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Shane, E. (2020). I Grow Old, I Grow Old: Truth or Perception? A Private Consideration Made Public. Psychoanal. Inq., 40(3):218-219.

(2020). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 40(3):218-219

Personal Reflection

I Grow Old, I Grow Old: Truth or Perception? A Private Consideration Made Public

Estelle Shane, Ph.D.

What follows is obviously a personal reflection, and perhaps it should remain personal. But I’m presenting myself once again with a question that I repeatedly encounter, from within or from without, consciously, pre-reflectively, partially dissociated. How do I know the answer to the question, Am I Old? Am I an Old Woman? Or just an Older Woman. And what does Old mean, anyway?

I’ll begin with my appearance. I was a fat little girl, tall and fat, the second to the fattest girl in the room. I could always feel my mother’s disgust and my father’s concern. My brother Stan, whom I always called “Stanley the Handsome” – he was! – would taunt me as fat, calling me “Stelle the Fatty”. My mother would threaten me with having to buy clothes in the dreaded “big girl’s” section. So I made up my mind early that being “pretty” was not an intelligent goal. Prettiness faded, I reasoned. Better to be “smart”. Intelligence just increased as one grew older, whereas being attractive faded with age. (I didn’t realize how wrong I was. I didn’t know that one’s brain was likely to be subject to ongoing diminishment in power; one could always get injections to tighten the sagging skin, but there were no such injections to improve one’s powers of memory.) In any case, I decided to try to be a smart girl. One of my cousins was notably brilliant, accepted at the University of Chicago in my own home town at age 15, but she was also very beautiful.

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