Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Woman Like That

This portrait by Joyce Tenneson from her book Wild Women has always moved me. Perhaps that's why when I first saw it in a magazine, I tore it out and taped it to the wall in my office, where it's been hanging for years now. Elva Azzara, 93: I can still remember what it feels like to love with all my heart. Is it the look of sweetness in her face? Is it the feeling? I want to be a woman like that.

And then last night I went to see a documentary called "I Know a Woman Like That," made by mother-daughter team Elaine and Virginia Madsen, where they traveled the country interviewing inspiring older women between 64-94, not ready to retire but passionately engaged in life. Treasures included Lauren Hutton (more fabulous than ever), totally marching to her own drum; Rita Moreno, gorgeous and soulful, full of wisdom; Gloria Steinem saying, "if you want to know what you'll be like after 60 just think about who you were when you were 9,10, 11 years old...when you were still bold and fearless, before you learned to tame yourself, becoming 'a female impersonator,'" and everyone laughed out loud. The room at the Evanston Library was packed to fire hazard status, with people standing and sitting on the floor, cheering at the end.

I'm also listening to a fantastic audio book in my car: Traveling With Pomegranates, by Sue Monk Kidd (Secret Life of Bees) and her daughter Anne, narrated by the two of them, each chapter read in their voices,  journal entries of a joint trip they took to Greece at a turning point in their lives.

Mothers, daughters, aging. Last Sunday, Mother's Day; tomorrow, my mother's birthday. If she were still alive, she would be 90. I miss her every day.

And now I am my own mother, my own daughter. I am 55, no longer in my "youth" and not yet "old." I remember reading a quote about how the great thing about getting older is that we don't lose any of our earlier selves, we become an accumulation of all of them.  I like that.

And so I collect examples of others ahead of me, doing the same. This photo, film and book are three of them. I want to be a woman like that.


  1. Wonderful post. Thank you.

    I must see that movie!

  2. Arlene, I am going straight for the book and the movie. Thank you for this lovely post!

  3. I want to be a woman like you! Thank you for inspiring me yet again.

  4. u made my heart smile ...once again.

  5. Great post! I like that picture too! Patsy from

  6. I love your posts, I love the way you see the world, look, observe and document..You are my sister...I mean it so Arlene...