A side. Some shocked thoughts about Heilbrun’s “The Last Gift of Time”

26 Apr

While I’m not usually a reader of “self-help” or “inspirational” books, a friend sent me an email with the title to Carolyn G. Heilbrun’s “The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty”. Since I have been a bit at sea in this life of a woman of the 60s now in her 60s, I thought I’d give it a look. Initially I was put off by what I found to be her insufferably arch writing style–the same style that made me stop reading her mysteries written under the pseudonym of Amanda Cross. But she won me over in her chapter “Time”, in which she describes the “poisonous atmosphere” for women in many academic settings. It was somehow quite comforting to know that I wasn’t the only woman who had experienced toxic inequality and unfairness in university teaching. She also had some intriguing things to say about relationships, although I think she was just enough older than me that I couldn’t relate to some of her pronouncements–they seemed pretty stuffy and old-fashioned. I must admit I had never heard of her before–a sign, I guess, that I was never much of a party-line feminist, since she seems to have been one of the godmothers of feminist writing and gender studies.
In the book, she does discuss with some detachment her feelings that suicide should be a viable option for women–but I had no idea, until I Googled her after finishing the book, that she had actually ended her life a few years after writing this book! http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/people/n_9589/
Wow. Suicide as a willful act. As someone who cannot fathom death–yet, at least–I’m just amazed that she could make such a decision. I am really a bit shaken by this revelation, even though it happened in 2003! The book, and this discovery of her death, has made me want to talk to other women over 60, about our search for “worth” in our lives.

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