by Nicole Debevec
Aging While Female at first looks like a website designed to drive book sales. And it does for How Did This Happen? Poems for the Not So Young Anymore, by authors and Georgetown grads Mary Esselman and Ash Velez.
The book of poetry interspersed with the authors’ commentary, tackles the aging process. Not to put too fine a point on it, the process is divided into key phases: Insult, Injury, Defiance, Dread, Grit and Grace, each having introductory commentary and poetry reflecting each particular phase.
Why Aging While Female works: Book sales is not all Aging While Female does. It has some wonderful links to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts of the same name. On these sites are posts about the female – and the human – condition. Facebook posts about not forgetting Grandma on Mother’s Day to links to a news article about a link between menopause and Alzheimer’s disease. Tweets and retweets concerning politics, advocacy or just plain interesting reads. Instagram posts of insightful poetry in “How Did This Happen?”
Some poetry is embodied in a tweet. Some in a response to a question. Others by heavy hitters in literature, such as Margaret Atwood, Emily Dickenson, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Dorothy Parker. In fact, Esselman and Velez channel Parker’s acerbic wit.
For example, in the introduction, the authors write of staring at an image in a “previously reliable mirror” and the not-so-joyful experiences of mammograms and colonoscopies. (Writer’s note: Been there, done that. Know that what they speak is true.)
A word about Esselman. They are women who have seen gray hairs and know that laugh lines are life’s roadmap of experience. They met while grad students at Georgetown. Both taught at Georgetown – in fact, Esselman was once Vélez’s teaching assistant – and both were reporters at People magazine.
While How Did This Happen? Poems for the Not So Young Anymore doesn’t specifically address perimenopause and menopause per se, it does address aging, which, while vexing, can be a glorious adventure and a dipsy-doodle ride with a dash of snark thrown in. And laughter. And nodding one’s head in agreement. And the realization that the words written will, at some point, prompt women to say, “Yes, that’s me. I’m not alone!”
Besides, how can you not chuckle at the women’s moniker @thenotsoyoung?