• Joanne Barney
  • Henlit: Whether They Realize It or not, Millions of Boomers Are Waiting For it
Henlit: Whether They Realize It or not, Millions of Boomers Are Waiting For it
Written by
Joanne Barney
December 2016
Written by
Joanne Barney
December 2016

When did I stop writing about the angst of torrid love, motherhood, wandering husbands, and terrible bosses? About the time, probably, that I got bored with the angst and became a hen.


The transition was subtle, in me and in my writing. Not that I didn’t still pay attention to love, children, work, but the women I began writing about had concerns and problems that reflected my growing uneasiness in a world that worshipped youth, in literature as well as in life.


So, one of my characters decided that romantic love was not a real entity, but something conjured a few centuries ago to complicate the reasons for marriage. She opted for good conversation over a 2012 bottle of white wine.  Another character rejoiced when her children grew up and she discovered a world beyond report cards and teenage sex, including a little of her own.


One of my favorite women told her prick of a principal to get lost and walked out of a career built on files of old lesson plans. Her next stop was a tent in Rwanda and she didn’t care what might come after that.


In contrast, if a chick hates her boss, she’ll probably screech, weep, toss her head, flap wildly, and stomp out of the roost. A hen will just waddle away, exit the yard through a hole in the fence, leaving behind only a ruthless peck or two of revenge.


At least, that’s what my characters do because after a little foundering, my old hens often realize that they can take control of the rest of their days, uncertain in number as they might be. Unlike young chicks who have little awareness that an end may be right around the next pile of corn, they know there might not be another pile of corn. Appreciate the one in front of you, the life you are living right now, they tell each other, clucking and nodding. 


Like giving time and thought to the path they’ve been following for years. Older women set on nests full of memories, turn over the eggs, ponder, exalt about small, clicking cracks, or, when a memory turns out to be a dud, they toss it out. And they sometimes cluster near the water bowl, or most likely glasses of white wine, in twos or threes, cackling softly about the uncharted territory that lies ahead.


I am guessing that the millions of baby-boomer women who are way past being chicks have settled into their hen lives and are looking for books about people like themselves--intelligent, flawed, problemmed, seeking, mature individuals who can make their ways through the hole in the fence when necessary.


Jo Barney


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