Sunday, November 8, 2015

Gloria Steinem is 81 and Still Cool

Gloria Steinem is 81!
Fish Without a Bicycle
Illustration, copyright Teece Aronin

And she doesn't look all that different from how she looked back in the day, back when we could expect something just a little cutting yet somehow elegant flying from her lips to the media's ear on an almost daily basis.

But I'm throwing water on one of the most fiery arguments Steinem ever made: that a woman's looks don't have to define her, nor should women be sexually objectified. I agree.

I mention Steinem's looks only in the context of her being 81, and it seems the cosmic force that launched her into our 1960s psyches, now stirs something into Steinem's coffee with a magic finger that makes her close to ageless; this, so that she can challenge and guide us in the form with which we became so comfortable years ago.

While I can't embrace every Steinem message, I have a sense that she's closer to right than I am and that I often miss her point. Remember when she quipped, "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle?" Were I a fish, I would still rather hop onto, and then ride, the bicycle. But I probably should aspire to a more full-on embrace of Steinem's point of view.

Then again, perhaps I have. After all, I have reached the point where I don't see myself as needing a man, simply preferring to share life with one. And where Steinem artfully articulated contempt for the notion that women need men, sometimes I really do need a man because I've never ridden a bicycle that . . . well, once maybe.

And if a woman wants to get someplace on a bike while enjoying a man's company and not having to pedal, she needs a man. Just ask Katherine Ross. After Paul Newman rode her all around the barnyard in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Ross' beautiful bum no doubt ached for hours, but at least her legs didn't get tired. And since that's always the tradeoff in that situation, I prefer to see the bike tire as half full.

I wonder if I'm now guilty of objectifying men. Ugh, liberation, equity and equality can be tricky. Let's just say that I have a great liking for men, for many of their perspectives, and for their hard work and companionship. And yes, I do see the genders as equals. 

But what really gets me, I say as I miss Steinem's point yet again, is that I'll never look as good as she when I'm 81. There are recent photos of her all over the Internet, promoting her memoir, still lean, still clad in tight-fitting jeans and body-hugging tops with a belt loosely draped around her slender hips.

Arriving home at the end of a long book tour, does Steinem groan as she eases onto the edge of the bed; does she whine as she pulls off her boots? Does she grimace while removing her jeans? Does she then step gingerly into her walk-in tub, "perfect for the senior with mobility issues?" And does she have this walk-in tub because she can't get out of an ordinary tub unassisted? I think not.

I'm 57, and already think twice about sitting in a tub without a Life Alert pendant, an on-call nurse's assistant, an MD, and a chiropractor in the building.

But something tells me Steinem has a regular bathtub and that she gets in and out of it as easily as ever because Gloria Steinem is just that cool.

And because Steinem probably needs a walk-in tub like a fish needs a bicycle.