Becoming a Crazy Old Lady

It was my friend and colleague Cindy Morris who provided the news.

Cindy graduated from Cornell University’s agriculture program enough years ago that the professors have all probably changed a time or two since and she once owned the European Flower Shop in Boulder, Colorado. Like me, she has fairy in her blood and holds court with the plant people on a regular basis. We were chatting over the telephone and I reported having brought in about thirty-five geraniums to overwinter in my house. Summer had given way to fall and the nights were getting cold enough to make the geraniums shiver. It was time for them to come in.

“I’m not exactly one of those crazy old ladies . . . yet . . . but I know that some people would find bringing in thrity-five geraniums to join all of my other indoor plants to be, well, a little excessive,” I said.

Cindy’s reply was immediate.

“Don’t kid yourself. You and I are those crazy old ladies.”

Then she laughed that deep, throaty laugh of hers that I love. It always suggests a knowing that might be hers alone or might be shared. In this case, she intended for it to be shared, whether or not I was ready for it.  It was the same kind of matter of fact comment coupled with a knowing laugh that I imagine Carl Jung making in a private conversation with Freud. “You know, you’re crazy as a loon. But, then, so am I. In fact, since we’re all just drifting through the dream, we might as well make the best of it.” Like that.

When I first commented that I hadn’t yet become a crazy old lady, I was thinking of the woman who lived across the street when I was growing up. She often took her meals on her tiny front porch, scooping food into her mouth and, without seeming to think anything strange to it, putting the plate down for her cats to join in, then taking it back for another bite. Her house consisted of narrow aisles winding among stacks of newspapers and assorted objects de debris

Surely I hadn’t yet become her. Had I? And how old was she, anyway, when I was ten or twelve? Surely she was truly a crone and not sixty, like me. Or was she younger than I now make her? It’s hard to tell. Everyone seems old when you’re ten or twelve.

I began thinking about what a ten or twelve-year-old girl might think of me. Would I appear to be a crazy old lady? Okay, okay, some people assume I qualify without giving it another thought because I’m a practicing shaman. But that’s just small-mindedness. Okay, I also have a penchant for herbs, some of them odd little varieties like mugwort. A few centuries ago they burned women like me at the stake. Some people I’ve met appear to still prefer that as a valid way to dispose of shamans and herb lovers. What else? As far as I’m concerned, fairies are real, trees have a lot to say to us if we will but listen, and the energy of things can be seen and felt. Maybe a ten or twelve-year-old would think me crazy. And maybe a four-year-old would agree with my model of the world because she wouldn’t yet have been socialized out of the knowledge that the world in which we live is truly magic.

What else might make me a crazy old lady? Well, some adults would say I’m crazy because I left a perfectly rational life in corporate America to be an entrepreneur and, with that, came to value happiness over cash. I might be seen as crazy, too, because I sometimes choose to dress age-inappropriately, say exactly what is on my mind, and believe that love trumps just about everything. Can’t help it. It’s who I am.

I’m embracing cray old ladyhood and thank you, my dear friend, Cindy Morris, for bringing it to my attention. Somehow it’s a relief to be a crazy old lady.

But now I’m wondering what other women think qualifies them as crazy old ladies.  If you think you’re one (or even a crazy young lady), I’d love to hear from you.


copyright 2009 by Melanie Mulhall (aka crazy old lady)

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13 Responses to “Becoming a Crazy Old Lady”

  1. Cindy Morris Says:

    Well last night as I was tucking myself in for a good night’s sleep, dog on one side, cat on the other, when I heard , through the slightly cracked-open skylight, the boldest of the three geraniums I had left outside to catch some rays earlier in the day ( the variegated-leaved one with the bright red bloom) holler: “Yoo hoo! We’re freezing our patooties off out here! Get up and bring us in.” Which I did, of course, stumbling over shoes left hither and thither, not wanting to turn on the light so as not to disturb my house guest who whined from the guest room: ‘What the hell are you DOING out there?” to which I replied: “I’m taking care of the plants!”

    Not only that,I found myself purchasing the latest issue of Witches & Pagans because it’s the Faerie issue. I cried with JOY through the whole thing.

    I’ve been a crazy old woman my whole life. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Cindy Morris,msw
    Priestess Entrepreneur
    at the border between here and there


    • Melanie Mulhall Says:


      You may be a crazy old lady, but you are a beautiful, brilliant, funny, wise one. And that might be the point.

      You’re an inspiration–and my truth sayer (in Dune terms)–my friend.



  2. Drea Says:

    Hehe–this made me laugh: “A few centuries ago they burned women like me at the stake. Some people I’ve met appear to still prefer that as a valid way to dispose of shamans and herb lovers. What else?” I see crazy old ladies as people who mutter to themselves, smell funny, and, yes, have cats in the double digits. Homelessness helps the perception, too. I see most other things as plain old eccentric.


