Betty Friedan
Betty Friedan
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The Fountain of Age
ISBN: 0671898531
The Fountain of Age
Ms. Friedan explained that her new book, The Fountain of Age, published by Simon and Schuster, describes "a period of human life that most people didn't even used to have." Ms. Friedan took an Outward Bound wilderness course for persons over 55 years of age. The course became a metaphor for searching for the "fountain of age," rather than the fountain of youth. Through research and hundreds of interviews, she came to describe the "older years" as a new period of life for most men and women, not a time of deterioration. She found in these people a willingness to take risks, and a desire to keep learning. She said that in the U.S., the negative images of old age are even "more pernicious and more pervasive" than negative images of women. Ms. Friedan's previous book, The Feminine Mystique, has sold millions of copies.
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TRANSCRIPT
The Fountain of Age
Program Air Date: November 28, 1993

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Betty Friedan, where'd you get the name for your book, "The Fountain of Age"?
Ms. BETTY FRIEDAN, AUTHOR, "THE FOUNTAIN OF AGE": That it's not the Fountain of Youth. Everybody in America is obsessed with the Fountain of Youth, you know that--the old Ponce de Leon. And what I saw, once I was really gettin--going on this track that led me to the book, that what's wrong--a mystique of age more pernicious, pervasive than the feminine mystique is somehow a definition of age only in terms of decline from youth and not as what it is, a period of human life that people didn't even used to have--most people, in--that should be seen as a new period of human life in its own terms, hence "The Fountain of Age."
LAMB: At what age did you go on Outward Bound.
Ms. FRIEDAN: I think I was in my early 60s.
LAMB: Why?
Ms. FRIEDAN: Well, I told myself that I was doing it to do research for the book, because of the kind of people I was looking for--women and men that would continue to develop and evolve and that didn't fit that deterioration and decline. And I was already beginning to see that a strong element of that was adventurousness, a--a willingness to risk, an ability to risk in ways you couldn't do when you were younger. And I figured I'd find them on this, but really, secretly, it was something I'd always yearned to do myself, that kind of wilderness exploration kind of thing. And in my long married life and then in my hectic, you know, life since my divorce were--all this women's movement and lecturing and this, I'd somehow never done this wilderness stuff, so I really wanted to do it myself. And then, of course, what it became was a metaphor of--of--of--of the whole search for the fountain of age.
LAMB: Can you remember where it all started--I mean, the--the Outward Bound thing? Who went on it?
Ms. FRIEDAN: Oh, well, that--that one, it was--it was their first time when they experimented--Outward Bound was this rigorous wilderness survival kind of thing that Peace Corps trainees used to go on. And they decided to do one and call it--for people 55 plus--over 55--it was called Going Beyond, and this was the first one like that.

And I don't know, we met--met somewhere at some airport in the South and we--first thing we did, we went river rafting on the Chattahoochee River, sort of Tennessee, Georgia--wherever--where "Deliverance"--the movie "Deliverance" was done. And there was this wild river, you know, rafting and the rapids and so on, and then there was 24 hours alone in the wild--you know, the wilderness sites. It was traipsing through kind of wild territory without a guide, you know--with just chart, compass and so on and so forth. And then it was this--cliffs and rappelling and that was my--I mean, finally said, `I don't have to prove myself this way.' You know, that's why I say it was a--the whole thing was a metaphor. And it was quite marvelous.
LAMB: And you didn't tell people your last name when you started this?
Ms. FRIEDAN: No, we didn't--we didn't--I don't think we told people our ages, and I don't think we told people our last names nor our professions. It was just maybe where--what city we came from or something like that, but it was no real identifying thing. So I--I wasn't seen through my mask, as it were--my persona, you know, the--the great feminist, you know, here. And, I mean, there was this--we became great friends.

It was a retired insurance executive from North Carolina, Earl Arthurson. He was a big, burly man, Dartmouth class of '38, it turned out, and he was--he was the oldest of our group. And he was then in his 70s, but he was clearly the leader. I mean, there--there were men there 55, and he sort of somehow had to really hang back sometimes and let some of these others take the lead. And he would always--I mean, you know, I'm not a jock, you know, so he'd kind of help me over the fences or, you know, cliffs or God knows what. And I had a terrible time getting my backpack adjusted right and he was, I mean, always, you know, very helpful, you know. And I--we're like not--and, of course, the feminist stance is to not accept such help but, please, I needed all the help I could get.
LAMB: And what'd you learn about yourself?
Ms. FRIEDAN: Well, I mean, I was--I was able to do it and it was--the--the--the adventurous of it--adventurousness of it was terrific. And even--it was great fun for me to just be on my own without having to wear my public mask. And I loved it. And then it--toward the end, when there was some rappelling thing where I really didn't master enough to feel in control of it, and I was going to swing out around this cliff and I was scared to death--and I--I think rightly, because I hadn't--I wasn't--I didn't feel rightly in control of--you know--that I hadn't done it enough, you know, to--to feel in control of it. The river rafting, all that, you know, they gave us some learning period and I did it. I could do it all right. But this I didn't feel in control of and I just finally said, `Get me out of here.'

