know. We give them our attention. We make allowances for their peculiarities. We monitor our own behavior for impositions or assumptions which we cannot justify to ourselves or to them. Caring treatment involves effort -- emotional work well invested in the interests of friendship between women.
Let me speak for myself. First and foremost, I need lesbians with whom I can test possibilities, with whom I can exchange disagreement and anger, with whom I can be comfortably intimate -- women I can trust. I need, in order to be fully sane, a circle of women who can reflect me back to myself without having to judge or chastise or control me-lesbians who can give me both resistance and validation. There is a lot of political work I can do with women who are aware of their responses, who know disagreement between us does not mean that I am bad. Also, I expect women younger than myself to acquaint themselves with issues that are important to my age bracket and include them in their political life. If I nurture them, they must recognize that I want to be nurtured in return. I am not asking for anything different today than what I expected fifteen years ago when I first came out.
The potential energy which is dissipated through woman-to-woman ageism may not be obvious until one gets "over the hill." But it should be clear to all lesbians that ageism distracts us from the pursuit of our essential Self, the very identity which lesbianism makes possible. Active confrontation of our conditioned loathing of the old woman is only the first step. The second is to become consciously anti-ageist, a step toward self-love, a step away from the contempt and terror with which we evade our eventual future.