“How old are you?” The person asking the question is anybody. The respondent is a woman, a woman “of a certain age,” as the French say discreetly. That age might be anywhere from her early twenties to her late fifties. If the question is impersonal-routine information requested when she applies for a driver’s license, a credit card, a passport-she will probably force herself to answer truthfully. Filling out a marriage license application, if her future husband is even slightly her junior, she may long to subtract a few years; probably she won’t. Competing for a job, her chances often partly depend on being the “right age,” and if hers isn’t right, she will lie if she think she can get away with it. Making her first visit to a new doctor, perhaps feeling particularly vulnerable at the moment she’s asked, she will probably hurry through the correct answer. But if the question is only what people call personal-if she’s asked by a new friend, a casual acquaintance, a neighbor’s child, a co-worker in an office, store, factory-her response is harder to predict. She may side-step the question with a joke or refuse it with playful indignation. “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to ask a woman her age?” Or, hesitating a moment, embarrassed but defiant, she may tell the truth. Or she may lie. But neither truth, evasion, nor lie relieves the unpleasantness of that question. For a woman to be obliged to state her age, after a “certain age,” is always a miniature ordeal.
by Jen Lambert
My close friend has a book out. I just read it cover to cover, and although I’ve read most of those poems in various forms throughout the past couple of years, the collection still brought me to tears. It’s a gorgeous expression of passion and heartache, yearning and loss. It’s the paradoxical exhilaration and grief that surround the metamorphosis of woman to wife to mother and then that the long flight back to find the woman again.