You know, I'm not--I didn't, you know--and so then one of the other women, when she came down and she said--well, she took a, you know--that loose to come down on this rappelling, and she said, `You've given me the courage to do it.' I said, `I've given you the courage to do it?' Here I was, I thought, a coward that I said I--`No, I'm not doing this.' I finally said, `Take me out of here,' and they had to lift me up off the cliff. And she said, `No, if you had the guts to do that and say, "This is not for me." Then I could do it.'
LAMB: What did--what was the reaction when people found out who you were? And--and had anybody figured it out?
Ms. FRIEDAN: The--the--the women knew, but they kept my cover. You know, they didn't--they didn't--but these guys were amazed.
LAMB: The men didn't--none of the men knew who you were?
Ms. FRIEDAN: No. This was--this was 10 years ago and then--but, you know, they were not nec--they knew who I was once it was said, you know, in other words, but they hadn't--listen, we're--how could they recognize me? I was all--in all these sweat pants and this gear, you know, and I really didn't look like I look on television, not that I look so great. Anyway, so one of them--Earl, we became great friends. My protector, see. I mean--and he always claims--I don't know if he's telling the truth, but I think he really didn't know who I was--`I wasn't taken by your fame. I was taken by your gutsy spirit,' see. But--but every year he comes to New York and takes me dancing at the Rainbow Room. He's a wonderful dancer. Then he's one of the people that really is the fountain of age. Here he'd been all these years this, you know, bigshot in North Carolina, Charlotte and--and insurance--a big insurance agency, and a pillar of the community and all that.

And his wife had--he had nursed his wife through 10 years, I think, of lung cancer, so--after she died, he started going on--he took a lot of cruises, traveling. He was lonesome and so--but he's such a good dancer and so he would, in his courtly style, dance with all the ladies, you know, that outnumber the men on these cruises. So he got offered a job as a cruise host, you know, and--you know, and so he spends most of his time now on these fantastic cruises all over the place, where he's one of the--they have a name for it. It's like host, you know, whatever.

And then he got me to go on one. Just--I mean, cruises are not for me, but he--I went for three days, just to see him in action. And it was--and he's having the time of his life. It's not your usual occupation for--for Dartmouth class of '38 or whatever he was. And, you know--you know, the big-shot insurance magnate, but he's--he's having this marvelous, adventurous last third of his life doing this, you know.
LAMB: What year did you write "The Feminine Mystique"?
Ms. FRIEDAN: '63--30 years ago, it was published. You know, I wrote it for the five years earlier than that.
LAMB: Over those 30 years, what's happened to that book? Can you still buy it in bookstores?
Ms. FRIEDAN: Oh, sure. I mean, it's assigned in colleges and in classes. It's--I guess it's considered--I mean, it's on these lists of the 10 books of--through all time that have shaped history or whatever. And it's assigned in college courses in American history or sociology or whatnot, so young people are reading it. I'm amazed they still find it so applicable because we have changed so much since that book and breaking through the feminine mystique.

But what intrigues me is that women of all ages still stop me, if they run into me in the airport or the street or if they--`It changed my life, you know,' and they tell me where--where they were, you know, when they read it--you know, with the--`I was in--having a--in the hospital having my third child,' you know, whatever--I was doing this, I was doing that, because it really did have this effect of putting into words what they'd been groping and yearning for, and it enabled them to take steps to change their life. And that's--interesting thing now is that my book, "The Fountain of Age"--that men are telling me--I mean, men and some women, too, of course, but men are having the same sort of emotional reaction that women had to "The Feminine Mystique," of saying, `It's made me think altogether differently about the rest of my life' and whatever.
LAMB: How many copies did you sell, do you know, up till now, of "Mystique"...
Ms. FRIEDAN: Of this...
LAMB: No, "The Feminine Mystique."
Ms. FRIEDAN: Oh, God. I don't know by now. Like millions, you know, in about 20 countries. I have no idea how many, but years ago they were saying three million so it must be a lot more than that now.
LAMB: What were you doing when you wrote that book?
Ms. FRIEDAN: What was I doing? Well, I was, technically, a housewife in Rockland County, suburban New York, with three kids. I was--had been kind of freelancing for women's magazines after I'd been fired from a newspaper job for being pregnant with my second child. And what I later called "The Feminine Mystique" was filling me full of guilt, anyway, for working, even though, you know, my husband had ke--had been in the theater and then starting in advertising, we couldn't--we needed my paycheck, but I'd been feeling so guilty. Now I'm fired. You couldn't work--look for a job with your belly out to here, pregnant, then--you know, not in those years--well, not now, too.

