Reading Digital Minimalism, there was one story that took my interest.
I’ll paraphrase and mangle it, but the sentiment still counts:
A woman decided to cut out social media from her life. Instead, she decided to spend the same time she usually spent scrolling going for walks or having long phone conversations with her friends.
Now, call me an absolute NUMPTY, but it flew open a world of possibilities in me.
Like: OH. WE CAN STILL DO THAT? WE CAN STILL HAVE THAT LIFE? IT IS NOT OVER?
I don’t know when I stopped realising that.
Was it when the pandemic happened? Or was it when I had kids? Or was it the slow insidious slide into the world of social media?
I don’t know, and I don’t like that it happened.
So I decided right then and there to bring it back.
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And then I consulted my 2021 bible, More Than A Woman by Caitlin Moran (every woman over the age of 35 needs to read this genius tome). Saint Cait says:
These are your Hag Years, and they are glorious. We think of ‘hag’ as a bad word – like so many words associated with women, like ‘fat’, or ‘slut’, or ‘bossy’ – but hags are cool, man. Consider the Hag archetype, through history: when life expectancy barely reached fifty, and once a woman was no longer a bride nor a mother, she entered her Hag Years until she died.
Hags lived slightly apart from the villages and towns – in a cave, or some witchy cottage in the woods. They tended their herb gardens, and mixed up their medicines, and were surrounded by their animals – dogs, cats; particularly clever and charismatic crows. They wore a cape, and had a stick, to poke things with, and they’d roam around, engaged in mysterious hag-activities like talking to trees, or doing weird rituals by streams and lakes. They’d be the only women callow young youths would be scared of – fostering a useful irascibleness that prevented all but the boldest from getting up in their grill, and wasting their time.
When trouble struck the wider community, in the end, the villagers would always end up having to bravely go and consult the hag, who would then provide them with a medicine, or provide wise counsel, or tell a story from days of yore that provided a solution to the current problem. And, every so often, they’d meet up with their coven of fellow hags and spend all night cackling in a way that terrified everyone else. This, I note, in the twenty-first century, is exactly the life I am living now. I have Gone Hag. Observe my day, now, in my Hag Years. I’m living a Hag Life.
And then later in the book:
When you are middle aged, you find other middle-aged women inescapably more glorious than any other kind of person. You may love the men, and the younger people, passionately – but it is only with the rest of your kind that you feel you can assume your true form: sharing stories and laughing hysterically about things in a way that could, yes, be described by others, passing fearfully by, as ‘cackling’.
We like to meet away from other people – were it warm enough, we probably would meet in the woods, and dance, naked, around a fire; but as this is Britain in September, we all go to my shed at the bottom of the garden, where we gather around a single bottle of wine that will last us all night. No one in this shed has the enzymes for alcohol any more. But we don’t need them – for you can get drunk on the right people, when you’re older, and these are the right people.
Covens are where middle-aged women withdraw from the world to be with those who have, like them, gone through abortion, death, miscarriage, nervous breakdowns, funerals, unemployment, poverty, fear, hospital appointments and broken hearts – where they sometimes weep, and comfort each other, but more often make jokes so pitch black, they can only be laughed at by a fellow Hag. In your coven you attend to your busy, vital Hag Work: drawing up the lists of idiots to curse, and heroes to bless; forming your battle plans and schedules. Scheming the downfall of ass-hats, and the uprising of the righteous. You do this in a place where non-Hags can’t hear you, because: Hag Club takes a lifetime to join.
And it is here where you launch into the comic routines that leave your ribs bruised from laughing the next morning: the belly ache of pain that only comes from other Hags being truthful about their lives. The husbands sneezing and the hormones raging and the bosses perving and the children being ‘a delightful challenge’. This is where you realise there is a whole book full of truths about being middle aged, that you have only ever heard spoken, and never read. I keep notes on what our conversations span, in a single night: socks, socialism, anal sex, first loves, what we would do in widowhood, whether to buy a fake-fur gilet, how to get a payrise, where the best trees are, kettling, communes, Botox, Sertraline, sexism in its many forms, the glory of Nora Ephron.
