Gloria Steinem at 80

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Gloria Steinem has often joked she expects her funeral to be a fund raiser. After all, she’s been throwing fund raising birthdays ever since she turned 40 and told a reporter: “This is what 40 looks like.”

Late last month she turned 80 and before jetting off to Botswana to celebrate by riding an elephant she had a “This is what 80 looks like” benefit in Philadelphia.

And, as the New York Times reports, ever the positive thinker, she compiled a list of good things about starting her ninth decade.

Dwindling Libido A Plus

A dwindling libido, she theorized, can be a terrific advantage: “The brain cells that used to be obsessed are now free for all kinds of great things.

“I try to tell younger women that, but they don’t believe me,” she said in a pre-Botswana interview. “When I was young I wouldn’t have believed it either.”

And another advantage: “Your old lovers get to be your really old lovers, and you can’t remember who broke up with who, or who got mad at who — just that the two of you remember things that no one else in the world does.”

Still Living On the Move

The “face of feminism” since her 20s, Steinem still spends most of her life on the move.

Today Botswana, tomorrow India, Los Angeles a week from tomorrow. There are new invitations for book tours in Bhutan and Bangladesh. Steinem has never taken up sports and gets her exercise, she says, “just running around airports and cities.”

Most of what she does still involves moving the movement forward; giving speeches, taking part in panel discussions, attending fund raisers.

She frequently travels alone but it’s not lonely, she says: “On the plane I have my flying girlfriends, who are called flight attendants.”

Seriously Loving Aging

Fifty was a shock, she says, because it was the end of the centre period of her life. When she got over that, the 60s and 70s were “great.”

“And I loved, seriously loved, aging. I found myself thinking things like: ‘I don’t want anything I don’t have’ How great is that?”

But 80 is about more than aging, she says; “It’s about mortality.”

Some Things Better

Her friend Robin Morgan says Steinem at 8o is still evolving. “She is a better organizer than she has ever been. And a better writer, if she gives herself time to sit down and think.

But even she hasn’t developed any final answers. “We’re so accustomed to narratives, we expect there’s going to be a conclusion, an explanation, or answer to the secret,” she says.

“And probably there isn’t.”


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