So I was technically a housewife, but I couldn't quite get rid of the itch to do something so I was freelancing for wome--magazines, mainly the women's magazines, like secret drinking in the morning, because none of the other mothers in that suburb were working then. It was the end of the feminine mystique period. And after about five years of writing according to this limited image that was supposed to be the image of the American woman then--solely in terms of her husband, children, home, nothing else--I got restive about it and I began to--oh, through the happenstance of doing the 15th reunion questionnaire of my Smith, you know, alumni.

Since they were saying education is making women frustrated in their role as women--too much education--I had valued my education--I thought I was going to disprove that with this questionnaire of Smith '42. And instead it raised more questions than it answered. And then, when the magazines that I wrote for, one after the other, either turned it down or rewrote it to say the opposite and I took it back, I knew I'd have to write the book "The Feminine Mystique." But I didn't have any sense then--I mean, every chapter I'd finish, I thought, `Gee, I must be crazy,' because it so went against everything that was accepted as both the conventional and sophisticated truth about women.

And I--but the idea that it would have the impact it did--you know, they say it's sort of really started the consciousness part of the women's movement that led to the modern women's movement. I--I mean--I mean, in my gut I guess I knew it was very important, but I didn't have the confidence I later required--acquired to--I mean, it was--it's such a mystery to me that I was able to write that book.

Now, of course, of the experiences and the skills and whatever, my training as a psychologist, a journalist, the life I lived, you know, that enabled me to write "The Feminine Mystique," but now, when--"The Fountain of Age," I was--I had also the training that came from breaking through the feminine mystique and helping to give the vision of the women's movement. So I tackled this new problem, which is beyond feminism--it's a--it's a different problem, but I--I guess I was able to tackle that as I began to recognize that I was dealing with another mystique, you know--that it was--I mean, I wasn't interested in age.

Not me. No. I mean, I had the same dreary view of age as anybody in America, the same absolute denial. It didn't apply to me. But once I began on this little path, that--that--large path that led me to break through an even more pernicious, pervasive mystique--the mystique of age only as decline from youth, I guess all the--the 30 years from where--from writing "The Feminine Mystique" to the women's movement gave me a way to more qui--well, I can't say more quickly, because it took me 10 years to write this book, but at least to be able to break through this other thing.
LAMB: Connections--you point out that Joe Duffey, who was head of the National Endowment of the Humanities, had some money for this project back in the late '70s.
Ms. FRIEDAN: Well, I--when I decided I wanted to do this, I knew I had to immerse myself in a re--in a--in--in--in research, you know--in other words, a field that was new to me--to find out what research had been done on aging, because I saw that somehow there was no image of--of--of age except this nursing home-senility-Alzheimer's, decline and deterioration from youth. And--but what I was seeing first in women and then even in men, too, is people moving into their 60s, 70s and 80s with vitality and--and--and even growth, you know, and--and--and development. And there was something wrong here, that the--and that women somehow had an edge on men in this, although the men he--to be just here as much as the women, why--the men were dying younger.

So I went--I went--needed--knew I needed--I--I mean, I didn't get enough of a publisher advance to, you know--to do what I knew would have to be some years doing the research, so I went to see Joe Duffey, who was then the head of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Now he's head of the US information service in this new Cabinet. And I said to him, `Look, I'm not a PhD--I've not got a PhD in sociology or gerontology. I'm not an academic, but I want to do this book' and I called it "Changing Sex Roles in the Aging Process." That was my title then. `I want to do this and I need some help to get the research done and to make my way through everything that's been done so far, in addition to my own interviews.' So he said, `Well, did you have a PhD when you wrote "The Feminine Mystique"?' And I said, `No.' And he said, `Well, your track record is good enough for me.' And that was really pretty marvelous of Joe, I thought, to--to--and then the peer review--you know peer review?

