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“Women of a Certain Age” Are Still 4th Graders At Heart


A difficult thing about becoming a woman “of a certain age” is that, while your driver’s license attests to the fact you are said woman “of a certain age” often your sense of self is still in 4th grade.

On the last day of school a couple years ago, the state of California wanted all hands on deck...learning, learning, learning, even though finals were over and grad parents took over the school to decorate for grad night. Teachers and students were still called upon to satisfy the ADA (Average Daily Attendance) vulture, so what to do? When students figured out the only reason they were supposed to show up for school was to satisfy a number on a ledger line, it was going to be tough convincing them to sit quietly and listen to their English teacher read the Transcendentalists for ninety deadly slow minutes. What to do, indeed.

Fortunately Etna High has a young, cool, sassy P.E. teacher who—while mature and professional—still remembers what these last school days are like for teenagers and volunteered to set up a school-wide kick ball tournament as a last hurrah to the school year. I was game, as given the two options—the Transcendentalists or kickball—I thought even Thoreau would probably go for spending a spring day out in nature over sitting  in a stuffy portable classroom. Gotta experience first-hand God and the “over-soul” and, well, stuff.

We divided the students into teams and let the games begin. Because I am still a competitive 4th grader at heart, I offered my services as a power kicker to all the teams. I may have an inflated sense of my athletic prowess but, I did make it on base quite a few times and it is on record that I stole a base or two and even scored. High fives all around. 

Like you, I have read articles in the waiting room at the dentist office on the 'importance of stretching' before rigorous physical activity.

Which brings me to the issue of “being a certain age.”  Like you, I have read articles in the waiting room at the dentist office on the “importance of stretching” before rigorous physical activity. I read those things and think that does not apply to me because I regularly exercise at the gym, take yoga, Pilates and the occasional “spin” class. Stretching before kickball? That seems antithetical to the spirit of the sport.  How often do real 4th graders consciously stretch before competitive sports? I can’t imagine an 8-year old chirp, “Hold on, remember what the experts say about stretching before competitive foursquare! You don’t want to pull a groin muscle do you?” 

So suffice to say, I did not stretch before the kickball game. Do you know that you can tear your hamstrings right at the point where your hip attaches to the part of your body that makes actual walking and bending possible? I did not know that. And, as a consequence of tearing those hamstrings, walking and bending become so painful you actually consider filing for a Workers Comp. disability because, heck, you WERE hurt on the job.  

My long-time colleague Millie—this was her actual last day of school as she retired that year—did not stretch before playing either. Millie, in great shape for a “woman of a certain age,” was feeling especially frisky because of her pending retirement. She nailed the ball and sent it sailing over the 2nd baseman’s head…it was a beautiful play and she sprinted like a gazelle to first base. In her mind, Millie was the 4th grader with pliant calf muscles, not the AARP member with occasional joint pain. So Millie, like any 4th grader on the last day of school, got greedy and took another base. It was stealing 2nd base that Millie’s actual age collided with the age she was in her heart and left her with an exquisite calf injury that continues to remind her of what happens to those of a certain age when they think and act like 4th graders. 

So as Millie and I, “women of a certain age,” hobbled off the field, we were saluted by our fearless and endlessly competitive 4th grade selves; glad to still be at the plate, still in the game. To paraphrase Shakespeare‘s Falstaff, “Discretion is the better part of valor.”  The next time you find yourself in a kickball game, stretch those muscles beforehand. Your “woman—or man for that matter— of a certain age” self will thank you for it even if your 4th grade self thinks it’s a waste of time.  


Madeleine DeAndreis-Ayres retired from education and is glad she doesn’t have to pretend Common Core is the greatest thing since the last greatest thing.