Am I shallow?
There are things I took for granted, as a woman.
I kind of always assumed that when I walked down the street (especially living in NYC) that male heads were going to turn.
Comments might be made.
I would have to account for that fact in how I dressed, how I walked, how I interacted with the world, depending on how much attention I wanted. Going out with a gang of girlfriends, or my guy, I could turn my dial way up and flirt out loud. But when taking the subway late at night, I would have to dial it down, to make sure I was safe and kept alert.
I hit 50, and this experience started to happen a little less frequently. I guess I was finally at that age – old enough to be recognized as a mom by the very men who had hit on me a decade prior. Then, 60 happened. And I noticed that I kind of missed the attention, and I would have to actually do things to generate the response that would have been automatic, 20 years earlier.
This hit me harder than I thought it would.
I know I live in a world where women are valued primarily for their youth and beauty. But I had no idea what a loss that loss would feel like to me – relinquishing the general, free-flowing, no-effort attention I had enjoyed through my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s.
I felt kind of lonely. And forgotten. Unimportant, even. And I noticed a vague sense of hurt lurking inside me, at the process of aging.
Which pissed me off. And depressed me.
Is it just downhill from here?
Even for the eternally-effervescent, irresistible Mama Gena?
Women love attention.
I take that back.
Women need attention.
In the same way that babies require attention to thrive, women require attention to stay happy, healthy, and vibrant. When we do not get this deep need met, we start to wither on the vine. Now, this does not mean we need to get hit on all day to feel good. That would be tiresome. Women have a deep desire to be seen, to be gotten, to be appreciated, to be noticed in our magnificence.
I realized that I was allowing the patriarchal world culture (PWC) to diminish my enjoyment of myself as a woman. And as I considered this further, there are so many categories of woman that the PWC devalues, ignores, and diminishes. When we do not fit into the narrow form that the world values, because we are older, or have non-normative bodies, or we are gender non-conforming people with differently-abled bodies, we have important choices to make about ourselves. We can get into agreement with how the world views us, or we can take a different path.
We can go deeper than we have ever gone in connection with ourselves, and cultivate our own unique, feminine genius.
Embodied connection to our sexuality is something that requires continual cultivation and investment over a lifetime of being a woman. Step one is that we have to be the first to see ourselves, notice ourselves, and appreciate our own magnificence, independently of how the PWC operates. Step two is more difficult. (This is where I got tripped up.) In step two, we have to be unwilling to disconnect from the truth of our own particular poetry, our gorgeous innate sexuality – no matter the outcome. I have to be willing to stay in my deep connection with myself, without looking for validation from the outside world.
I needed to practice continually giving myself attention, even when society did not give me the attention I had been accustomed to receiving.
Once a woman can reconnect to her life force and unleash her true, raw sexuality, she becomes a potent and unstoppable force. If you have ever seen an elder flamenco dancer command the stage, you know exactly what I mean. The surety of every gesture, every inflection, every motion is so pure. Nothing is wasted. She is in total command. Less is so much more. Her duende* is so powerful that she can accomplish – in a simple look – what it takes a woman half her age an entire dance to lay down.
We all long to be connected deeply to our duende: our animal magnetism, allure, power to captivate, charisma, glamour. Duende is the richness and aliveness of the feminine (or masculine) soul that is everyone’s birthright, that comes alive only with an embodied connection to our sexuality.
I knew that I had fallen asleep at the wheel. I had been absorbing the negative prejudices of the PWC, and internalizing the ageist messaging.
I had chosen my disconnection, and now I could choose to reconnect.
Women of any age, women with non-normative bodies, or gender non-conforming people with differently-abled bodies, who choose to connect with their sexuality, instead of abandoning it, are precisely that riveting and powerful. We are ruled by our duende. We know what we want. We know how to ask for it. We know each moment counts and we are ready to savor every delicious drop of life. This requires bravely riding in direct opposition to the widespread cultural messages, but that is always where the poetry, the adventure, the magnificence lies.
With so much love and pleasure,
Regena Thomashauer, aka “Mama Gena”
The School of Womanly Arts
Regena is a feminist icon, a teacher, a speaker, a mother, a best-selling author, and creatrix and CEO of The School of Womanly Arts.
*Merriam Webster dictionary definition: The word duende refers to a spirit in Spanish, Portuguese, and Filipino folklore and literally means “ghost” or “goblin” in Spanish. It is believed to derive from the phrase “dueño de casa,” which means “owner of a house.” The term is traditionally used in flamenco music or other art forms to refer to the mystical or powerful force given off by a performer to draw in the audience. The Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca wrote in his essay “Teoria y Juego del Duende” (“Play and Theory of the Duende”) that duende “is a power and not a behavior…a struggle and not a concept.” Nowadays the term appears in a broader range of contexts to refer to one’s unspoken charm or allure.