Well, they--the academics vetoed it, so he wou--he got pretty annoyed at that, but he gave me a chairman's grant and then Columbia University, the Center for Social Sciences, Jonathan Cole, who was himself a very quantitative sociology--but recognized the value of the kind of qualitative sociology that I guess you could say I do. He took me to McGeorge Bundy at the Ford Foundation and they gave me the rest of--of the money that I needed. And that was all a great help because it took me a lot longer than I thought it was going to.
LAMB: Where do you live now?
Ms. FRIEDAN: I live--I have an apartment in New York and I kind of sort of feel more rooted. I have a little old house in Sag Harbor, an old whaling town, you know, on the--on the Sound. And the--the--my--that's where my kids bring my grandkids and so on, and that's where I did most of the writing. And then four months of the year I teach in--in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California. And in the fall I--I'm a visiting professor at New York University, so four months of the year I live in--in a different place each time, in--in Santa Monica or LA.
LAMB: You refer in the book several times that you feel better after going through the book process than you did before--about aging.
Ms. FRIEDAN: Well, I've--I--I wrote myself into a completely new place. I mean, so--I mean, it was very liberating. I mean, it--it--and it's mys--and, again, it's mysterious in a way, but I was absolutely as much in denial. I mean, I age--please. What was it they say to me, `What's this I hear, Betty, that you're writing a book about age?' And this--eyes would glaze over, and I'd say, `Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, not me. I mean, you've got it wrong.' I've got this--you know, here am I, the flaming radical, the cutting edge, but age. Because I had the same dreary view of it, den--absolutely denial as anyone else. And I'd say, `No, no, I've got this far-out hypothesis about women and men and changing sex roles, not the aging process.

And I was--then, when I actually started working on the book, and I--I would--I would--took a fellowship at Harvard at--at the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School and I taught "The Second Stage," which was a book that I just finished. And I taught that--a seminar in that, but otherwise I could use the resources of the university. I figured I'd immerse myself in whatever research had been done on aging.

In that great university all I could find was medical school, Alzheimer's, nursing home, so on, ethical issues--when do you pull the plug? I'd go to these conferences and the gerontological meetings I was beginning to attend, these paneled halls and the young Turks in their white coats with research money for aging, and they would talk about `them' sort of with the same contemptuous compassion, re--reminded me of something. It reminded me of the way the male experts on women used to talk about the `woman problem,' you know, all those years ago. And I--I'd come out of that feeling so depressed. That didn't interest me at all, this Alzheimer's, nursing home.

And then I began to interview women and men, that I was finding much more easy than I thought I would, who were clearly very vital in these years beyond 60 and beyond 70, even beyond 80. I remember one I interviewed in Cambridge beyond 90. And they were continuing to grow and develop. So that would exhilarate me. And then I bega--feel depression, exhilaration and then a kind of a weird panic. And I thought, `What is wrong with me? What was wrong with me?' I'd never had that kind of--much writing block before, you know, whatever. And then I realized what was wrong with me, that I was--I just had my own 60th birthday. And I was furious when my friends threw me a surprise party on my 60th birthday. And I felt very hostile to them and they were very hostile to me to have done that, because I was in much--as much denial as anyone else.

And then one day I was interviewing in Palm Springs, and there was this woman--she was clearly older than I was. She had flaming red hair, but the white roots, you know, were visible. She had a very short miniskirt--tennis skirt with crepey legs, you know, underneath and she said, `Oh, how nice. I hear you're writing a book about those poor old people.' And I said, `No. I'm not writing a book about them. I'm writing a book about us.' And she said, `Oh, not me. I mean, I--I will never be old. Not me.' And I began to do what I had to do to write this book, which was to break through my own denial. And as I--I had to be able to say `us' and in my own reality, which didn't fit any of these images.

And then I found, in the research, all kinds of facts that defied this image of deterioration and decline, that for most people now takes place only at the very end of life--you know, just before death or well into their 80s. And even if you measure with the test standardized in youth, the decline is not what the image is. But nobody really--or it's just begun, a measurement of what evolves. Youth is not the peak, you know. There are qualities of--we don't even have words for them in this society--wisdom, you know--qualities that emerge in you that if you're still just looking at yourself youth--trying to pretend you're young long after you're not young really anymore.

Even if you have five facelifts, you're not going to look young. You look like a mummy, without any character, without any experience. But, you know, what--what evolves--I mean, when I wrote "The Feminine Mystique," I talked about problems that had no name. When I began to look into women and--and it was easier for women, but also more and more new kind of men, that are moving into a different kind of age, they might call it pioneers of a new kind of age because there's no role models, there's no maps, there's no guidance. I see strengths that have no name.
LAMB: Should people have to retire at 65?
Ms. FRIEDAN: That--I mean, there are certain words that absolutely we must protest against. You know, retire is one. I mean, old is another. Old, static and it's got this whole connotation of decline, deterioration and state. Older is OK. Grow--people growing older, don't deny the person here. Retire--you retire from society. You go into a retirement community. You're supposed to be out of the larger community. We should not buy all this, even though forced retirement--you know, losing your job because of your age, is supposed to be illegal, you know that it's happening, that people are being forced out, eased out, downsized out, and not only even in their 60s; in their 50s and they can't very easily find another job, even if they dye their hair--try to phony their age.

