AI: Awesome Older Women

I happened to stumble over this video of a group calling themselves the “Raging Grannies” giving a good smackdown to CBS for rejecting a gay dating site commercial, but accepting the anti-choice ad of Tim Teabag–um, Teabow.

As the Old Skepchickâ„¢ (also known as the SkepBiddy, but not a SkepMILF, since I am childless) I really hope that this is what I’ll be like when I retire.  And retirement…well, it’s closer than I want, but not nearly close enough.

I actually ENJOY being an older woman. My 40’s have been the best decade ever for me.  I’m old enough that I take shit from no one, and I’ve had enough experience to be good at what I do.  I get to mentor kids and try to make their experience as women in science better than mine.  (When I started as a graduate student, only about 3% of entomologists were women.)

Granted, now that I’m in menopause, I do experience some unpleasantness. If I could just get a heat exchanger to stick to my head, I’m sure I could generate enough electricity to run my laptop. And there is some sagging.
In fact, there’s a lot of sagging, so let’s just not go there.

I was lucky enough to have an amazing older woman who always believed in me–my Grandmother.  She was one of the smartest women I’ve ever known, and also the kindest.  The men that supported me the most as a young entomologist were the Emeritus Faculty–lovely old men with pants up around their armpits who always smelled of mothballs.  Since they had already achieved success in their field, I think they weren’t threatened by the arrival of someone very different.

What older folks (especially women) do you look up to in your life? What do you hope to do when YOU reach retirement age?


Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

Related Articles


  1. What older folks (especially women) do you look up to in your life?

    My wife. (Ooh, I’m gonna get it.)

    More seriously my mom. She set a course straight through life with few compromises and few concerns with social convention. She and my father jointed decided in the late 60’s that the Catholic church was just making crap up and they became atheist on the spot. For a life-long Catholic that was pretty amazing. I wish I had been older to absorb more details. She also had to endure a life-long estrangement from her parents in order to attend college. How many 17 year olds have this kind of determination?

    What do you hope to do when YOU reach retirement age?

    How do you decide when to retire? How much savings is enough? This is a question that torments me daily. The “what” is easy. Among other things my parents taught me was to seek out hobbies that are fulfilling. I fully expect to just do more of what consumes me outside work these days: biking, cooking, sewing, coding, furniture building, photography, birding, reading, annoying people…

  2. My mother, who is in her mid-fifties, teaches middle school, rides a motorcycle, and subverts the hell out of gender schemata.

    Do media role-models count? If so, the Golden Girls. I used to watch them with my grandmother, who pointed out when I was seven that they were the only older women on television who were more than just someone’s mother or grandmother, who lived their own lives, and worked, and fought, and were unabashedly sexual and self-possessed.

    And that’s pretty much what I want to do when I’m retired. Really, that’s pretty much what I want to do, period.

  3. One of my former co-workers was an older (I’ll say “around 60”) lady who, despite having been married several times to abusive husbands, and despite watching her daughter battle for years with breast cancer, is one of the strongest and most “up” people I’ve ever met. We used to smoke like chimneys and drink coffee on our breaks, and after work we’d go to the porch on back of the kitchen we worked in and do the same for a few minutes while waiting for our cars to warm up (only with cheap beer instead of coffee then). She’ll take shit from no one, and she’ll do anything for her kids and grandkids – she sold her half of a lucrative restaurant in New York and gave the profits to her son and daughter when she moved down to live near them. Have I mentioned the students at the boarding school we worked at loved her?

    I don’t know if I’ll ever have kids, and I don’t really exactly know what I’ll be like when I get older, either. I just hope I’ll be that old guy that the young ‘uns want to be like when they get old…maybe be that awesome old man with a great record collection who you buy weed from occasionally. ;)

  4. When I feel a pity party coming on, I have my mother to put me to rights. She’s 88 and does an amazing job of conquering the little things every day. I say little things because they are now – climbing a step stool, walking to the store, going up and down stairs, talking on the phone, threading needles…

    When she complains, there is a damn good reason for it. I try to follow her example. It’s the least I can do for my kids.

    Retirement? Never. I’m bad enough as it is. People would kill me for their own good after 3 days!

  5. I think i’m a weirdo. I really romanticize retirement. I think we’re a growing society and i just don’t think my life will be over when i leave my 20’s by any stretch, in fact i think it’s just going to get better. I figure retirement is a GREAT time to travel a lot and blow all of our future wee ones’ inheritances. It sounds like a really fun time to me. More free time in a point in your life when you really know who you are and what you need to be happy.

