With every romantic mishap I have, there’s a part of me that wonders if I’ll ever get it right. I’m sure a lot of us feel that way. I’ll admit that a good portion of that panic stems from seeing women in their 50s and 60s out at clubs and still clearly single. A judgmental voice whispers, “I don’t want to be like her.” It’s incredibly shallow and, as it turns out, off the mark. A little gem called Over the Rainbow helped teach me that.
This Dutch documentary follows Leny, a late-in-life lesbian who is all energy and charisma. Now in her early 80s, she only embraced her sexuality at 68 when she fell in love with her Hawaiian sweetheart. Talk about a late bloomer!
But the more you learn about Leny, the more it all starts to make sense. Leny was 12 when her father died. His dying wish was that she take care of her mother. She lived until she was 98.
During all this time, Leny never married, instead taking up a career as a secretary and going on adventures, like climbing the Himalayas. Though chained to her mother, her role as spinster gave her a lot of liberty she may otherwise not have had.
She was not unaware. Throughout her school years she knew she had more-than-friendly feelings for several of her classmates, even if she didn’t have a name for it. She never did anything about her feelings then, and her fear of rejection stopped her from attempting anything decades later.
How her mother influenced her choices we never really find out. But it’s maybe telling that Leny found her first and only love in New Zealand after her mother’s death.
Credit to Leny–there was no going back after that. She tried to make it work with her lover, visiting her twice for three-month stays in Hawaii before her visa expired. But when it became clear her partner would not be coming out to her family, Leny called things off. A rash decision she now regrets, but a move that is so representative of her–she does not take your shit!
Leny is that older woman out at clubs. You see her out dancing several times in this short 40-minute movie. She draws in women of all ages, one even claiming that everyone knows who she is. And Leny, she’s having so much fun that you can’t help but feel thrilled that she’s finally found this.
But age and health issues do eventually rear their ugly heads–quite literally. Leny has a “lump” in her head that doctors can’t operate on. She’s also not as mobile as she used to be, which eats away at this independent woman. Instead of admitting defeat, however, she regularly exercises and takes kayaking and hiking trips on her own.
And with the exception of some friends, she is alone. With no partner and no children, she lives by herself. Her biggest fear is ending up in a nursing home.
So when she brings up a question a friend once asked–“Do you feel you missed the boat?”–I listen closely, because I’ve been wondering that myself. Her answer is “no.” She doesn’t elaborate a ton, and as I reflect on the film I realize she doesn’t really have to.
Leny’s life will not be summed up by the decades it took her to find her true love, only to let her get away. I like to think she’ll be remembered as someone who embraced her true self when many would say that part of her life was over.
Let me tell you, if I reach my 80s and can say I’ve experienced all the amazing things Leny has, plus have found true love like her, I’ll complain as much as she does–not at all.
Visit overtherainbow.tv to find out when the film is playing near you.