I think that the idea that you must retire from society, 60, 65, 70, whatever, when you've got all this ability and experience, you could retire or you could leave or you'd be forced out, you know, from a job that--even against your will, or even be burned out and want to, but not retire from society. Move from one structure, one project per--shaping your life, that--career lines that were really based on youth to something else.

But to suddenly say we are retiring all these people--this fastest-growing group of people in our whole society--from being productive members of the society, to be just a drain or a burden or be made invisible, walled out of sight in a continuing care community, as if their only identity now is objects of terminal nursing care, when they don't even need that until just before their death, you know, or--or in--in--you know, in a very advanced age.

You know, this is a new period of life to be lived. They're years that people didn't used to have, life expectancy at the turn of the century, 45 for men, 46 for women. It's over 75 now. It's nearly 80 for women, over 72 for men, new years of life. Out road maps, out--without role models, we will be the pioneers of a new kind of age. And behind us are the bulge of the baby boomers, getting into a trauma as they approach their 50th birthday.

A woman was interviewing me the other day and she said, `Oh, this book has come just in time for me.' And I looked at her. She's a--was a lovely looking young woman. She said, `Just had my 30th birthday.' Well--but they, with all their numbers, and they created the youth culture, the songs of the '60s, the Beatles, all that--they will take this revolution, which will be the revolution of the turn of the century, over the top.
LAMB: Do you have a living will?
Ms. FRIEDAN: Absolutely. And I'd like to--and I'm going to see to it my kids have something that you can't really put in your living will: Never, ever, ever put me in a nursing home.
LAMB: Why?
Ms. FRIEDAN: What we--if--I mean, that image of deterioration and decline that is so awful, you know, that you can't--it's no wonder that people deny age in this country. That is a reality in nursing homes, if not when they come in and a--and a high proportion of people in nursing homes are--are defined, you know, as senile. Some of it is--is real senility, but to my surprise, only 5 percent of people over 65 are--hav--have any kind of senility, including Alzheimer's. But if they don't have it when they come in, the absolute dehumanized, infantilized treatment of the nursing home--the sedation, if you will--they will acquire the signs of senility.

And what we need is not more nursing homes. What we need is more measures that are not necessarily medical, that will enable people to stay in their own communities and in their own homes. And we--because you can't deny death. At the point where such a life is not possible and you really do have a terminal condition, then the hospice movement, which does not intervene with the high-tech machinery to give people an extra week or day or month of painful, you know, life, where you can't really function, but enables you to face death in--in the midst of your own family and friends as painlessly as possible. We don't deny death, but death should be in the midst of life.
LAMB: You dedicate this book `To the memory of my mother, Miriam, and my father, Harry, who made a--a larger life possible for me.' What did they do for you?
Ms. FRIEDAN: Well, I grew up in Peoria, Illinois. And my father, who was a brilliant man, but he was an immigrant with no higher education, though he read philosophy every night after dinner and I think he went to the--name of the Clarence--famous Clarence Darrow debate, you know--he sent his youngest brother to Harvard Law School and was inordinately proud of all my, you know, intellectual accomplishments.

And my mother was--grew up in Peoria and went to the local college, Bradley, and then she had been the women's page editor of the paper--the newspaper there, but, of course, she had to quit that, you know, when--when she married my father and started having kids. She couldn't wait to--for me to get into junior high school and get me to try out for the paper and all that--I edited the college paper at Smith. That was one of the most fun things in my life. But she insisted that I get a good education and, in fact--and my father said to me on his deathbed, `Don't come back here.' You know, in other words, go beyond. Go beyond.

And my father died too young, and he was in his early 60s and he had that premature kind of heart, of that--the male role and the inability to even express the pain you may be feeling and that. I mean, he, I think, endured the anti-Semitism of--of--of a Middle West small town at that time and the pressures of the Depression and all that.

And my mother lived till she was 90. And my mother, though, des--I mean, it was my mother's frustrations that I think gave me the psychological motivation for the women's movement. But my moth--and--my mother, at the age of 70-odd, bur--after burying her third husband, got herself licensed as a duplicate bridge manager. She's always been a brilliant card player and she would toodle around. She lived in Leisure World in Laguna Hills, California. She would toodle around and--running these duplicate bridge tournam--tournaments into her 80s, with the prodigious me--feats of memory that required.

