In this week’s Wednesday 5: a middle-aged student writes of finding a sense of belonging with twenty-something-year-old classmates; a Saudi Arabian woman makes history at the top of Mount Everest; the funny things said when women say no to having children; the No. 1 killer of girls aged 15 to 19 globally is not a disease; and remembering the anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s extraordinary journey.
Back to School
Lisa Peet writes that she’s been thinking of Rodney Dangerfield (Back to School) a lot lately. Why? She’s starring in her own version of the movie. “Most of the people I go to school with don’t remember when you could smoke in bars. They are 24, 28, some in their early 30s. A handful are in their 40s, but I’m consistently the oldest person in every class of mine. As it turns out, that’s not a bad thing by a long shot.” Last year, at age 48, Peet returned to graduate school and enrolled in the Pratt Institute’s School of Library and Information Science. She realized, she says, “how poorly my odd little niche job [in publishing] had equipped me for the marketplace.” And while the buzz continues on the growing trends toward middle-aged students, Peet declares that returning to school has been an act of keeping her brain active as much as it is about future career goals. She shares a poignant retelling of how she lost both parents to dementia and how the rigors of graduate school as a 48-year-old have reinforced for her a sense of belonging.
Read more on “Experience Required: Back to School” at Bloom.
Also: “Older Women: The Bonus Evolution Hadn’t Planned On.” WVFC contributor Jennifer Cheyne (50) finds that she’s happy in her own skin—even admidst her beautiful twentysomething classmates at Berkeley.
Another Milestone for Saudi Arabian Women
Often when we report on the state of women in Saudi Arabia, it’s not good news. The nation remains one of the most oppressive states for women in the world. For example, when the latest headlines coming out of Saudi Arabia are that women are now allowed to ride bicycles in public parks, we are thrilled at the progress, but simultaneously daunted that in 2013 this is the milestone we are celebrating. Nevertheless, we’ve embraced the understanding that progress will be slow and steady. That’s why news that 25-year-old Raha Moharrak has made history by becoming “the first Saudi woman to attempt the climb but also the youngest Arab person to make it to the top of Everest.” Moharrak has shared publicly that getting her family to agree to her climb “was as great a challenge as the mountain itself.” Of her groundbreaking accomplishment, she says, “I really don’t care about being the first. So long as it inspires someone else to be second.”
When Women Say No to Having Children
Mother’s Day has come and gone. And Maria Popova at Brain Pickings asks us to consider the culture of motherhood we have found ourselves in: “What does it say about a culture when its only national holiday celebrating womanhood celebrates women’s uterine capacity or adoptive aspirations?” In the new book No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood, edited by comedy writer Henriette Mantel, women writers, comedians, and politicians like Cheryl Bricker, Cindy Caponera, Jane Gennaro, Judy Morgan, Carol Siskind, Suzy Soro, and Amy Stiller weigh in on what it’s like to live (and want) a “child-free life.” Read Popova’s blog for excerpts of some of the more funny and poignant essays from the book. In the meantime, here are a few of our favorites:
“I was always too self-centered and irresponsible to have kids. I know that never stopped many others, but I am a narcissist with a conscience.” —Debbie Kasper
“It is not an experiment in which I will have the chance to participate. Motherhood is not in the cards for me. Is it a loss? How would I know? I’m too busy living. I am blessed with a full, healthy, and interesting life. And then every once in a while, true to my gender, I ask myself: How would I feel if I were someone’s mother? And how would that someone feel about me? I will never know. “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” — Jeanne Dorsey
“That pang [for motherhood] is about feeling out of step with the stages of life more than of having missed out on them. This is not to say that I haven’t, for maybe I have, but I have also been too busy to notice. Good, bad; up, down; I continue to stay the course. Still part of the non-civilian us, still in the city, I still continue the pursuit of my dreams. It’s who I am and how I live.” — Laurie Graff
Also: WVFC’s contributor Eleanore Wells has given much thought to the consequences of choosing not to have children: “Single, Child-Free, and Getting Older: Should I Be Worried?”
What Is the No. 1 Killer of Girls Aged 15 to 19 Globally?
The No. 1 killer is not an actual disease.
In many developing countries, when girls as young as 15 (and even younger) are getting married and getting pregnant, there can be serious physical consequences. Pregnancy and childbirth are the #1 killers of girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide—but as this infographic from The Girl Effect shows, investing just $17 in family planning (as in gynecological and prenatal care for pregnant women) and contraceptives can empower not only individual girls, but their entire communities.
Women in History: Amelia Earhart
Yesterday, May 21 (1932), marked the day that Amelia Earhart landed in Ireland after a 15-hour trip, becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. In this week’s dose of inspiration and grit, we share with you a short clip of her extraordinary journey: 15 hours from Newfoundland to Northern Ireland. Read more at bio.com.