Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Don't Go Changin' to Try to Please Me

In my last post I talked about treasuring the various stages of childhood for what they are, and it got me to thinking about how it doesn't stop there. We need to treasure the various stages of adulthood for what they are, as well. Our little girls are trying to look like they're 20 and our older women are trying to look like they're 20 and I just sort of had to pause and think: what's so great about 20?

I suppose in your early 20's your skin is at its nicest. Acne is (for the most part) in the past and wrinkles are (for the most part) in the future. Your body tends to behave better - maintaining a reasonable weight is easier for most of us. It certainly was for me. But these are small things, in the grand scheme, and it seems so odd that we would value that era so much. Let me clarify. We certainly SHOULD value that era, as we value any other. I guess I just don't understand why we see it as an ideal we must try to reach when we're obviously much younger or much older. It's a stage, like any other.

We work so hard to maintain that illusion of youth.

A few months back, Tom and I took Olivia to a concert at The Columbus Music Hall (RIP) to hear Ralph Sharon (longtime pianist for Tony Bennett) play. As a pianist, we thought it would be a treat for her. The crowd skewed older, with Tom and I definitely being among the youngest. Olivia didn't like it at all. When I took her to the restroom, she confessed to me that she felt out of place. She said, "Look around. You have brown hair. Dad has brown hair. I have brown hair. Everyone else here has white hair except for that one lady with red hair and I don't know who she thinks she's kidding."

Setting my child's apparent ageism aside for a moment, I focused in on the end of her statement.

Who, indeed, does she think she's kidding?

A couple weeks ago at a festival we saw a guy with a thick gray ponytail. Kudos on the gray hair, but - he had said hair parted neatly about an inch above his right ear.

Who does he think he's kidding?

I started thinking about designers and fashion critics who describe certain pieces or styles as "slimming".

Who do they think they're kidding?

I bought into that for years. I know all the "rules". Here's the thing: so does everyone else. I recall one day about a decade and a half ago. I had the same figure type that I have now, it was just a little smaller. I've always referred to my figure type as pear shaped, but Igigi refers to it as a figure "8", and I think that's perhaps a little more accurate. Anyway. I remember distinctly having a coworker say to me, "Wide belt to emphasize a narrow waist. Well played." She knew the rules, too. I wasn't kidding anyone.

I am a big girl. No amount of careful wardrobe planning is going to make me look like I'm not. I can make choices that flatter me, and indeed I should, but I'm kidding myself if I think an outfit is going to make me look slimmer.

So I've made the decision to wear things I like. Some of them follow the rules, some break them blatantly. For instance, about 2 years ago I decided it was time to start wearing sleeveless tops again in the summer. They're comfortable and they're cute.

Let your freak flaps fly.

Let your bald flag shine.

Let your gray flag flow.

Because aging isn't such a bad thing.

About a decade ago I went to visit my Uncle Bill for the last time. He was quite old. We both knew it would be our last visit. And it was the only time in my life that I wished I could paint. My uncle was deeply wrinkled. He was covered in age spots. He was far too thin. He didn't have a lot of hair on top of his head, but there was a nice shock of hair growing out of his left ear. And he was one of the most beautiful creatures I'd ever seen. I wanted to paint him. I was actually a little angry that I couldn't. As far as creative talents go, I've always been happy enough with the ones I have, but on that day I would have traded them all for some skill with a paintbrush.

How different - and pathetic - it would've been if he'd attempted to hide those things.

Now I'm not against a little hair color - it's fun. I used to play with it a lot myself. I've already allowed Lea to start playing with it. I have no issue with that. It's when we're using it to desperately try to hide something - to be something that we're not - that I take issue.

The 20's are awesome. It's the beginning of adulthood. Beginnings are exciting. The world is your oyster.

But the 30's are awesome, too. You're a little more comfortable with the adult thing. I got married and had my babies in my 30's. The 30's rocked.

I'm a little more than halfway into the 40's. There's a lot of up-side here, too. I have experience behind me that I didn't have in my 20's. I believe this has lead to a depth of compassion I wouldn't have been capable of when I was younger.

I am STOKED about the 50's and beyond! I look forward to embracing each step rather than fighting it.

It's ALL good!

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