And I--I--if I was coming out to California to--and I knew I'd be on TV, and I'd say, `Oh, God, I've got to go see Mother.' And I--I--it terrifies me to drive in California because I can't stand the freeways, so it's not so easy to get from LA to Laguna Hills. So I'd call her up and I'd say, `Mother, I'm going to be in LA, you know, in two weeks. Can we meet?' `Darling,' she would say, `I'm so busy. Why didn't you let me know longer--you know, longer in advance.' I mean, she was no pathetic old lady, you know, being dependent, you know, whatever.
LAMB: You've mentioned Leisure World. What do you think of the Leisure World type places?
Ms. FRIEDAN: Well, I spent a lot of time interviewing in those places and there were some people that seemed to make a good life for themselves there. They were mainly people that took responsibility for organizing the community, and so on and so forth. But with all, it struck me that there--that even the physical appearance of the place, where it's walled off from the larger community, and then, as if the whole life can be structured around sort of busy, busy play--you know, in other words, kinds of clubhouse activities, as if there were something about it. And then walled off from the whole continuum of life, you know, that ch--the other generations. Something about it--that it was like this mystique of age--you know, this almost a denial of the personhood of age, translated into--into brick and stucco and all that. They--they were a kind of--even the luxurious age ghettos, I don't think they're the wave of the future if we break through this pernicious definition of age just as decline.

I was very interested to see, a couple weeks ago, a story on the front page of The New York Times that--that more and more people--older people are coming back from Florida and those retirement communities to New York--you know, dirty, busy, complex New York, with all its problems, but where there's so much life going on and where you can take the bus, take the subway, you know, walk to things.
LAMB: In your dedication, you also talk about Daniel and Jonathan and Emily and Raphael and Caleb. Is it Natalia?
Ms. FRIEDAN: Yeah, Natalia.
LAMB: David, Isabelle, Laura, Brigitta...
Ms. FRIEDAN: Yes.
LAMB: ...and Benjamin, `whose mother and grandmother I am.'
Ms. FRIEDAN: That's--proud of that, right.
LAMB: How many of those are your children?
Ms. FRIEDAN: I have--well, there's my three children, Daniel, Jonathan and Emily. And then my eight grandchildren--six blood grandchildren and two step-granddaughters. They are actually from Iceland. My oldest son, who's a theoretical physicist, married the only woman physicist of Iceland, and she had two daughters from a previous marriage and then--now they have this wonderful little baby, my youngest grandchild, Benjamin.
LAMB: Have you ever sat down with your three kids and talked about aging?
Ms. FRIEDAN: Not as such. I mean, they--they've all gotten copies of my living will and--and they--when I said to them, `You know, I'm going to liv--leave you the house in Sag Harbor jointly,' and they said, `Oh, we've already had a meeting about it and we're going to'--and they--how they were going to run it, and use it as a--as a joint, you know, place to come to with all their kids so they can come together.

But the family ties of my children with each other and with their father and with me is--are very strong. And I like that. And as you--in the dedication of my book, "The Fountain of Age," as you see, the first part of it says that, on the wall of my kitchen in Sag Harbor, there's some Hebrew letters from a song--a Hebrew songs from generation to generation and then--I don't know, they had had some parties there and someone had tacked those--that song on the wall and they're--I love the look of Hebrew letters, anyway. But that's--in that kitchen is where we all get together and I have this long--long, long dining table which will hold now the 14 of us or--when we're all in residence. And so, you know, from generation to generation.

I mean, you know, the last chapter of my book, "The Fountain of Age," is--is generativity, you know the freedom to risk, age as adventure and generativity, because I think, finally, in what evolves, there is a sense of the affirmation of--of your whole life as you've lived it and in the history, and then some great sense of the meaning of that life and that that life is a--your life is a part of the continuum that will live after you, through your children, through your grandchildren, but also, you know, through your human generativity that's not just biological.

I mean--I mean, for me it's been the women's movement and for me it's--it's--you know, and also the social and political causes that--to make the world better that somehow are a part of my morality, and even this last 10 years' task of breaking through the mystique of age--you know, the fountain of age and what may come of that. I mean, they--my sense is, even from what's already happening, that there are implications here for revolutionary social change. I can't predict what form it will take, any more than I could have predicted the women's movement after writing "The Feminine Mystique." But I think it will happen and I'm open to what happens. I'll follow the leads where they come.
LAMB: In the generativity chapter, you bring--you--you talk to a lot of people that the audience will recognize--Norman Lear, Jonas Salk, Hugh Hefner and others. I got some sense that maybe when people get older, they change the way they think about things.
Ms. FRIEDAN: Well, they--I mean, like, it was interesting to me that, for instance--well, take Norman Lear: He's one of the men I admire most in this society now, who somehow very successfully and effectively used television in a--in the most non-didactic but marvelous way--"All in the Family," you know, to--to open larger social values to this society, to transcend the--the polarization and the, you know, even racism, all the rest of that, in a--in the most open way and then doesn't stop, you see. He--What did he call it?--Act 3 or act--no, Act 2--Act 2 of his life or Act 3, whatever after you...
LAMB: He did get to Act 3, yes.
Ms. FRIEDAN: Right. Right. And he said--and then he very openly now professes a certain spiritual dimension that his cynical Hollywood colleagues must, you know--very openly is concerned with saving the environment and with, you know, People for the American Way--work to--to--to sort of protect the liberties of America from--of the Constitution from the moves f--to censorship that have been plaguing the television industry. Or even Hugh Hefner, where I did--here is Hugh Hefner, with the whole Playboy thing and the Playboy bunnies and all that, and his later years, he--he sort of liberated himself from the re--from the rigid reaction against the sexual puritanism of his youth. And he's handed over Playboy to his daughter, Christie, who's, you know, really quite a wonderful woman. And he's liberated, not to have to just try to shock, you know, defy those--the rigidities of his youth. He can move beyond that.

