Rose Rouse, 64, is the co-founder and editor of Advantages of Age, poet, journalist and PR, On June 11th, her first poetry pamphlet Tantric Goddess is published on Eyewear. She says she sees herself as a sex and death activist. As well as an inveterate feather wearer.
WHAT IS YOUR NAME?
HOW OLD ARE YOU?
WHERE DO YOU LIVE?
WHAT DO YOU DO?
Co-founder of AoA, journalist, poet, PR and wild dancer when I get the opportunity.
TELL US WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE YOUR AGE?
It’s a surprise really. After the dread of being Saga-bait 50, post-60 has brought an unexpected blooming. I had a crisis when I was in my mid-50s. Freelance journalism seriously diminished. Ever tenacious, even I had to surrender and ultimately change. I was resistant but in the freeing up – I started earning money from doing press instead – I was ultimately able to be more creative. I started writing poetry and devoting an afternoon a week to this pursuit. I started writing the sort of non-fiction books that are long winding projects rather than deadlined commissions. I am at present working on UNsung London, a series of walks in unfashionable places with unlikely characters. I have already marched from Hackney Wick to Beckton Sewage Works with Billy Bragg, shopped Southall with Andrew Logan, visited new Haggerston estates with director, Andrea Zimmerman, explored Roman London with writer, Charlotte Higgins and more. I have also made a couple of dance films (I am fortunate in having a film maker son) Dance Willesden Junction and Dance Harlesden where I persuaded a little tribe of my friends to bring intimacy in the form of dance to the heart of Harlesden, not to mention the railway station.
And I edit AoA which is a pure delight. I encourage people to write for our magazine with the intention of challenging and bringing new ideas to this significant arena around growing older, and create conversations about the taboo stuff like sex, relationships and death as well. For me, a veteran rebel, this magazine brings oodles of pleasure.
At the moment, Suzanne Noble and I are in the midst of putting on a series of Arts Council funded events and performances called The OUTAGE series. The first was the Death Dinner which comprised twelve Deathworld people – from groovy pathologist, Carla Valentine who also has a column in the Guardian, to Professor Douglas Davies from Durham University who is an expert on Death Rituals in the UK, and Liz Rothschild who runs a woodland burial ground in Oxfordshire, is founder of the Kicking The Bucket Festival, a celebrant and performer – telling us about their death game in various moving, poignant, funny ways. This was filmed and will become an hour long documentary. The aim is to contribute to the opening up of dialogue and information around death.
The second OUTAGE event will be Taboo Night on June 24th at Vout-o-Renees in London where we will explore the taboos around getting older – from menopause to lack of erections to online dating to mutton style – through poetry, performance, tales and music.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE NOW THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE AT 25?
I remember being really embarrassed at 25 at my lack of worldly knowledge about the arts, history etc, I have a bit more of that which is a relief. I have some firm foundations in having a son, and a partner, plus well-established friends. That makes me feel infinitely rich. I am seen for who I truly am with all the shady parts too.
WHAT ABOUT SEX?
Making love, sensuality, explorations. I feel passionately that you can have a brilliant sex life as you grow older. I’m a bit of a sex activist. When I hear people sigh and say: ‘I haven’t got the energy these days’, I think you don’t need the energy, just the willingness to adventure in a different way. In my 50s, I was single. I signed up to Guardian Soulmates, it was hard work. Maybe I had sex a few times through that avenue. However I also did Tantra courses and learnt about boundaries. But mainly I discovered that I could have gorgeous, intimate relationships with my women friends. I was happily independent.
And when I was 60, I found a partner through a personal development workshop. But I had worked hard that year to invoke this potential partner. Luckily we are both sexual explorers. Which helps us keep it all alive. We have learnt not to be so restricted in our descriptions of what sex is. Sex can be stroking the other person’s back. Or dancing naked together.
I am an eager student of relationship. Still. The learning never stops. One of my favoured places is in a group where process can take place. This is challenging and nurturing at the same time. And a creative, dynamic one for me. My friendships with women are hugely important. I have found women friends with whom I don’t have to lie about anything. I can reveal shame, embarrassment, jealousy, everything. It is such a liberation. I feel that these relationships will always be with me. And I am a fan of intergenerational friendships, not just my age group.
My relationship with my son is the one I feel the proudest of. We are in tune in so many ways. Especially around ideas, politics and emotional matters. I love that he trusts me enough to tell me when he’s hurting. I love the bravery of young and older men.
My relationship with my mother has changed beyond all recognition. She has Alzheimer’s and we have the best relationship now. She has become sweeter. Me too. It has been a healing trip. So lovely that she trusts me now.
My relationship with my man. I am blessed with a man who can show his feelings. We can talk. And we both eventually show vulnerability. It’s actually harder for me. I appreciate his willingness to stand in the fire with me. And the twists and turns along the way.
HOW FREE DO YOU FEEL?
It’s not freedom that is important to me, it’s actually safety. I have always been freelance, a single mother etc. I’ve fought for freedom, but it was the safety that was harder to attain. Both in partnership and in a financial sense. I feel much safer at the moment. Which is great. Not of course that I have anything like retirement funds.
WHAT ARE YOU PROUD OF?
My relationship with my son. It’s so different from my relationship with my parents. I love that feeling of unconditional, tigress love.
WHAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED?
Keeping on meeting and talking to different people with different ideas. Keeping on reading. Being open to the new. Curiosity.
WHEN ARE YOU HAPPIEST?
Doing simple stuff. Walking on the beach at Borth y Gest with Asanga and his wanderlust dog, Poppy. She’s actually run off somewhere but we’re not worried. Going down Columbia Rd market with Amanda, one of my best friends. Pottering around in my garden. Sitting in bed writing a new poem.
AND WHERE DOES YOUR CREATIVITY GO?
In lots of different directions from AoA to dance to poetry to new books to group processes to cooking up ideas for projects.
WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF LIVING?
Get involved. Stand up for what you believe in. At the moment, I am active in supporting Jeremy Corbyn because I believe that he honestly wants to bring a fairer, more equal society that will help the vulnerable. Showing up for my friends, family, loved ones. To be unafraid of the shadows and to welcome love.
I feel as though I am a beginner here. But I am thinking about death and how that could be better for everyone. And opening up the dialogue.
ARE YOU STILL DREAMING?
Dreaming is one of my favourite pursuits, often on motorways when driving. Somehow there is the space to dream.
WHAT WAS A RECENT OUTRAGEOUS ACTION OF YOURS?
For me an outrageous action is turning down the opportunity to be outrageous. To hide a little. I’m hiding now.