A few weeks ago, my daughter got married—at the ripe old age of twenty-nine. Not so long ago in history, she would probably have remained a spinster if she hadn’t found herself a husband before the age of say, twenty-three. Unless of course, she got desperate and married some old geez in his forties with a passel of children in need of a female influence in their lives.
If my daughter were a character in a novel, she’d be described as a mature heroine. A Cinderella who, for one reason or another, didn’t find her Prince Charming until she had a few (or more than a few) years of life experience behind her.
As I sat, watching the ceremony, I couldn’t help but think of all the women surrounding me witnessing Summer’s marriage. Each of them has their own story, and each, in her own way is a Mature Heroine, too.
I consider myself blessed to look quite a few years younger than my birth certificate states. I found and married my Prince Charming right out of high school, and was still in my teens (barely!) when Summer was born. Thanks to good DNA, I don’t look like the mother of a woman pushing thirty. I was a youthful mother of the bride, but plenty mature as far as age and experience go.
Contrastingly, the mother of the groom is, in the eyes of the world at large, a “senior citizen”. She’s had her AARP card for a while, her hair is silver and evidence of decades of smiles wreath her eyes. She chose a career over motherhood until her mid-thirties. The very definition of the modern mature heroine.
Behind me, sat my Aunt Sally. I want to be her when I grow up. Sally is eighty-five and one of the most energetic, loving, giving women I know. She’s got snow white hair, and more than a few wrinkles. But she walks as upright as a Cherokee brave, her mind is as sharp as a Ginsu knife and until just this past year, she drove herself all over the country in her little Honda visiting friends and family. She’s survived being an unwed pregnant teen in an era when nice girls didn’t, as well as two devastating divorces. She didn’t find the love of her life until she was forty. Her son was grown and she’d already been a full-time working mom for two decades. Henry was twenty-odd years older and they were blissfully happy until, tragically, he was murdered by the crazy old man next door.
On the other side of the aisle, sat the groom’s grandmother. She’s a mere two years older than Sally, but is a fragile flower of a woman. She married the love of her life barely out of her teens and raised four daughters to responsible adulthood during the height of the flower child movement. Her back is bowed by osteoporosis, she uses the assistance of a walker to get around, and about three years ago, moved into a senior citizen village where her meals are prepared for her, she can play bridge in the comfort of the community room and emergency care is available twenty-four hours a day. She lost her Prince Charming a few years back and he took her heart to heaven with him.
After writing this, I’ve realized that the term mature heroine is quite elastic. Mature can mean chronologically old, yet young at heart or quite the opposite. And just because a woman passes a certain birthday, that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s ceased being a vital woman with plenty of love and passion left in her.
As a writer and a reader, I’ve been drawn to and intrigued by the mature heroine. When I see a manuscript (and not just mine!) get a comment such as “nobody wants to read about a forty-year-old woman who falls in love for the first time”. Or “A woman having her first child over the age of forty is unrealistic”, I shake my head, confused. Are all these women around me living unrealistic lives? Or is the critiquer the one who is unrealistic?
Who are the mature heroines in your life? Would you consider yourself to be a mature heroine?