And this is what I see happening to people when they continue to grow and develop. They are--I mean, in--in ways that all those years of psychoanalysis may or may not have done, you're liberated from the conflicts and the rigidities that hemmed you in before.
LAMB: If you live as long as your mother lived, you've--What?--you've got another 20 years to go?
Ms. FRIEDAN: I hope. I mean, that would be nice. I mean, I'm--I'm--I'm--I'm--I mean, what I--what you read from the last line of the book, I--it's really quite true. I have--somehow in the process of writing this book I've liberated myself. I mean, that somehow I have moved from this denial and dread of age to an affirmation of where I am now, which is a very unknown place. It's--you know--I mean, there's an ope--I mean, I feel that things are changing all around me and I am more myself, you know. I am myself, with all my faults and all these--I've had pains in my past and bad things can happen me--to me still.

And it's all a part of it, but I am there finally and I am very interested and open to changes that are happening around and--and I just somehow, a sense that it's not true that you have to love the way you loved when you were 30 or not love at all. I--it opens you to whatever happens, you know, in a--in a way that's different from youth. In some ways it's the same, but it's different. It's different and it opens you to new dimensions in your intimacy and your friendship. And I got invited to go on an expedition in the rain forest in the Am--in the Amazon, which has always been a fantasy of mine, in--in January, and I'm going to go, if I can assure myself that there's going to be no mosquitoes, because I can't stand mosquitoes, you see, but--and--and it's like I'm open. I'm open. And it's--it's exciting.
LAMB: When you teach at USC--University of Southern California--what do you teach?
Ms. FRIEDAN: Well, I have--lead a complex academic life. I--I--I run a project in the School of Journalism called Women, Men and Media, that's funded by the Freedom Forum and that monitors in an ongoing way the--the media--all the mass media, images of women and men, and that's been a big com--you know, "The Feminine Mystique," after all, was a breaking through of the media image of women, and "The Fountain of Age" is in another way, you know, women and men, and I--at the Leadership Institute of the School of Business, I run a think tank which had been up to now new dimensions of feminist thought. It was activists, policymakers and academics, and this year's going to be a new--a new--on thinking for a new age--you know, for the new age, and risking new ways of loving and living together and of working and of money and of medical care and health care and--and new social and political values.

Then I also teach a course and lectures on--in the Leadership Institute of the School of Business--on management and diversity--you know, this--the--you know, the--there's threats to that now and there's enormous possibilities. I mean, with the experience of women, with the experience of people that are older than the conventional, you know, as well as the racial differences, that--that the--we have begun to embrace and use diversity with our economic--the downside and co--there's got to be a new--some new grasp of all this and of the importance of it and maybe even some alternate work structures to come out of it. So that's another thing that I do and then I also teach--in the professional writing program, I do half of a course on--half of a seminar on it and I--my part is writing from personal truth and social observation.
LAMB: How about at New York University?
Ms. FRIEDAN: About what?
LAMB: At New York University? What do you teach there?
Ms. FRIEDAN: Oh, New York University I do the Women, Men and Media and the diversity and management.
LAMB: In--in this last chapter, you mentioned the Dominican nun and you--you have a lot of different people that you talk about here, but you say that `She recounted her own lifelong struggle to name herself. "I am a lesbian nun. If I had a choice, I would be exactly who I am." She told of the long years when she had no close friends at all.' What was the point of that one?
Ms. FRIEDAN: Well, it showed her evolution to an authenticity about herself, do you see? That--this is what the research and my own interviews show, that if you continue to grow and develop in the--through the years--in the new years of life that are open to you, you become more and more authentically yourself. You shed the masks and that is enormously liberating. And--and finally, with all its pains, you affirm the life that you have lived and you put it all together. And sh--that woman--I was very struck by that account of hers--I found it somewhere--that she--she had lived so much of her life denying an essential part of herself and--and--and according to a mask, you know, and she finally got rid of the mask.
LAMB: You wrote about Helen and Richard Dudman.
Ms. FRIEDAN: Oh, yes. They were one of my first sense of the pioneering, adventurous possibilities of age. I got to know them when he was the head of the Washington bureau of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. And she had been women's page editor of the Washington Post and then she had been working for ca--corp--What do you call it?--public broadcasting. And she should have been made manager of the station there in Washington when it opened up and she was passed over for a man, so she was real mad and they decided that--that he--that he would take early retirement.

