Monday, September 21, 2009

Will the Real Heroine Please Stand Up?


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?

20 comments:

Debbie Kaufman said...

Morning Cinthia! I am now the oldest woman in my family line, a matriarch by default. Heroine? Maybe. Wish I had one of those mature ones around!

Cinthia Hamer said...

Good morning, Debbie. Wow, such a young matriarch. LOL! That just means you have a lot of years to enjoy your elevated status. :)

And if you look around, you'll see plenty of mature heroines. I can think of two right off the bat. Sandra Chastain and Nancy Knight. Two very awesome women in my book.

Cyrano said...

Congrats, congrats to you and your daughter!!!
And what nice pics.
The mature heroine in my life I'd most like to emulate is my grandma.
My mom's mom is a force of nature. She just had her ninetieth birthday this past weekend (along with my 13 yr old daughter, wooo, busy weekend!) She's a little bent in the shoulders, walks incredibly slow, but she's sharp as a tack and very, very funny. Her wit is legendary and it seems anyone who meets her falls in love with her.
I hope to be like her. Live a long, happy, productive, loving life and still be able to make people laugh out loud!
Thanks so much for the glimpse into your world Cynthia.
Loved the post.
Have a nice, if rainy day,
Tamara

Cinthia Hamer said...

Good morning, Tamara. Birthday greetings to your grandma and daughter.

Your grandma sounds like my dad's mother. She lived to be 94. Kept her nursing license up to date until she was 80 and even though I didn't get to see her very often, my speech is peppered with her words. :)

Stay anchored today and don't float away.

J Perry Stone said...

I love what you said about the term "mature heroine" being elastic.

That's a very good point. It's all a matter of vantage point, I suppose.

As for my mature heroines, that would most definitely be my mother and, even though my closest friends are older than me, I wouldn't call them mature heroines unless they didn't mind it ... but they are and you know who you are.

As for whether I'm a mature heroine, yes. I really do see myself that way. I'm a mature heroine who has the energy and lightheartedness of a 16 year old ... but the ass and, hopefully, wisdom of a mature heroine.

Love the pictures, Cindy! Summer looks gorgeous as does the mother of the bride.

Cinthia Hamer said...

Good morning, JPS. Thank you for the compliment. :)

This past couple weeks, as I thought about what I would write, I couldn't define exactly what makes a mature heroine. I know that in the romance genre, the difference between mature and crone is slight, at best. LOL! I'd love for that to change and start seeing books on the shelves with heroines not just in their forties, but fifties and beyond. You're never too old to find love and happiness.

Linsey Lanier said...

Cinthia,
What a poignant post. You descriptions of these noble women brought tears to my eyes.

Great pictures, too. Congratulations to your daughter. I hope she'll and her new hubby will be very happy.

Sandra Chastain and Nancy Knight are definitely wonderful role models. They get my vote for mature heroines.

Linsey

Cyrano said...

Wish I could have met your grandma.
Bet she was quite a gal.
Hopefully everyone has someone in their lives like these ladies.

Luv,
Tamara

Darcy Crowder said...

Cinthia -

Congratulations to your family and the new bride and groom. I agree, the pictures are lovely.

Wonderful post. Isn't it amazing that 40 is supposedly the new 20, but that's not reflected in most romance these days.

And yes, Nancy and Sandra are amazing women.

Darcy

CiCi Barnes said...

Aah, Cinthia, such moving descriptions of the mature women in your life. Thanks for sharing.

After my mother's -- a true mature heroine in so many ways -- passing in March, the matriarch torch was handed to me for our family. I'm not ready for that. I need my mother and so does our family.

Embrace those mature heroines in your personal life.

CiCi

Maxine Davis said...

Cinthia,

Loved your post. Beautiful pictures!!

It's funny. I just don't think of myself as my real age. It always surprises me when I realize it. BUT I have a ball, am happy, and feel young - well, minus the slower walk, the aches, oh, you will know what I'm talking about one day.

I have some and have had some aunts, great aunts, mother, grandmother - and I could go on - that have been such wonderful role models. Really mature heroines. I guess that's one more thing I can feel - Lucky.

Best wishes for your daughter. She must be as lovely as her mom.

Michelle said...

I love you post! I think we only need look around us to find perfect examples of love at any age. My grandmother's last boyfriend was at the age of 90 and he lived next to her in the assisted living place. At her funeral (age 94) he brought a dozen roses to toss in her grave. Love is such an amazing and awe inspiring thing to behold.

Sandy Elzie said...

Hi Cinthia,

Lovely description of the ladies at the wedding. You appear to respect them and I think that's something some younger women have lost...respect for the older women in their lives. Older women have seen more, done more, lost more and want to give more than anyone can imagine but some of the younger generation think they're old fashioned or...(shudder), stupid because they don't know how to text or don't have a Facebook account.

Lovely pictures and a great post.

Sandy

Marilyn Baron said...

I loved your post and it brought tears to my eyes, too.

I guess I would say my mother would be my example of a mature heroine. She has more energy than I am and is involved in everything. She's over 80 but doesn't seem that old at all.

I don't feel my age either. I'm glad you are a champion of the mature heroine. Our day will come.

Congratulations on the wedding.

Marilyn Baron

Susan May said...

Great post. Most of the woman in my family have lived until mid-eighty and were going strong up until they died.

Cinthia Hamer said...

Good evening, Ladies.

Had to work today so was not able to respond to the later posts.

Thank you so much for all your positive comments, and for your congratulations to the bride and groom. I'll pass them on.

Tamara, everyone who met my grandma loved her. My youngest daughter was born on Grandma's birthday, so has her name--Alta, as her middle name.

Cici, condolences on the loss of your mom. It's been twenty years since my mom passed and I still miss her.

Sandy, I think the best way to honor the memories of our mother's is to be the best role models we can for the younger women in our lives. Even if they don't appreciate us now, they will someday.

Marilyn, I completely understand about not feeling your age. Inside of me is a sixteen year old screaming to get out! LOL!

Susan, glad you have the combination of longevity and vigor in your family. My greatest fear is that I'll live to a ripe old age but do something stupid like break a hip.

Ana Aragón said...

Hey, Cinthia,

Great post! I've had some great mature heroines in my family. Most of the women on my mother's side live well into their 90s. I'm hoping to be like my grandmother. When she was 90, she climbed a rickety old ladder to reach the swamp cooler on her roof! My uncle "stole" her ladder to keep her safe. And the summer before she passed, I helped her in her garden. She even chopped her own wood for her wood stove and made homemade flour tortillas every day!

My mom is 85 this week and still babysits great-grandchildren!

Thanks for the lovely memories...and sharing your life with us. Summer is as beautiful as her mother!

Ana

Cinthia Hamer said...

Ana, your grandmother sounds like a woman I would greatly admire. Thanks for posting!

Tami Brothers said...

I'm chiming in here late. Sorry about that!

Great post, Cinthia! I love this story. Really makes you take a closer look at the people in our lives and the ones that surround us. Everyone has a story and I think a lot of people would benefit from hearing them!

Tami

Anna Steffl said...

Another late arrival!

Man, I know several women who didn't get married and try to have a child until late 30's early 40's. Mostly very professional, driven ladies. In no way is it extremely odd! Maybe for the majority of romance novels, but not for life.

I'm 43. Yes, I'm mature -- and proud of it!

Lovely post and thanks for sharing the details of the wedding!