Notta Louden, Crone


About That

Notta Louden, Crone


I should know better than to try to teach two classes on the days I fast.

Yes, fasting focuses the mind on things beyond the physical. It is also a good practice for those in normal health. However, in my experience, it is a practice best served alone or in the company of others who are also fasting. Otherwise, the high one gets from the experience of conquering this primal urge to eat can be papered over with impatience.

Thus, in the days after Rosh Hashanah, I found myself observing the Fast of Gedaliah.* And teaching an extra class for a teacher who called off sick. She had warned me that her afternoon class could be “challenging,” which is Teacher Speak for big pains in the tukhas. I assured Notta I could handle them alone, but she insisted on helping out.

And she regretted it within the first hour. We had a young man of the sort we frequently get in all the agency’s classes: cocksure that he is too street-smart to need the class, but in class because of an outside force (this can be family or the judicial system). These fairly recent high school dropouts have little or no patience with instruction in subjects they consider either beneath their intelligence or, worse, something these cherubs consider to be their specialty…only to find such is not the case. It has been the cause of many profanities and frustration, but this one was one of the particular students who do not possess the maturity not to take it out on someone else.

Notta had barely pointed out an addition error to this particular young man, when he burst out! “I know how to do it, you old crone!”

If you’ve read my blog, you know how little patience Notta and I have for people who can only express their more negative emotions by calling other people names. To wit, no patience whatsoever, be the name-caller a 20-something student or the Foul-Mouthed Fool in the White house. Fasting only cuts the fuse to my temper that much shorter.

Pencils and notebooks jumped when I slammed my stack of workbooks and tablets onto his table. “What did you just call her?” I said. My voice had the deadly calm that terrified my children in their younger years.

The young man sank back further into his chair. “You heard me. I said, ‘crone’.”

“And do you know what that word means?”

He sat up a little straighter with what I suppose was meant to be a sneer on his face. It reminded me more of a two-year-old pouting. “Everybody knows what it means: an ugly old woman gets all up in your business. I don’t need it.”

I shook my head. “If that’s what everybody knows, then everybody is wrong.” I held up a hand to stop his protest. “I have no doubt you can find something like that definition in the dictionary, if you ever pick up one. However, that is not what the word meant in a world where women were respected.”

“I respect women,” he said, arms crossing over his hoody-ed chest. “I respect my gramma. Weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be coming here.”

“What about the women in this class? Or the ones in your neighborhood about your age?”

He laughed that particular laugh men have that sets women’s teeth on edge. Superior to themselves, demeaning to anyone else. A particular kind of ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about’ sort of self-delusion. “They ain’t women. Not yet. They got to be older, have babies and maybe gray hair to be women.”

I had to draw a deep breath to get the rigidity out of my shoulders, neck and jaw. “And what makes a boy a man?”

He actually smirked. I squeezed the workbooks. “You don’t know by now, I won’t tell you.”

I sat down, with another deep breath. “So you’re telling me that sex turns a boy into a man?”

The smirk. Dear G-d, the smirk. “Sure it does.”

“Does it also turn a girl into a woman?”

He shrugged. “If she has a baby, I guess so. ‘s what women are for, aren’t they? Having babies and populating the species?”

“I see,” I said. “Well, you’re wrong.”

He jerked bolt upright at that. “The Bible says – “

My hand went up again. “You go to church every week?”

He shrugged. “No. But I go whenever I want to.”

“Read the Bible much?”

That laugh. Here we go, I thought. Sit on your hands. “Then please stop cherry-picking from a book you haven’t read and probably wouldn’t quote correctly if you had. Now, I have three children. They are grown and gone, but they do remember that I taught them to never use a word they did not know the full meaning of. Mostly, I taught them that to control their use of cuss words, but I won’t tolerate that kind of ignorance in them even now.”

“I’m not your kid!” he said.

Thank G-d for small favors, I regret to admit I thought. “No, but you are in my classroom. Same rule applies. And – “ I stopped him leaping into another ill-considered remark, “just so you can use that word again sometime, let me tell what it has meant and really means.

“Crone,” I said. “Noun, singular. Commonly used as an insult to an older women, since the ascendency of patriarchy and the subsequent diminution in women’s position in the world. Frequently used to accuse older women of witchcraft, sorcery or other signs of intelligence beyond her ‘place’ in society. Always inaccurately implies old age and ugliness: the bent, white-haired old woman with a hairy wart on her nose, for example.

“The accurate definition is, by contrast, a woman who has lived through her years as a maiden full of innocence, joy and wonder; and lived her years as a mother - either literally or figuratively – full of fertility, creativity, moral strength and energy. A crone is woman who carries both these phases of her life in her heart and draws on them for the wisdom to guide the young, to instruct the ignorant and to follow her own path. A crone is a Wise Woman with a wisdom. She is everything the one who plants a seed wishes to be, but can only observe and benefit from. The true crone is Experience and Knowledge.

I stood up again, aching in my knees, and light-headed. “So, if Notta tells you that there’s an error in your math, you can call her a crone, but you’d better listen to her if you want to pass the GED math test.”

I moved to put the workbooks away on the shelves.

The young man made no effort to lower his voice when next he spoke. “I sure hope I never have you for a teacher again.”

I gave him my best smile. “You and me both.”

  • Shout out to Candy Carlton and Toni Ashfaq who have encouraged me to renew my observance of my faith practices, like fasting.

P.S. check out my co-writeen e-books at



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