Actually, her birthday isn’t till tomorrow, but apparently she’s on the other side of the date line right now. Gail Collins, “This Is What 80 Looks Like”:
Do not bother to call. She’s planning to celebrate in Botswana. “I thought: ‘What do I really want to do on my birthday?’ First, get out of Dodge. Second, ride elephants.”
Very few people have aged as publicly. It’s been four decades since she told a reporter, “This is what 40 looks like.” Back then many women, including Steinem herself, fudged their age when they left their 20s, so it was a pretty revolutionary announcement. A decade later she had a “This is what 50 looks like” party at the Waldorf for the benefit of Ms. Magazine. Steinem, who has frequently said that she expects her funeral to be a fund-raiser, has been using her birthdays to make money for worthy causes ever since. Before heading off to Botswana, she, along with Rabbi Arthur Waskow, was feted at a “This is what 80 looks like” benefit for the Shalom Center in Philadelphia….
There are two reasons that Steinem turned out to be the image of the women’s liberation movement. One did indeed have to do with her spectacular physical appearance. For young women who were hoping to stand up for their rights without being called man-haters, she was evidence that it was possible to be true to your sisters while also being really, really attractive to the opposite sex. (An older generation tended to be less enthusiastic. The Washington Post columnist Maxine Cheshire once called her “the miniskirted pinup girl of the intelligentsia.”)
“I think for her as an individual, in one sense aging has been a relief,” says her friend Robin Morgan. “Because she was so glamorized by the male world and treated for her exterior more than her interior.”
But the interior always mattered. The other thing that made Steinem unique was her gift for empathy. Women who read about her or saw her on TV felt that if they ran into her on the street, they would really get along with her. And women who actually did run into her on the street felt the same way. More than a half-century into her life as an international celebrity, she remains stupendously approachable, patient with questions, interested in revelations. When she goes to events, young women flock around her. All celebrities draw crowds, of course. The difference is that when Steinem is at the center, she’s almost always listening…
I was a college freshman when Steinem made her signature remark, and I wasn’t the only young feminist comforted even though she looked better at 40 than many of us half her age. She made maturity look like something to look forward to, we agreed. Funny thing, in my experience, it’s feminist/progressive men who tend to take umbrage about Steinem “making a career off her looks” — as though it was okay to be smart or attractive, but not both.
Barring unseasonable weather (although really, March in New England has never been other than erratic), what’s on the agenda for the start of another week?