Swimsuit season is upon us and, thankfully, my old suits still fit. That doesn’t mean they look the same on my body as they did even last year, but they fit. That’s one less mean mall mirror I have to confront. (What is it with those mirrors? I swear they buy them on sale from circus vendors.) Swimsuits shamelessly remind me that I’m growing older.
So does hair color. One day, right after coloring my hair its “natural” dark brown, I looked in the mirror and was shocked at the woman’s face staring back at me. Clearly, she was was trying too hard. The dark brown made me look older than I was so I made the decision at that moment to let my hair go natural. I had no idea how gray I was — just that I could not bring myself to color it anymore. The process was a “come to Jesus” moment for me, a real letting go of pride, of youth. I was going to have to embrace this age past middle age. The age of “Mam, can I help you with that?”
Gray hair hasn’t been the only letting go. My body, which has birthed two babies, screams its age, even as I stay trim. My once boundless energy now relishes a mid-day nap. And both my waist and my feet crave comfort over fashion.
This isn’t exactly how I imagined it. I romanticized getting older and dreamed of being a wise, eccentric old woman someday. The road ahead would be lovely. Just before crossing over 55, before seriously considering signing up for an AARP membership, I wrote “Tender Negotiations.” Now, when I read it I think, wasn’t that sweet? Sometimes it’s a good thing that we don’t know what we don’t know.
Today, getting precariously closer to 60, I’m not so sure aging’s been as graceful as I’d fantasized, but it has been a process full of grace. Mostly. I pray that continues. I’ll take grace over fantasy any day.
The indifference of my youth
A naughty, mocking tease to aging,
Playing tag under a rising sun
The rallying cry of the young;
“Catch me if you can!”
A future, graceful,
Glances patiently from the sidelines,
Waits for me to tire,
Watches me perspire
As youth dances between shadows and light.
I imagine loving negotiations —
To old age whose tender, soft arms
Gently fold me into her billowing apron,
Faded blue muslin,
A safe embrace.