    • Melanie Mulhall Says:


      And your reply made me laugh. Well, when I was much younger and had cats, I stopped at three. I’m not homeless yet, though anyone could become homeless these days. Smell? Hopefully it is usually the scent of something good I’m cooking.

      Thanks for your comment, Drea. It’s good to have a young woman weigh in on this.



  3. Rosemary Carstens Says:

    I remember this discussion from a gathering you, Cindi, and I were at recently. I must defend our idiosyncrasies! That you choose to see 35 geranium plants survive the winter rather than fade away, that the woman across the street shares her meal with those she spends her life with, that Cindi is bucking for the job of astrologist to the Yankees (well, the cute ones anyway), that I light candles all day long when someone I love is having surgery and, after a long spell without taking the Road Goddess out for a ride, it’s not unknown for me to give her saddle a reassuring pat and say, “soon, girl, soon”–these are not crazy, these are the actions of women engaging their lives with all they have, paying attention, dreaming.


    • Melanie Mulhall Says:


      I think you have said it exactly. Or at least I hope so. If I am a crazy old lady, there’s no way to be sure. But I have long been a practitioner of full-throttle living and the older I get, the more that is the case. Life is short. Fully engaging in it is the way to live it full-throttle.

      And you are the Road Goddess, after all. You should know. You don’t just travel through life. You do it in style.

      Thanks for your comment!


  4. tammy Says:

    Melanie, another brilliant look at the world from a faerie perspective!

    Recently. Boyfriend rearranged the bedroom (I leave this up to him since he has a great and artistic eye). Before he finished, he called me in and said, “Now, I know how you are and what you believe so just tell me if this is ok or if anything needs to be moved to a different corner.”

    I had to giggle. Yes, I am the strange old lady who believes in feng-shui, who adores Halloween because it will be perfectly acceptable to wear faerie wings that day, and who has a special place in her garden for night sprites.

    I was 51 this summer. And I, like you, am much relieved to be a crazy old lady. It suits me well.

    Thanks for another great read !


    • Melanie Mulhall Says:


      Bless you child! And you’re so young for the moniker. But there seems to be a pattern here, at least as I review the comments. It would seem that crazy old ladies were probably also crazy young ladies, at least in the eyes of a well meaning but fundamentally unconscious society. As Rosemary put it, we’re fully engaged in our lives, paying attention, and dreaming. I believe you, and the others who have commented, are part of my tribe.



  5. Marty McKenzie Says:

    Our eccentricities, in a world bent on political correctness and commercialized conformity, are an often under-appreciated gift-at-large. Indeed, I hope to be a crazy old lady myself someday…or, something akin to that…perhaps more like Wallace (from Wallace and Gromit fame).

    …Just don’t forget the crackers.


    • Melanie Mulhall Says:


      I think you’re onto something. It is what makes us unique that comprises at least a part of our gift to the world. (And giving our gifts was the subject of the post before this one.) Thanks for that reminder. As for becoming the male equivalent of a crazy old lady, I can predict that, but I have an advantage since I knew you when you were still in your twenties. I think you qualified as a crazy young man, so there is hope for you as a old men (though you are nowhere near it yet), at least if you have managed to avoid having it socialized out of you.

      Thanks for your comment!



  6. Helena Says:

    I think the phrase crazy old lady was originated by males in order to prevent women from being ourselves–in other words, able to express ourselves freely. Just as we all know, and have heard many times, that calling a woman a bitch is a way to keep her from being self-assertive, strong-willed, with an opinion of her own.

    That being said, I suppose some would say I am being a crazy old lady when I close the door, turn off the phone, shut the curtains, and do nothing but meditate, think, and stare out the window amidst stacks and stacks of books.


    • Melanie Mulhall Says:


      I think you may be right. The notion of the crazy old lady may have originated as a way to shut us up. We don’t hear the term “crazy old man” nearly as much as “crazy old lady,” after all.

      I noticed, in my corporate career, that men could get away with behavior I could not get away with. For instance, if I was assertive, I was inflexible or pushy or a bitch. If a man was, he was just being assertive. Period. I’d like to think that has changed, but I haven’t seen much evidence of it.

      As for closing the door, turning off the phone, and staring out the window amidst stacks and stacks of books, since I do the same and since I am a self-professed crazy lady . . . I think you might be one, too.

      Thanks for your insightful comments!


  7. Debbie Mihal Says:

    Crazy. Old. Lady. Screw all that. I’m just me!

    And I loved your sharing about your friendship with Cindy. Knowing both of you, and reading the comments as well, I saw two vibrant, colorful energies fussing and stumbling around managing these things we call bodies that keep us attached to this earth. Oh, the bother!


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