And they--they had a shack on an island--well, it was a cabin, whatever you want to call it--island in Maine. And that--in the little town near their island a radio station was for sale, and so they kind of borrowed the money and bought the radio station. She ran the radio station; he kept working in Washington till the station began to be in the black and then--and they started a whole new life for them--then he took early retirement. But in his favor, he said, `I'm not going to stay on in this town where, once you've had the power that being a--you know, a leading journalist gives you, you--then you don't have that any longer and you hang on--instead I want to make a new life--a new life for myself.' And I--I go to see them in--in--in New Hampshir--I mean, in Maine. They've--this radio station is a great success.

He helped her. I mean, she was running it. He helped a little in the news division, but he began to do his own thing with not only building boats, which he had intended to do. We--I--I don't think he's ever going to get that boat finished, but he's doing north-south editing and journalist--teaching in journalism in the Third World countries from a center in--in Hanover. And she's about at the point where she's handing over the radio station to their daughters, who moved up there, too, with their kids, so she can go with Richard on some of these adv--Third World adventures. And they are virt--really role models for the fountain of age.
LAMB: You found Flora Lewis, who writes a column from time to time for The New York Times, but used to be their foreign correspondent.
Ms. FRIEDAN: Yeah. Yeah. She--she--I interviewed her about the last year I was working on the book. She had come to speak in LA and she took the lecture so she could go see her mother, who was in a nursing home. And Flora, after all those years as a foreign correspondent and a columnist, was somehow--I don't know what, exactly. She had made a new use of her experience, sort of lecturing all over Europe, you know. You know, she's committed to the sort of one-world international thing. She's a brilliant, brilliant woman and it really interests me when you ask people like the Dudmans or--or Flora Lewis, but let's not assume that everybody that I interviewed was something glamorous like a foreign correspondent.

I mean, I interviewed plenty of women on Social Security who also were making new lives for themselves, you know. And--and when you--if you try to get them to put into words the difference between what they feel about themselves now at, say, 70-something compared to, say, 50 or whatever, it's really interesting how they--you know, they--their judgments are not so rigid, black and white, that they've acquired a new ease. They see things whole. They--they've got a kind of a comfort and assurance and authority. They know who they are. They don't care so much what other people think. You can see it in their faces as sort of a--I really recognize it. I recognize it when a woman reaches that point. Suddenly there's a new kind of serenity and assurance and a radiance in her face.

I know one woman and she's a marvelous woman that I know in California, and she--she just looks so different. I don't know, she--she's maybe not quite as thin as she used to be. She's dy--she's stopped dying her hair and she used to somehow not project the confidence that she has now and this sort of comfort with herself, and she just required--I mean, strengths that have no name, absol--I--I don't even know the word for it, you know, but there it is.
LAMB: You write--several times you mention Marlene Sanders.
Ms. FRIEDAN: Well, Marlene Sanders is one of my best friends and we've been through a lot together. When she was--she was a--she called me in the middle of the night when she was the first woman to be made vice president for news of a network and, of course, she has--even when network people were supposed to not be political, she was one of the large underground of women in the--in the networks that supported the movement and did what they could do. Now we run the Women, Men and Media project together with Nancy Woodhull.

And she's--because she's close to me I use a lot of my own friends, because I could observe all the--these interesting little things, like when she--she's widowed and Jerry, her husband, was a wonderful man. And then she got--finally sold the big apartment that they had had and she's in a smaller, but very perfect for her, sunny, airy new space and she's--I like to see the way she copes with--very clearly--Marlene, if you know her, she's a very clear-headed person--much more clear-headed than I am, I sometimes feel. And so she's made these changes in her life in--in a very good way and I like to see it.
LAMB: Do you have another book you plan to write?
Ms. FRIEDAN: At this moment, my dear, I am so relieved to get this--you know that I shipped seven times--seven years, back and forth, across the country 20 boxes of papers, of notes, of, you know, books for--because I'm--each year when I'd go for my spring-winter teaching at the University of Southern California and, I mean, I just was drowning in all that research and I--the fact that I finally finished that book is such a liberation. And I don't know. I don't want to do another heavy book like that. I'm going to do short stuff. Maybe I'll do a column. Maybe I'll do a program like you. Maybe I'll do a detective story. Maybe I'll write science fiction or a novel, but no more heavy books.
LAMB: The name of the book is "The Fountain of Age" and our guest has been Betty Friedan. Thank you for joining us.


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