ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: The headline was a grabber: "Older women team up to face future together." It wasn't buried either, but right on the front of The New York Times. The article went on to say that baby-boomer women are trying to figure out how to grow old differently, better, happier. In short, they are looking for ways to be together, to live together, to make end-of-life good on that old notion of sisterhood.
These are my peers, my generational group. I had already, in fact, had numbers of conversations with friends about doing precisely this-- pooling our resources, sharing a house, establishing a compound. Please, no retirement villas, no assisted living homes, no convalescent hospitals. Not if we can help it. We have seen those in our rounds, many of us, as we tried to find places for aging parents. Some of us have had to leave a deeply loved but now diminished mother or father in one of those places, some of them just as bright and cheerful and efficient as you can imagine, and it was still wrenching. No, not for us, let us find a different way. After all, we had done that from the outset: Found a different way. Raised as good girls in the 1950s, we were kicked into a whole new world in the 1960s and '70s.
SPOKESPERSON: The girls get a boot out of wearing kooky boots, while the simple act of getting into a car becomes a major maneuver for the short skirt wearer.
ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: What it meant to be young and female was completely redefined, blown wide open. We went from frilly dresses to blue jeans, from pool typists to construction workers, from teacher's college to law school, from injunctions against sex to birth control pills in the heartbeat of a decade.
SINGING: We shall overcome...
ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: And at the heart of it for so many of us was the friendship of other women, those women we crossed into the brave new world with, laughing with and crying with and agitating with and climbing up those professional ladders with. We walked down wedding aisles together and raised children together.
More recently, we've attended the funerals of each others' parents, and sometimes of each other's husbands and sometimes of each other's children. And yes, there has been some competition inevitably, but our sense of shared adventure such that the comradeship often overrode the competition.
So why shouldn't we grow old together? Why shouldn't consolidate our 401Ks and our Social Security checks, whatever we've been able to hold onto through divorces and widowhood? We will be our own assisted living consortiums, traveling with each other when we still can, and looking after each other when we can't. Yes, even all that messy stuff of bathing and dressing and pushing each other's wheelchairs.
I don't hear men talking this way. These intimate friendships and this caretaking are not deep in the marrow of men the way they are for the women I know. It is the luck of the gender, a way of maintaining some hard won independence through a kind of interdependence, rather than dependence on long scattered, long grown children or hired caregivers.
We'll no doubt weep together when there are more losses, and laugh together about walkers and botox, about hobbling in on the former to get the latter. And we'll take pride in offering up a new less lonesome model for facing age in America.
I'm Anne Taylor Fleming.