This is where, one night, in our coven, we found out the origin of the word ‘witch’: ‘wych’, in Old English, means the thin, whippy branches, that can be used to bind things – baskets, fences, boats – together. A witch is a binding thing. Without it, things fall apart. We are witches. ‘
And that’s when I decided:
I need to not only prioritise real life connections… but I need to gather the glorious hags.
As I wrote here:
I want to create some kind of regular ridiculous friend event. I used to do these all the time when I was child-free. I’d email a big bunch of random friends and issue ridiculous missions like: “Meet us at park at 12.30pm to FROLIC because it is finally 25 degrees and SPRING IS HERE, bitchez!” (and I would, in fact, force them to frolic!) or “You are hereby invited to eat Thai food, but ONLY if you bring three small pieces of paper with secrets written on them. They will be added to the Pink Hat of Secrets, and we will be taking turns reading out other people’s secrets over lunch. Non-secret-sharers will not be admitted.”
And this merry group of good humans would show up – people from work, friends, people I’d met on buses (YES, I ABSOLUTELY TALK TO STRANGERS ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT). And they’d all make friends, and we’d have these hilarious, shouty, glorious & intimate lunch hours which were stupidly magical. Anyways, I miss that. I want to do shit like that again.
Last night was our inaugural Coven of Glorious Hags event.
I’m planning on them being monthly, with a running list of different adventures & missions we will undertake.
Current list of ideas:
- Full Moon Women’s Circle on the beach
- Paint & Sip class
- Afternoon at the spa
- Sacred dance
I invited about 40 rad women I know from all over the joint: homeschooler friends, a chick I met at a party once, a few readers, mum friends, business friends, friends of friends, old friends from 20 years ago, sisters of ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends of my brother. Wherever I go, I collect people. And then I like to tumble them all together and see what magic happens.
About a dozen of them or so could make it to our first mission – a sunset cruise on the river where everyone had to dress up like Kath and Kim. We even had a prize for the best dressed – a copy of Our Bible, of course. We commandeered the roof of the boat, and spent the next two hours dancing wildly, laughing ourselves hoarse, waving to everyone in sight and generally being the majestic wildebeests we are. We watched the sun set and the pied cormorants nest and the fruit bats begin their nightly migration. And as we danced under the stars, above the river, I thought:
This. This is what life is for. This is what friendship is for. It’s not for being Facebook friends. It’s for real life: for dancing and laughing and celebrating this ridiculous, glorious, hard and scrumptious life.
I’m tired and sore today. But it was worth it. My lungs hurt from laughing like a drain, my thigh muscles ache from the honour of shaking that booty, my heart is stretched from holding all that love.
I can’t wait for the next one. This is what we were born to do.
We must stitch ourselves back together with laughter and dance and each other.
P.S. I really wondered about whether I should even talk about this during pandemic times. Most of the world is still in lockdown, and here’s this dickhead gallivanting about on boats, sweating all over people?
Here in Australia, we’ve mostly eliminated Covid through short, strict mandatory lockdowns supported by state border lockdowns, mandatory quarantining for travellers and widespread testing. It’s thoroughly and carefully managed and we now have very little to no community transmission. Life is almost normal (as long as you don’t have to travel), so we’ve been able to return to our dancing on riverboat ways.
I’ve definitely considered not sharing my non-lockdown experiences in compassion for people still in lockdown – I reckon it could be a bit triggering for some. Where I’ve ended up though is here: I don’t wish to hide my experiences. I want to still record, and celebrate, and be grateful for these miracles. And my deepest hope is that it brings you some inspiration and knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel. One day lockdown will be a distant memory. And you too will be out under the stars, flying like a fruitbat, shaking with light.
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