ve had friends my same age. Then eight years ago, when I was 29, my mother got sick. She died in 2004 at age 60.
During her illness and death, I discovered the truth behind that cliché of finding out who your real friends are when things get rough. A few acquaintances who were about my mother’s age turned out to be the best folks to talk, cry or rant with, or even to laugh with about the ridiculous unfairness of it all. They had lived through enough crap that it didn’t scare them.
At Arleen’s party, I looked around at all the old dykes. A lot of them had spent the day at the Gathering of Lesbians 50 and Older. (Damn, I wish I’d clued in that younger women were welcome, too!)
Arleen, poet and activist, five-foot-nothing with buzzed grey hair and a red silk jacket, was surrounded by an electric group of artists, writers, professors, activists and hot dykes about town. They had survived cancer, the deaths of loved ones, coming out in dangerous times. They were laughing and teasing each other, and reading Arleen poems that made everyone cry.
The sparkly energy in the room reminded me of how I always thought dykes were so amazing that I could never be lucky enough to actually become one.
A friend of mine had cancer a couple of years ago. When she was in the hospital a nurse said to her, “Why do the lesbians have so many visitors?”
It seems to me that dykes have a way of being there for our friends: we roll up our sleeves and drive people to appointments and make dinners and clean houses and give great big hard hugs when people cry. What a great community to grow old in.
So yes, since Arleen’s party I have been thinking about a lot of things. About how it sucks that my (straight) mom never got to be a wise old lady. About how lucky I am to have old women in my life. And about how when I grow up I want to be Arleen.
I want to be able to stand in the middle of a roomful of kickass women who have fought and loved and survived together. I think it would make illness and old age and death a lot less scary.