Thursday, 4 February 2016

Challenges for the older woman

I see that my blog followers have lately reduced sharply to only 82. And that the general level of readership is down a bit. I suspect that I've lost a slew of readers who didn't want to follow me into the minefield of older womanhood.

However humdrum it might seem, my constant theme now is the viewpoint of the older woman, and the challenges that face such a person. And believe me, there are some major ones - dread illnesses for example, one or two of them just around the corner for all I know. But also many minor ones. Here's an example.

A couple of days ago the hot tap in my bathroom basin began to misbehave. It was very stiff, and would hardly turn around. Turning it as far as it would go produced barely a trickle of water. Oh dear! Another thing to be fixed! Was it a worn-out washer, or something more serious?

Now time was - ten or twenty years ago, perhaps - when I'd get out some tools and have a go at this myself. I still have all those tools. But somehow my will to use them has evaporated. My DIY self-belief has gone. There is hardly a domestic repair job, except the very simplest involving just a screwdriver, that I would now tackle with confidence. Something has altered inside my head to inhibit me. And it stops me tinkering with broken or worn-out things.

It's not just about lacking sufficient knowledge to get the job done - not that I ever really had that - it's also doubt about not having the necessary manual skill, dexterity and sheer physical strength. And I have a fearful reluctance to take the slightest risks. I am mortally afraid of injuring myself. I am also afraid of turning an ordinary mishap into a dreadful mess. In this case, of cracking the porcelain of the basin, and wrecking the tap so that water will spray everywhere, and the resultant flood proving unstoppable unless I turn the mains supply off. (But what if I can't? Nightmare!)

So my first reaction now, with virtually every job, is to ask for help. Is there a man who can do it?

In this case, there was. I'm lucky enough to have a plumber living next door. I asked Kevin to step in and look at the the tap. He instantly diagnosed badly-corroded moving parts. It was a case of isolating the tap (there was a convenient valve in the bathroom piping that I'd never noticed) and replacing the top half of the tap. It's a standard design, and he had a brand-new identical replacement in his garage. In less than ten minutes, he had the old bit off and the new bit installed. Hot water flowed freely. A little cash changed hands. He showed me the old mechanism. It looked horrible - completely gunged up. He remarked that I wouldn't have been able to remove the old part. It was very, very stiff to unthread with spanners, and needed real strength. There, I knew it. I would have got into a terrible pickle.

But I didn't feel any kind of feeble person. In my view, unskilled sixty-three-year-old ladies shouldn't be messing about with spanners. My instinct now - my social role when faced with a problem - is to get hold of A Man Who Can, point him at a job to be done, pay him a fair price, and duly appreciate the outcome.

Is this the right attitude?

I can think of several women over fifty who might strongly disagree. My cousin Rosemary, for instance - a few years my senior - would scorn to get someone in to tackle every apparently-difficult job that needs doing. She finds a way to do most things. But I am not inspired or shamed or otherwise persuaded that my own efforts will be effective. Perhaps this is a hangover from my previous life, in which my DIY skills, such as they were, had been more-or-less dismissed or ridiculed. Or perhaps it's laziness, egged on by my being able to pay. Whatever the true reason, DIY is one challenge that I shy away from.

But I face up to others. The challenge of living alone, for one. And yet this solitary life without a partner doesn't seem like a stiff test of any kind. But I know friends who do find the single life very hard to bear, and are desolate at the thought of never again having someone to care for. And it's no good telling them that they make too much of the problem, and should be unconcerned.

Still, if you can remain unworried about an issue, it won't be a challenge to you. Which suggests a future strategy of keeping cool and calm about everything might well be best!


  1. Lucy,
    I am a 62 year old MtF, over 10 years now,and I was formerly a jack of all trades.There was no repair or modification that I wouldn't tackle. I have two long term automotive projects outside that I am no longer interested in. The last thing I did was to change the oil on my newish Scion tc(Toyota sport model) because I don't trust anyone else to touch my cars.
    The lonely life scares me. I was previously a very active person with a high profile job (radio DJ) and was very happy but I chose to come and care for my elderly parents in a rural area back in 1997 and I have never been able to leave. Mom is 92 now and life is very hard and lonely.
    I feel guilty for not wanting to be the old repair dude I once was. I know that some health issues are inevitable and I dread facing them alone. I will inherit the family house and land but it is so rural, I plan on selling it and moving to some place more urban, but not back to Dallas.
    I have spent many hours dreaming about that new friend I will make and all of the talking and fun we may have but I am also being realistic. I am a transwoman.
    My best to you.

  2. Julia, I have a single life, but it isn't a lonely one. I have friends close by, and some more within occasional travelling distance. And I live near a buzzing coastal city, Brighton, with London just an hour away by train. Taking on a partner wouldn't add much to my enjoyment of life.

    But I do see some of the problems faced by people who have daunting family responsibilities, and/or geographical isolation. The situations they are stuck with make my own seem very small beer indeed. You seem to be one of them, and I hope I didn't annoy you by making too much of my sink into feebleness.

    I would have once said I was very self-sufficient. Stubbornly so. But I now see that the years ahead will rob me of independence as I become frail, and that I must get used to asking for help.



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