"And then I went to the bookstore, to the poetry section, to find something about the beauty of older women and I found nothing" (p. 23).In our youth-obsessed culture, elderly women are not much noticed. But women can feel diminished at any age. The chapters of this book alternate between letters Nan wrote to her husband, Martin, after she ran away and entries she added to a journal she kept of her rambling journey to nowhere in particular. Here, she's thinking about occasions when a woman feels diminished because she is being ignored:
Nan realized later that she had lost herself, which is another way of feeling diminished. Here's what she wrote in a letter to her husband:
And women are left out of the history books, as Nan noticed:
"It seems to me that the working minds and hearts of women are just so interesting, so full of color and life. And one of the most tragic things I've seen is the way that's been overlooked, the way that if you try to discover what the women were doing at any given time in history, you are hard pressed to find out. Why?" (p. 90).When I was in school in the 1940s and 1950s, history lessons were all about men. We had to memorize dates related to kings and wars and when Columbus "discovered" America (he "sailed the ocean blue" in fourteen hundred and ninety two, in case you've forgotten). If a woman was mentioned, she was part of a pair (and was always listed second), as in Ferdinand and Isabella, the monarchs who sent Columbus west to discover a trade route to India.
Aging is difficult for many women, maybe all of us. Sometimes it's the physical aspects of aging that seem most troublesome.
"A woman a bit older than me told me she recently found a hair under her chin and it terrified her so much she got in her car and drove for fifty miles -- nowhere, just around in circles. It was a black hair, she said, stiff as a whisk broom. When she came home she locked the bathroom door and got out her eyebrow tweezers and pulled the thing out. She said she looked at it for a long time, and then she flushed it down the toilet -- flushed it twice. After that she spent a good fifteen minutes checking her face for more hairs. ... It's so humiliating, she told me. It's like you're being punished for something and you've no idea what you've done wrong except age" (pp. 148-149).Nan was a woman on a journey to sort out her life. The first book I have completed for the Women Unbound reading challenge, then, is The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg, 1996. I rate it 8 of 10, a very good book.