One of the best headlines I wrote as a newspaper copy editor was for a feature story about a female motorcycle club:

I am woman. Hear me roar.

It was like my feminist subconscious was just waiting for an appropriate moment to drop Helen Reddy’s lyrics into the daily newspaper  to describe the purr of a Harley and the power of my gender (on the other hand, I would have waited until hell froze over to use “Delta Dawn” in a headline).

I thought of that headline this morning while I was on the stepmill and the gym’s piped in music aired that overdone Katy Perry hit with the horrible scoop: “‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roooooooOOOOAR.”

Perry’s only 28, but the lyrics to “Roar” begin with a 40something’s truth: “I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath/Scared to rock the boat and make a mess/So I sat quietly, agreed politely/I guess I forgot I had a choice.”

It was the morning’s theme because a passage I read while on the stepmill addressed the wisdom of woman at 40:

You get to say the things you used to think about but would never say. Other times you choose to keep your mouth shut, because it just doesn’t bother you anymore. You aren’t afraid of having a preference or an opinion, no matter if anyone else agrees with you or not. You do the things you used to talk about doing but never did. You quit playing small. You learn to forgive. You learn the difference between when to let go and when to hold on tight. … You eat what you want; screw it. … You finally wake up and realize you are as hot as you’re going to get in this lifetime, so you might as well enjoy it.

There’s more, and it worth reading at some point. It comes from Kristin Armstrong’s “Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run.”

I thought about how I’m 46.

Only 46.

Gosh, it’ll be a decade before I’m 56, and I’ll still be years away from 60. I think about how far I’ve come since I was 36, which feels like one marriage, four jobs, two states and forever ago. I’m in a much better place now, literally and metaphorically. It makes me want to roar. So what if I ride a bike with a basket that looks like it should come with the leitmotif for the Wicked Witch of the West? I own my power. I’m winning the race of my life. I am a champion.

‘Cause it’s oh, so peaceful here
There’s no one bending over my shoulder
Nobody breathing in my ear
Oh, so peaceful here.

~ Helen Reddy


2 responses to “Roar

  1. Girlfriend, I am with you 100%. The 40s are fab and screw anyone who doesn’t realize … eh, why even think about them? This decade is the one during which I have come into my own — and that doesn’t require the acknowledgement of anyone other than myself–and that feels GREAT. Your essay gave me a happy shiver and a burst of laughing recognition. I am a proud Helen Reddy fan — screamed her lyrics from the top of my young lungs even back when I was twelve. The best thing I gave up when I hit 40 was doing things for people so that they’d like me. I’ve had a lot more free time ever since. What I gave myself when I hit 44 was the gift of choosing to show my children the grace and happiness that comes from following your dreams.

    Bless you for writing this!

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