  6. I want to be exactly like my Grandmother.

    She is HILARIOUS, insanely talented, and super freakin’ awesome.

    When you do a Google search for “Lee Barnum”, this is the very first link that comes up:

    She even has her own IMBD page! It’s very minimal, but still.

    She is hands down the coolest grandmother ever.

    She’s an actress, playwright, she has her very own registered clown costume/makeup, she loves to tell stories, she doesn’t hold back, and did I mention she’s hilarious?

    She’s been in several indie flicks in North Dakota, and teaches drama classes to kids. Kids LOVE her. A lot. She’ll tell animated story after animated story for hours. Indeed, I’m pretty sure she’s known as The Cool Grandma on her block. She used to throw huge block parties.

    She also has a huge rack (most of us women do), and she walks with her head held high, and her chest poofed out and up: “If I got it, you bet I’m gonna flaunt it!” Looove her.

    Also, yes, I am related to *that* PT Barnum.

  7. What older folks (especially women) do you look up to in your life?

    My grandmother on dad’s side. She’s not here anymore, but she had a razor wit and would definitely speak her mind. I thought it was great that she still remembered her Latin from college when she was in her 80’s (better than I’ll do I’m sure). It was a shame that she never finished her college education (to help support the family after a parents death especially), she would have made an awesome schoolteacher.

    What do you hope to do when YOU reach retirement age?

    Either be involved indirectly or directly with teaching and science literacy. I guess I’m already doing that NOW, since I volunteer/mentor currently along those lines, but it’d be nice for it to be my main focus. Or I’ll just be the old guy that has craters in his yard from testing his latest death ray. The kids WILL take me seriously when I tell them to get off my lawn.

  8. I look up to my Mom because she’s suffered major brain and physical damage causing her to lose her ability to walk TWICE now in my lifetime. (Once was a car accident when I was a baby and then a major stroke about 7 years ago, she was 52.) And she is just the nicest woman. She talks to EVERYBODY and is so friendly and smiley. She’s always working to get better and is fiercely independent.

    I also look up to my grandmother on my dad’s side, she died 15 years ago at 83, but she was an amazing woman. She owned her own business in the 1950s and 60s, and she kept a python and a boa constricter IN HER OFFICE at work. She was married 4 times before 1950, we’re pretty sure she divorced at least two of those men because they hit her. She was also an amazing crafter and artist, and she told the best stories. I miss her.

    I’m really luck to have so many strong women in my family.

  9. Hmm…what do I want to be like at retirement age?


    I’m going to be 30 next year and it terrifies me. On one hand, I’m afraid of getting old. Its something challenging. I don’t like challenges, I might fail. On the other hand, I get tired of hearing from older people “anyone under 30 has no credability. Sorry, but the whole “Must be this old to be listened to” thing doesn’t fly with me. I know a lot, and if I don’t know something, I keep my mouth shut.

    An old person I respect, my maternal grandfather. He was quite a live wire, and a hrny little bstrd. He worked for Lockheed Martin and the Air Force and survived 3 different plane crashes.

  10. My maternal grandmother rocked. She owned two successful businesses, a clothing store and a foodie kitchen shop, she drove fire fighters through raging fires in the 1930’s to get them to the fire lines and put up with living on the Olympic Peninsula (nice to visit but total suck place to live) where my grandfather worked as a forest ranger. She was profoundly normal and sensible, and she knew how to raise a great eyebrow when her BS detector went off.

  11. What’s “retirement age”? My mother kept working till she was 76 – she was a social worker in the child abuse section and the department didn’t want her to leave, as she was the first worker they’d had who didn’t burn out in about 18 months. [My mother has a one-track mind: ‘Child-abuse-bad-catching-jailing-abusers-good-do-it!’]

    I hope to keep doing what I’m doing for many more years; my only fear is debilitating arthritis. That stopped my grandmother in her 70s. Before that, she was an amazing seamstress.

  12. I look up to my grandfather, I’d like to be like him when I get older, minus the deaf and senile part. As for a woman, I look up to any woman who pushes the boundries and doesn’t back down when told they can’t do something, those that never give up on themselves.

    As for what I want to do when I retire, I’d like to sit on my front porch and yell at the damn kids to get off my lawn, and I’d take all of their balls that come over the fence into my yard and hang them from a really tall tree in my yard like ornaments. Or I could go the crazy war veteran route, both seem like they could be entertaining, its a tough choice.

