Olympics Special: As the Beijing  Olympics approach, the hot news angle has been the notable number of athletes over 45 set to earn medals next month, including  60-year-old Australian equestrian Laurie Lever and Susan Nattrass, who “has received as much coverage for her feat as a six-time
Olympian shot trapper as she has for being a 57-year-old competitor in
Beijing,” says the NY Times’ Tara Parker-Pope. And as AfterEllen.com explains below; in the virally circulated image of swimmer Dara Torres:

This is Dara Torres. Dara is 41, the mother of a two-year-old, a
swimmer, and in 1984, she won an Olympic gold medal.
Now, 22 years
later, returned to attempt to qualify with the U.S. Olympic Swim Team
in Bejing. Lest you think she is hoping for a casual throwback to her
glory days, Torres set the American record in the 50-meter freestyle
just a few weeks ago.

“Everyone says I should be used to this,” she told reporters Tuesday.
“But I feel like I’m 16, getting ready for my first trials. I’m
nervous. I’m excited.”

Here’s the best part of this tale: After giving birth to her daughter,
she had shoulder surgery, then knee surgery, and then she started
training again for the Olympics. Knowing how improbable her recovery
story was, she offered herself up to United States Anti-Doping Agency
officials and volunteered for rigorous testing.

“I said, ‘Look, I want to be an open book. Because I want people to
know that I’m doing this right. That I am 41 years old and I’m clean
and I want a clean sport.”

Second Careers: From Teacher to Hindu Priest. This week has been one for women breaking clerical glass ceilings. To yesterday’s post on Anglican likely-bishop Vivienne Faull add former teacher Shashi Tandon, one of a growing number of Indian-American women becoming the local priest for their Hindu communities.

For some, the chants heard at the service last month sounded like a break from Hindu custom. Priests are traditionally men, but the presiding priest at this wedding was Shashi Tandon, a respected female elder in the Hindu community and the groom’s grandmother.

Since emigrating from New Delhi in 1982, Tandon has presided over countless religious ceremonies for Hindu families in Chicago, Michigan, Wisconsin and elsewhere, filling a void that has emerged because of a shortage of Hindu priests…..Tandon, 68, a retired teacher with a feisty attitude, recalled a group of men mocking her at one wedding she performed. They asked, How can a woman be a priest?

“I said to them, ‘I have a question for you. Can you tell me who gave birth to you?’ ” she said. “The mother is the true priest. She is the true teacher, the first teacher of the child.”

The increase in the number of women filling that role, says Margaret Ramirez of the Chicago Tribune, may resemble the reason why women became the majority of Russia’s doctors: better money available to men elsewhere. She quotes Wellesley South Asian studies professor Neelima Shukla-Bhatt, as saying that she’s seen the trend up close:

Although no firm numbers exist, Shukla-Bhatt said fewer
Hindu-American men are becoming priests. In her own family, she noted
that her father’s cousins were all priests, yet none of their children
took up the profession.

“At one time, it was considered prestigious, but now it is not
considered prestigious at all,” she said. “If you are educated, you do
something more secular. It is considered to be a sign of less educated,
less sophisticated, so not many educated people are interested in
becoming priests.”

Now, educated women like Tandon are taking it on – and getting the next generation, her nearly-midlife daughters, ready to carry on the tradition:

As more women come forward, they have begun to gain appreciation and respect, especially among second-generation Hindu-Americans. Tandon believes many women are losing touch with their religion and are not passing traditions to their children.

“Mothers came to America because they didn’t have enough freedom. Then, after getting freedom, they forgot their culture,” she said. “They are not doing prayers because they don’t know why they need to do them.”

For that reason, Tandon is training her two daughters to perform religious ceremonies. At some point, the community’s growth could lead to the creation of a school for women priests. Until then, she said she will continue to perform services, educating future generations on the rituals and their meaning.

“Every single step of worship has a meaning. Do you know why we use fire? Some Hindus don’t even know,” she said. “Fire gives us light and for us, light is truth.”

MORE magazine editor on”righting the balance” at 51:  A year into her fifties, Lesley Jane Seymour says that it wasn’t until she turned 40 that she really felt free to be who she is without apologies. She welcomes us to “as we say around the office, the f— you fifties”:

been there for a year, and here is my view from 51: Each morning, I
watch my 12-year-old daughter cycle through her closet (and a series of
try-on identities) as she gets ready for school. There’s the preppy
Abercrombie Girl (layered tank tops and skinny jeans). There’s the Kate
Hudson Hippie (miniskirt and Uggs). Then occasionally she whips out the
person I think she really is: Miss All-About-Comfort (butt-inscribed
sweatpants and cropped polo). “You look cute!” I venture as she wedges
herself between me and my bathroom mirror, aching for my approval but
programmed by hostile hormones to reject whatever I say. “Oh, Mother,
stop!” she snarls, and stomps off.

Back in her room, I stare at
the mountain of clothes piled like shucked carapaces on the floor of
her closet and think happily: Midlife may ambush me with unexpected
insults and outrages (hey, are my eyelashes really falling out?!), but
at least I — finally — know who the heck I am.

And just in case you need to evoke your own “inner Streep-in-Prada,” here’s a reminder:

By Chris Lombardi

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