First line: “There are many lifetimes in a lifetime.”
As the title suggests, Women Rowing North considers the issues women face as they cross into old age. Pipher approaches the subject as the clinical psychologist and cultural anthropologist she is, but also as an aging woman herself who knows intimately the waters she discusses. She illuminates the joys and struggles of being an older woman through the stories of other women’s lives. The women she has interviewed are from various walks of life and offer their experiences of ageism, sexism, and loss, but also of increased confidence, gratitude, and a changing perspective.
Pipher goes beyond simply reviewing the issues women face as they age; she also gives guidance on how to age, highlighting the importance of community, family, and of appreciating the good things in life despite the ever-present bad. One such chapter titled Building a Good Day begins with a quote from Iris Mudoch: “One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.”
As a woman approaching middle-age faster than I’m comfortable with, I can say I’m terrified of getting old but actively trying not to be. You don’t have to be 80 or even 50 before you start to see invisibility slowly taking effect. Yet like the women in the book, with each passing year I gain confidence and lose concern with what others think of me. Getting older is also freeing. Reading this book helped me grab onto the real positives of aging and gave me an idea of how to cultivate a healthy approach to the process. It is fascinating to read the first-hand accounts of other women’s experiences with growing older and to see their strategies for coping with a shifting landscape.