  13. My Grandma. She sadly passed away a few years ago, but I really look up to her and what she did. She was an amazingly intelligent, nice, strong woman who worked ’til she was 65 – longer than her husband – and only stopped because she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She beat the cancer (with the help of chemo and radiation) and stayed strong through the entire process. She used to help me with my homework when she got home from the doctor’s. She taught me a lot and I’ll always love and admire her for that.

  14. My father-in-law is pretty cool. Since retiring he’s used his time to learn sanskrit, ancient greek, chinese, coptic, hebrew, tibetan, and the clarinet.

  15. One example of an awesome older woman that immediately came to my mind was someone that I never met, and didn’t even get to know her name….

    A couple years ago, I went to the Bonneville salt flats during Speed Week, when crazy people try to set land speed records. The starting line announcer mentioned that the next racer was celebrating her 71st birthday that day. She threw her leg over her motorcycle, headed off down the long course (about 7 miles long) and collected her 200 miles per hour time slip at the other end.

    Go granny, go. I want to be like her when I grow up.

  16. So I’m the only one who started thinking about Ronnie McDowell?

    Older women are beautiful lovers
    Older women they understand
    I’ve been around some, and I have discovered
    Older women know just how to please a man…

  17. The summer before I started college my dad retired and moved to a warmer climate, so I went to live with my mother’s cousin. She was almost two decades older than my mother so she lived in a retirement village*.

    I was still 17 (October birthday), and spent almost six weeks with retired folks who have lots of time to sit and talk. And it was awesome!

    Those women had great stories to tell. They had all been through the depression, and many had their first job during WWII. That summer I formed a personal philosophy to listen to and enjoy the stories of those who have lived longer than myself (even those where it is filtered through some political bias… usually though my own “grin and bear it” filter).

    Then I went to college and hung around people my age. Yawn. (okay, not quite, it was the end of the the Vietnam War and I met some interesting veterans). At Christmas time I visited my parents in their new home, which was (oddly enough) close to my grandparents. I actually got to say a couple of days with them… where I got to know my dad’s step-mother. She was just as interesting… she met my grandfather in Okinawa during the occupation after WWII when she was an American civil servant and he was an Army Officer. He apparently saved her from a rape. There was a romance, they got married… and they lived in post-war Asia and Germany while dealing with my dad’s younger brother (my dad had graduated from boarding school and was in the Army before WWII ended). Again, she had great stories.

    Then I went to college and became an engineer. As a member of the Society of Women Engineers I met some very incredible women (oh, wait, one of my classmates became the first woman test pilot of a major airplane company!). I have met a woman who has been on the space shuttle, another who was the first to woman to do research in Antarctica, the woman who found the first computer “bug” (yes, Grace Hopper!) and several other remarkable women.

    But there is also my step-mother who came into our lives just six months after my mother’s death. My dad was literally desperate because we were living overseas and my mother’s cousin was going to sue for custody (yes, the same one that I lived with before college). She helped heal the wounds left by my mother’s early death.

    Then there is my neighbor who has dealt with the problems of father of her great-grandson dying young from MS. And my next door neighbor who lost her husband from pancreatic cancer two weeks ago. The mom of a friend to my son whose husband died during surgery who has pulled it together to raise their son. The neurologist who adopted two babies from Romania almost two decades ago. Then the older mom I met during my son’s freshman orientation to college who was single and living in a small rural town working for minimum rage… her son was going to be an engineer and there was hope.

    I love all the older women. Especially since I am one myself. I used to be a real engineer, but my oldest son was born disabled. So now I am back at school trying to get back to work. Which is amusing… some guy in my class mentioned that those older 30 have trouble with computers and was taken aback when I said I am 52 years old!

    * The retirement village my mother’s cousin lived in was right next to a stream that ran into a river that ran into the Columbia River. That stream was (and still is!) an active salmon spawning area. While sitting at an elderly neighbor’s picnic table I got to see salmon spawning!

  18. my grandmother’s a bigot, but i try to keep her zeitgeist in mind.
    it’s only now that i’m out of college that i realize i had more of a knack for science than i thought… the professors’ encouragement wasn’t enough to undo all the good old country learnin’ from my childhood. i don’t mean to complain though, i very much enjoyed earning my degrees.
    anyway, hurrah for changing times.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button
%d bloggers like this: