The Queen of My Self

by Danielle Pergament, executive editor of Allure

Here’s the upside to a midlife crisis: black eyeliner. No, obviously, I don’t mean pretty, flattering (office-appropriate!) black eyeliner. I mean the kind of black eyeliner you’d wear if you were having a dance party.

On a bar. With Keith Richards.

I know of what I speak. No one knows black eyeliner like I know black eyeliner. I’ve worked at Allure for 143 years. I’ve tested every black eyeliner that has ever been manufactured. This isn’t that.

This is this:

A few weeks ago—on a regular Tuesday morning that wasn’t my birthday—I woke up, walked into the kitchen, and found my awesome husband, my two great kids, and a steaming cup of HOLY CRAP YOU’RE 42 waiting on the kitchen counter. I had a flash—like they have in police procedurals where everything fades to black and an image of the murder weapon crystallizes in an instant. For me it was my 26-year-old self driving a convertible wearing Daisy Dukes listening to Michael Jackson. (Side note to millennials: Michael Jackson was a world-famous pop star in the 1980s and 1990s who had such hits as “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.”)

This is how my midlife crisis (MLC) presented—sweet, fun, with a touch of nostalgia. Not the creepy, predatory kind. My MLC is classy. Really.

According to studies, midlife crises affect men more than women at a ratio of 118:1 (yeah, I know it’s not real—I made it up). But women get them, too. And I’m in the throes right now. I’m not saying I went out and bought a cherry-red Maserati. Although there is an 80 percent chance I spent over $200 on an incredibly beautiful, utterly impractical strappy black bra that has this cobweb design in the front but in a totally elegant way.

There have been other symptoms. I started shaving my legs every day, which is a big thing for someone who has been married for nine years. I’ve always had buckets of mascara tubes, lipsticks, self-tanners, eye creams, you-name-its, but now I’ve actually opened a few of them. The family iPad, which we used to use for my kids’ homework assignments and NPR, is now primarily a device that plays “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk. The other day I made my kids (they’re five and seven, by the way) watch the “Thriller” video over their morning oatmeal. And, naturally, going hand in hand with all of this is an Isabel Marant, insanely-short-hemline chapter of my life. Of course these dresses would look more appropriate on a 24-year-old, but you’re totally missing the point.

Here’s the part no one will tell you about an MLC: It’s pretty much all good. Hell, it’s all great. Yes, it can blow up a marriage, and it can be utterly ruinous when the ego indulges. But if you stop before the ruinous part, it’s amazing. I’m talking about the fact that you get to be a freshman in college again. Except this time, you’re doing it with a brain in your head and the respectability that comes with a job and 42 years of living on planet Earth. Your jokes are funnier. Your conversation is sharper.

If you’re lucky enough to have a midlife crisis, I say seize it. Listen to your midlife crisis. It’s in there. It’s trying to find a way out. Don’t smother it. Let it find its voice, even if that voice is singing a Britney Spears song.

So back to that black eyeliner: Did I drink tequila and dance to Bob Marley (again, big in the 1980s and 1990s) until 1 a.m. last night? You betcha! Did I feel a small thrill when the hipster waiter checked me out? Absolutely! And did I cringe a little when the babysitter gave me a disapproving look when I got home? Yes, that, too!

But it was freeing. Maybe even a little empowering. My smoky eyes were exactly on point. And if I may say so, I think Keith would have been proud.
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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to


Though summer is the season of long, light, hot days, each day actually gets shorter, losing about two minutes of sunlight every 24 hours. Light is not lost lightly. Light equals life for most living things. The grim prospects of life in the dark prod one to take action. To join the solar cheering section and enlist in the service of the sun. The stars need stirring, the atmosphere a charge. This is the task at hand if all is not to be lost.

Ask not what the ailing sun can do for you, but what you can do for the sun. Sympathetic magic is called for to fan the floundering flames of El Sol. It is the tradition of the people of the Taos Pueblo to race up the mountain to welcome the rising solstice sun. To meet it half-way, as it were. For them, it is a form of reciprocation. A returning, in much gratitude, of some life-giving energy back to its original source. An allegorical passing of the life force torch.

In pagan Europe and North Africa people sent burning wooden hoops and wheels woven of straw rolling down steep hills to illustrate the retreat of the sun, spinning, turning, traveling away. These wheels descend from a much older solar symbol, the chariot. The Norse Eddas tell of the Goddess Sol, Sul, Sulis driving the chariot of the sun. Ancient Buddhist texts speak of the Sun Chariot as the Great Vehicle, or the Chariot of Fire.

The ancient Greeks pictured the sun carried across the daytime sky in a golden chariot. On the Summer Solstice, the priests of the Sun and Poseidon, along with the priestess of Athena processed in front of the Acropolis with gift offerings of fruit and libations of honeycombs. Wine was not served because it would make the Sun tipsy and he had to drive.

The actual lighting of bonfires is, by far, the most prevalent — practically universal — practice for celebrations around the time of the solstice. What more fitting offering could be made in the aid of the failing mother of all light? It is the ultimate act of flattery by imitation. A primal sacrament of obiscience to the first flame of the firmament. A symbolic feeding of restorative fresh strength to the sun. And at the same time, certainly, the light and heat of the fire serve to soothe and affirm that, though departing, the sun will surely return.

In ancient Egypt, the Summer Solstice was celebrated by the Burning of the Lamps at Sais in honor of Isis, Queen of Heaven. In Rome, the day was dedicated to Vesta, also known as Hestia in Greece. The Vestal Virgins, Her oracular priestesses, were the guardians of the public hearth and altar. On this day the perpetual fire representing the mystical heart of the empire, was extinguished, re-kindled and blessed.

People across the European continent as well as the New World colonies built great bonfires on the solstice. They danced around them the whole night long in a joyful, spirited vigil. They danced in great circles, winding to assist the sun on its celestial course. They leapt through the flames and drove their animals through them to be empowered and purified by the heat, the smoke. They waved torches in the air, passed them over crop and stock, and sent them out to sea. Blessings, all, of the sun’s supreme power.

The age-old worshipful awe of nature, the respect, the reverence, has all but disappeared in contemporary western society. We have tampered with the perfectly functioning divine order of Nature, trying to fix what wasn’t broken. The universal scenario has shifted, and the world will never be the same. We have turned the heat up too high and the fires burn out of control. The deserts are spreading. The icebergs are melting. The oceans are sullied. The atmosphere is shrinking. The crops are scorched and fertile soil is washed away. The hot air dries out the foliage and sears our lungs. Mother Earth is on a slow burn and Mother Nature’s patience is fried. The sun — the bringer of light and life, the center of our once-adoring orbit — has now become something to stay out of.

This summer let us honor our debt to the sun by making friends with it once again. We can show our respect for the gift of its power by putting it to good use. We can collect this cosmic resource and utilize it as fuel to power our lives. We can plant arbors for shade and trees to prevent erosion. We can conserve, reuse and recycle. And most important of all, we can be the emissaries of the sun, spreading warmth and light and energy wherever we go, whatever we do.


There are two chances to mark the Summer Solstice this year. If you live in NYC come out and celebrate the longest day of the year!

Please join me for my 41st Annual (two part) Soulstice Ceremony.

Please wear red, yellow, gold, sunny summer colors and bring kids, dogs, drums and lots and lots of spirit.

The events will be held on two different days in two different boros.

Both events are family friendly and free. And, as always, they are rain or shine.

Sizzling Soulstice Ceremony with Mama Donna Henes & Friends

Monday, June 20 6:00 PM, event starts

6:34 PM, Solstice moment

Grand Army Plaza, Bailey Fountain, Brooklyn

For info: 718-857-1343




Tuesday, June 21, 7:30 PM

Sunset Soulstice Ceremony with Mama Donna Henes & Friends

Drum the sun down as it sets on the river.

Socrates Sculpture Park

32-01 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City, Queens

For info: 718-956-1819



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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to





by Mary Petiet 

The power of the divine feminine taps into the power of life. The power is accessible to everyone as the equal opportunity energy surrounding and connecting all living things. The power is ancient, and meditative practices such as yoga, which in Sanskrit means linking to the divine, can connect us to this power. When we make the connection, we find the balance we need to realize our highest selves, and through that balance we can realize the highest self of the larger society.  To reclaim the divine feminine, we need only remember, and as more and more of us remember, we heal first ourselves, and ultimately the planet.

  1. She is the route back to the self

In her mother aspect the divine feminine offers a route back to the self and She is all-inclusive. She embraces all of creation, men, women and nature, and we find Her when we reach back far enough into history and our own consciousness. She was there from our very beginning, through the Paleolithic and the Neolithic, when we celebrated her in carved figurines. She was there when we made the shift to agriculture, clear as the full moon, the goddess with her circular all encompassing worldview, birth, life, death and birth again. The goddess as mother, the goddess whose body is the earth which nurtures us all. She is there now in your deepest consciousness, you need only remember, and when you do, She will guide you back to yourself.

  1. She promotes life over death

The divine feminine is the creative force of the universe. She is the agent of life and She promotes life at every turn. Our earliest mythologies imagine her birthing the universe, and today each birth echoes that of the universe as life journeys from the womb which mirrors the cosmos to join the life of the planet. She is alive in all nature and promotes the primary goal of all life, which is to live. When we reclaim our most basic right, the right to live, we stop promoting the current culture of death with its death dealing policies on the battlefield, in nature, and in the media. When we promote life over death, we promote peace, and the peaceful conditions in which life may flourish.

  1. She promotes collective good over individual gain

The divine feminine assumes abundance for all. This is an aspect of her inclusion of everyone. One of Her symbols is the circle, which travels eternally round and round. The circle has no ending and no pinnacle at the top, as does the pyramid, so there is nowhere on the circle to stand above others. The circle contains all within its safety. There is enough within it for the collective good, and therefore no need for the inflated individualism that leads to greed, suffering, and massive income discrepancy.

  1. She our relationship to the planet heals

The greatest image of the divine feminine is the planet itself. Her body is the earth, and we all spring from it. All of us, human, plant and animal. This planet, Her sacred body, is our home and when we understand our connection to it and through it to all life, we will stop defiling it. Once we have traveled the route back to the self, we emerge aware of our surroundings in a new way. We fathom our connection to each living thing and we begin to revere the planet that nourishes us. The divine feminine is already here as more and more of us travel that route and hear Her call. Listen carefully, and you will too.


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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to



By Sharon Mesmer

(Article first appeared in the NYTimes online on 2/11/16, and in the Sunday Review print edition 2/14/16:

For some women, menopause is no big deal. Some say they barely notice it. My mother, long ago, described her menopause this way: “My periods just started gettin’ lighter and lighter, and my hormones settled down, and then one day … pffft! It was over.”

Not me. Not only did menopause change my life, it changed me.

Before I was laid low by hot flashes and panic-inducing adrenaline rushes, the constant oscillation between morbid sadness and killer rage, I’d prided myself on being fearless. I’d kicked undercover cops in the groin, screamed obscenities at the masochistic nuns at my Catholic school, threw a chair at my abusive fiancé’s head while Allen Ginsberg read poetry in a room below.

And suddenly, I was a person to whom sitting quietly with hands folded, ideally in a dark room with the shades drawn and maybe “The Lawrence Welk Show” playing low on an old TV, seemed like the best plan ever.

I wish I’d been better prepared. I wish I’d properly celebrated the last time I’d canceled plans to spend all morning soaking in a lavender-scented bathtub with a bottle of Advil. I wish I’d noted down the date when I’d dug that last extra tampon out of the bottom of my purse and thrown it away. I should have marked the event in some way, maybe even performed a personal rite-of-passage ritual: taken that tampon out to the woods, placed it upon an altar that I’d fashioned out of ancient, glacial rocks, and set it ablaze while I chanted an invocation to whoever the crone-goddess of menopause is.

I am now well-acquainted with that crone-godddess.

It’s possible that I have the World’s Worst Menopause. But how to quantify with hard data hot flashes that make me feel like I’m staring into the mouth of an active volcano or the engine of a coal-burning locomotive on the hottest day in history? To what previous record could I compare panic-inducing adrenaline rushes that occur every hour on the hour and, while I’m teaching, inspire concerned students to ask if I’m having a heart attack? When I hear women use cutesy nicknames like “power surges” I want to rip their throats out.

If you are one of those women for whom the transition from periods to no periods was like the transition from walking to sitting down — congratulations. Everybody else — you are my tribe. And I’ve come to believe that our tribe needs a ritual.

I’ve heard menopause described as a second puberty. There are plenty of rite-of-passage rituals for girls as they begin and complete puberty. There’s the bat mitzvah, the quinceañera and the Sweet 16. I’ve read about a beautiful Apache ceremony called Na’ii’ees, which takes place the summer after a girl has her first period, at sunrise, and commemorates the story of Esdzanadehe, the First Woman. As it was originally performed, a girl, covered with a golden mixture of cornmeal and clay, becomes imbued with the power of the First Woman, and receives the ability to heal and bring blessings to her community.

I didn’t have a Sweet 16 or a bat mitzvah. But I did have a First Holy Communion, which supposedly marked my ascent to the age of reason, as a seven-year-old. As rituals go, it was a good one.

First, there was the buying of the white dress, white fake fur jacket and white shoes. I clearly recall my mother and I marching up and down Ashland Avenue, the main shopping street in our south side Chicago neighborhood, in search of something that I would actually deign to wear. It couldn’t be too ornate, according to Sister Eleanor, the principal of St. John of God grammar school, but according to me it had to be really, really pretty. (Twelve years ago I actually found the dress as I was cleaning out my mom’s house, and it really was pretty: sateen with sheer puffy sleeves and seed pearls all over the bodice.) As we shopped around, we’d run into other girls and their mothers doing the same thing. Seeing them and comparing notes — “Goldblatts ain’t got nothin’ good no more” “I heard they’re gougin’ everybody over by 63rd” — heightened the feeling of the ceremony’s importance.

The ceremony, on a May morning in 1968, bordered on the pagan: all 60 kids marched slowly, piously, in a procession toward the church, led by the pastor and assistant priests, with altar boys shouldering a large statue of the Virgin Mary on a wooden pallet, her head wreathed in white roses. The streets, blocked by police barricades, were packed with our parents, grandparents, godparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles and neighbors, all snapping photos. We were told by the nuns not to talk to, or even look at, anyone, just keep our eyes focused on the kid directly in front of us, our hands folded in prayer. And yet at almost every step someone was yelling my name — “It’s Uncle Bob, honey! I wanna take your picture!” “Sharon! Look at your mother!”

As we turned a corner, I could, for the first time, hear the booming sounds of the church organ and the choir. I remember thinking right then that that was a magic moment: all of us walking toward the thunderous organ playing just for us while the choir of adults sang us in to the tune of a hymn called “This Is My Body.”

A group of teenage boys stood with their arms folded, watching us; a young mother crouched down, put her arm around her little boy, and pointed; an old man doffed his cap. As we walked up the steps of the church, the nuns, like security at a rock concert, waved back the mothers with flowers and dads with cameras. It felt like we were the Beatles.

Now I wonder: why is that we’re lauded and celebrated when we’ve only just embarked on the journey? Why do we stop marking, ritually, the accomplishments along the way? The hurdles that women routinely overcome?

I think all of us who are going through menopause should gather together, and then two-by-two make a pious procession through streets clogged with our living loved ones and long-dead parents and grandparents (resurrected just for us and calling our names). Whoever we are, whether svelte and wafting Chanel, or pouchy with pendulous breasts, I want us to be made much of, cheered, lauded, recognized. I want our procession to be led by a bunch of men our age with beer guts pushing their shirt buttons apart, shouldering a statue of whoever our appropriate goddess is — possibly Tonantzin, the Aztec Earth Mother, or maybe Hillary Clinton.

I want us to be sung to by a choir as we march into a secular temple, possibly some combination of the old Fillmore and the Society for Ethical Culture. Once inside, we gather in a circle around a huge ring of fire and, at an appropriate moment, accompanied by chanting, we toss into the flames that unused old tampon that we’ve been carrying around for five years. As we do, the fire changes from red to pure white, tongues of it leap into our hearts, and we receive the ability to heal and bring blessings to our community.

And there’s a party afterward that lasts four days, with enough ice-cold drinks, Ativan, and L’Occitane Verbena Refreshing Towelettes (chilling in hundreds of tiny personal refrigerators), for us all.



As a result of this article in the New York TimesI was invited to create an Empowerment Queen’s Crowning Ceremony at The Ethical Culture Society. The event also features Anne Klaeyson, Leader of The Ethical Culture Society, Sharon Mesmer, Poet and Lori Hefner, Healer.  

Becoming the Queen of Your Self

June 30, from 6:30 – 9:30 pm.
The Ethical Culture Society
2 West 64th Street, NYC
Info:(212) 874-5210


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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to


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