By Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff
April 08, 2010
Kathy Kinney (best known as Mimi on The Drew Carey Show) and publishing executive Cindy Ratzlaff have written the grown woman's guide to claiming happiness.
It all started one night because Kathy's feet were hot and she couldn't sleep. While searching the Internet to see if other women had similar symptoms or if what she was experiencing was fatal, she stumbled upon several sites telling her that she had reached her crone years and must embrace entering the final phase of her life. Having an understandably violent reaction to the word crone she looked it up in the dictionary. That night on the Internet she learned two important things:
1. Many women have hot feet and need to kick the covers off at night to cool off.
2. Crone meant exactly what she thought it did and she didn't want to be one.
According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary the word crone dates back to the fourteenth century and is a Middle English term of abuse. The dictionary under the Tools menu in Microsoft Word agrees with Merriam-Webster's and adds one additional definition: woman over forty.
Kathy found Web sites that claim the title crone hasn't always been derogatory; in pre-Christian times, old women were particularly important members of the community. Yes, we're sure they were very important members of their society but we bet they didn't like being called a crone any more than we do. Let's face it, words matter. The language that others and we use to describe our lives and ourselves as women affects us. No matter what kind of spin you put on it, the word crone still evokes an image of a withered old woman at the end of her life, and that's no reason to throw a party.
There are also Web sites that offer the advice that a woman should take time alone to make the transition to crone. Alone, so that the constant waking and the tossing of covers to accommodate night sweats can be guilt free. Alone, to deal with hot flashes and to come to terms with the chaos created by hormonal changes, as well as to deal with erratic moods that may alienate family and friends. Hang on—it's bad enough you get labeled a crone but now you're supposed to go off alone?
Certainly spending time by yourself can be meaningful and enriching, but isolating yourself to protect yourself and others from your symptoms of menopause while you embrace your inner crone doesn't seem like a positive way to deal with growing older. What about staying put and surrounding yourself with a community of like-minded women who will offer you love and support?
A few weeks after Kathy's visit to the Internet we met for our annual "girlfriend getaway." That year, to celebrate our friendship and mutual love of travel, we met in the beautiful city of Prague. As always, over dinner the first night, we began by congratulating each other for not being on any kind of medication and then launched into the fun task of catching up as we were both going through many changes in our careers and relationships. It wasn't long into the conversation that Kathy dropped the C-word—crone—and, not surprisingly, Cindy didn't want to be one, either. We quickly reached the conclusion that, even though we were hovering on the edges of menopause, what with all the advances in science, we were probably only at the midpoint of our lives. Being a crone for the next forty or fifty years was not an attractive option.
We wondered if there was a comparable word for describing aging men and, if there was, would they allow themselves to be called that. We couldn't think of a single word that was even close. The sight of the well-lit Prague Castle out the window of our restaurant made us think of the phrase "a man is the king of his castle." What the heck does that make us—the crone in the corner? We decided, right then, that we would become Queens—Queens of Our Own Lives—and we would celebrate this transition, not in isolation, but together with friendship, joy and, hopefully, cake.
We realized we needed a format for our celebration. We thought about the kind of events that had meaning and significance to us, and how we'd like to create a new event to celebrate entering this next stage of life. Every New Year's Eve Kathy has a big dinner with a lot of candles, good food, great friends and champagne. During the course of the meal a candle is passed around the table and everyone answers these two questions when the candle comes to them: What do you want to let go of or leave behind in the old year that no longer works for you, and what do you want to keep that is still working for you? In those two sentences, often with tears, courage and much laughter, the old year is honored and put to rest and the New Year is welcomed in. We wanted something like those New Year's Eve dinners to help us let go of things from the first half of our lives that were still holding us back and to bring forward the things that we admired about ourselves. So that's what we did. We used the two questions and we called it our Crowning Ceremony.
For the next six nights over dinner we asked each other what we wanted to let go of from the first half of our lives that was no longer working, and what we wanted to keep and take to the second half that was still working. During the day we wandered, saw the sights and marveled at gorgeous Prague. At night over wonderful meals like goose and champagne or sometimes just goulash and pilsner beer, by asking these two deceptively simple questions, we began an adventure that turned into a thorough virtual spring-cleaning of our mental closets. We happily left huge piles of useless old beliefs, about fear, beauty and needing to wear high heels, in booths and under tables in restaurants all across Prague.
During the middle of our Crowning Ceremony week we started to feel that, while we had most definitely enjoyed our youth, the best of life might really be yet to come. By letting go of things like self-doubt, fear of being judged and worry about how to look younger, we were setting ourselves free to admire who we were right now. We were overjoyed to discover that we did admire the women we had become. We were two strong women, who brought with them to the second half of life courage, wisdom and, most of all, the knowledge that they could survive anything with their dignity and humor intact.
At the end of our Crowning Ceremony week, by examining our lives and asking each other these two questions, we felt strong, powerful and positive that this second half of our lives would certainly be the best half. Cindy had left her doubt about being smart enough to compete in the business world with some swans floating in the Vltava River outside a three star seafood restaurant and was taking great pleasure in the knowledge that she was still the courageous twenty-year-old woman who had sold her bike for two hundred dollars, taken the money and moved to New York City. Kathy, leaving behind her fear of not being worthy of love, in an underground gothic café that served beer, absinthe and goulash, was elated to reclaim the sense of humor that had helped her keep a positive outlook on life since she had told her first knock-knock joke at the age of four.
Having declared ourselves Queens of Our Own Lives, we ended our vacation and returned to our homes. We were delighted to find that we both continued to feel empowered by our Crowning Ceremony. Every woman we told about our vacation loved the idea and wanted to have a Crowning Ceremony of her own. We'd had so much fun and gained such strength, we decided that the least we could do was pass it on to our friends. So we began to host gatherings that we continued to call Crowning Ceremonies.
Kathy Kinneyis best known for her iconic role as Mimi Bobeck on The Drew Carey Show. She has acted in more than a dozen films, guest-starred on numerous television shows and has toured worldwide with Drew Carey and the Improv All-Stars. Kinney may also be seen in the title role of Mrs. P atMrsP.com, a website for children aimed at keeping the joy of books and reading alive.
A veteran publishing executive,Cindy Ratzlaffcreated marketing campaigns for more than 100 New York Times best-selling books, including The South Beach Diet. She is president of Brand New Brand You, which specializes in using new social media platforms to increase brand awareness, and is co-founder of the online publishing company Supreme Social Media.