See, this is why people love her so much. She made the case for the women's movement, she stayed active and provocative, and now, in her eighth decade, she's hanging around with all the people she ever slept with (at least the ones who are still alive).
She sounds as sharp as ever, with a hearty and generous laugh, giving the lie as she always did to the worn cliche of a humorless female crusader, still holding on to her same natural beauty and her defense of it (never spend more than 15 minutes a day on your looks was a credo many took to heart; plastic surgery to her is basically a racist idea). She's still an icon, manning the feminist flag she insists plenty of people still proudly fly.
Yes, Gloria Steinem is 77. Seventy-seven!
"Imagine how shocked I am!" she said over the phone, a conversation delayed an hour as she completed errands in and around her Manhattan home in advance of travels that will include a stop at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women on Tuesday.
"It's, I don't know, you hear your age, you think it's somebody else's age. It feels great. Everything about aging in my experience so far has been a plus. Except the death part!"
For Steinem, aging itself has been a revelation, an act of her body reclaiming the autonomy she has long urged for women.
"It's interesting to watch your body do something it knows how to do, and you don't," she said. "It's like being pregnant, I assume. What happens at 50, more or less, you lose what you need to create another person, to sustain another person, you keep what you need to sustain yourself. And there's something wonderful about that."
She said she has "not been able to conjure up one iota of regret" about not having children. After years of critiquing marriage and marriage laws, at age 66 she married David Bale, father of the actor Christian Bale. Marriage laws had changed enough, she said, and it helped with Bale's visa. Bale died three years later.
She was the subject of an HBO documentary this summer, Gloria: In Her Own Words, and is at work on a book - Road to the Heart: America as if Everyone Mattered - about her years as an organizer. Protest matters, she says, and she is a believer in the "huge and spontaneous" movement of Occupy Wall Street.
Still, she acknowledges a backlash and regression in parts of society, both in substance and style. Asked if she thought things would have been further along by now, Steinem said, "In some ways, yes, in some ways, no."
"I think I would have been surprised to know that all the issues we have raised in the women's movment have majority support in public opinion polls," she said. "Given that fact, I would have thought we'd be better off in legislation and public policy and culture at large than where we are. . . .
"Gender views have changed but not actual choices."
So what about us? What does Mama Steinem think of us these days? Of our daughters?
Of the way the culture has absorbed sexuality into its mainstream, the way teens are objectifying themselves on Facebook, with their pouty lips and Victoria's Secret Pink push-up bras, brazenly trading in sexual terminology, saving anyone else the trouble of doing it for them?
"It depends whether it's self-willed or not. If [girls] feel pressured into it by media, their peers, what's going on in the halls at school, what they see in ads, then it's not chosen," she said. "On the other hand, if they feel body-proud and sexuality-proud and it's chosen, if they have an option, they don't have to do it."
What does the woman who famously went undercover as a Playboy bunny in 1965, and who recently reposted the article to refute the glamorous image suggested by the quickly canceled Playboy Club television show, make of what the world looks like now? ("The bunny room was chaotic," her story begins.)
"Having said that, we're living in a culture in which sexualizing ever younger girls is part of the backlash against feminism."
She blames a lot of what people see in popular culture on a media hierarchy controlled by men. She's ready to picket shows like The Real Housewives of New Jersey.
"That's not us. That's the media. Only 3 percent, less than 5 percent of decision-making positions are occupied by women. If you said to men, 'One of the few ways you can be recognized, is to become the Househusbands of New Jersey,' they'd do it. It's the system. It's clearly part of the backlash to make women look foolish, and dependent, and selfish. Those housewives don't keep people from pouring into the paid labor force."
She doesn't fault the women who participate in the shows - that's the result of limited choices available to women in general, she said. If white men were narrow-cast in that way, given the same set of limited choices, she says, "we'd say China had won."
"The Miss America contest is the single biggest source of scholarship money for women in the United States," she says. "That's insane. Given that structure, men would be entering the contest."
Steinem says she's not concerned with whether the younger generations have rejected the word feminist (grrl is OK with her) or even heard of it. In general, it's more accepted than ever.
"There's no shortage of great young activists," she said. "But if you're talking about the culture, the pornification of the media is really a great cause for alarm. The media has gone backwards."
She's not impressed at all by the women who've emerged in the conservative movement, the Palins and Bachmanns, who, she says, are anti-feminists. "The point is not biology, not to get a job for one woman, it's to make life more equal for all women. When you have a big social justice movement, the power structure finds people who look like you and behave like them."
She thinks the United States is far behind other countries in child-care options, in providing for both mother and father. (On the other hand, Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign made her a believer in the possibility of a female president in her lifetime. Of course, she still feels like she did when she was 40, so who knows how long that really could mean.)
But she's kept moving forward. And after all this time, she's got her many friends from all over the globe always passing through, her work, her intensity, her intellect, her humor, and, well, all those ex-lovers (one of whose funerals she recently spoke at, chosen over an ex-wife, who told her, "I would be angry and inappropriate. You weren't married to him, you'll be fine").
So how many were there, anyway? How big a family did she create over a lifetime? "I haven't counted," she laughed. "Less than a dozen."
Contact staff writer Amy S. Rosenberg at 215-854-2681, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @amysrosenberg on Twitter.