Quixotic: I ran across that word three times my reading last week and once on the radio. Unusual. The fist time I saw the word was in a general reference to cycling any distance further than a mile or two around the neighbourhood and I didn’t think too much about it. By the third time I saw the word it was describing women in their 40’s and said that it was “often in detriment to their health”. Well, I am a woman in her 40’s, and the health comment in particular puzzled me, so I looked it up just to make sure I actually remembered the definition of the odd stereotype with which this author was labelling me. According to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary it means “foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals ; especially : marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action”…or like Don Quixote.
I suppose I can think of some ways that a pursuit of ideals might be detrimental to one’s health, but all of the ways I can imagine involve excess or enemies. I also remember that my Dad was in his 40’s when Mom nick-named him Don Quixote and teased him about jousting windmills. At the same time, I wonder if the pursuit of lofty ideals is indicative of an age based desire. True, when one is in their 40’s they usually have children who are old enough and parents who are young enough that they can turn interests toward something outside the home if they like. I agree that a quest is more possible for someone in their forties, but the desire for a quest? Well, I have had that since I was old enough to understand the concept and no one needs freedom of the sort that is afforded to men and women in their forties in order to dream the impossible dream.
I have seen many assessments and generalizations of what I, as a woman in her forties, want from life. I find some of them appallingly off the mark, even offensive. On the whole, I guess I’m fairly comfortable with this one. There is a little part of me that hums in synchronicity when I hear Man of La Mancha or Dulcinea. I heard the music in my 20s and 30s though and my plan is to still be humming when I am 50, 70 or 90.