Friday, June 24, 2011

We Weren't Always Fat Old Grandmas

In my mother's nursing home many rooms had pictures of the residents as brides. Someone wanted the staff to know that the wreck in the bed once bloomed in radiant nubility. She had been willowy, fetching, and maybe outside of the bride picture, wild!

Or, consider this. My mother's friend, in middle age, surveying her peers at the swimming pool and concluding, "I'm still pretty cute!" In our forties we definitely were, and in our fifties maybe even. I know a friend or two in their seventies who wear sleeveless dresses and shorts and work out 2 hours a day. And my aunt, a former beauty queen? We were visiting them, and she flirted with my husband, and I felt annoyed, and she was 80 years old, and lovely.

A classmate of mine just published a book (I Remember Nothing, by Nora Ephron) saying "The most important thing about me is that I'm old." On the back cover she is glossy, svelte, and gorgeous. Oh, I may look young, she writes, but I have aches and pains. Please, Nora, you can't have it both ways. You can't complain about getting old until you lose your looks!

Because most of us don't look young in a way that denies one ever really was young (a phrase I read in a a novel once). Most of us in our sixties and seventies look old. No one ever says any more, "Oh you're not fat," or "You're not old." I never considered myself especially good looking, but now I realize I was! The women who are sylphs at 42 or 45 unconsciously tell themselves they'll never look like me. I never thought I'd look like me either!

As an old lady friend remarked, "Pat when I look in the mirror I scare myself!"

Yet, we have to bear in mind, getting older is a privilege not a right.



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