Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On Turning Fifty-Six

I shouldn't be posting yet another picture of myself as a youngun' but truth be told, the best photos I have of myself are all from my childhood. I became very un-photogenic as an adult. Either that or I'm a lot uglier than I realize and I'm taking perfectly good pictures.

I turned 56 yesterday. Next year I will no longer be able to say that I'm in my mid-50's -- I will then be in my late 50's. How did I get so old? On the inside I feel like I have just recently started to "get it". I wonder if most people are at this stage of awareness earlier in life. I assume that is the case, but I am probably wrong.

The other day I saw my reflection in a mirror... a magnification mirror... in bright natural daylight. I was shocked. I'm getting these weird wrinkles on my face in places that don't crease when I smile or frown. What's up with that? I can understand wrinkles that are created when you move your facial muscles a certain way over and over, but the existence of these new wrinkles is a complete mystery to me. And don't even get me started on the problems with my neck.

Elasticity. You don't really think about it until you find it missing.

And how about age spots? What a strange phenomenon. At first, you might tell yourself that you're just sporting a nice new sprinkling of freckles, but come on, who are we kidding. And can somebody, anybody, tell me why women need extra nose hairs when they get older??? Is it a cosmic joke or something? Or did the Almighty think it would be helpful if women could relate with men on a new level?

Despite the fact that the degeneration of my body is a runaway train, I really don't mind getting older. I've always looked younger than my age, which I absolutely hated growing up. When you're 16 you don't want people thinking you're 12. That just isn't flattering. But when you're, say, 45, you don't mind it if people think you're 35. When I'm out with my granddaughter people are usually surprised to find out that I'm not her mother. They say, "You don't look old enough to be a grandmother." Well, if I had had my daughter at 20 (which I did not) and then my daughter had had her baby when she was 20 (which she did not), then I'd only be 40 when I became a grandmother, so what, I always wonder, is a grandmother supposed to look like? I know without a doubt that I don't look as young as 30. But still, I'm flattered, and I always say thank you for the compliment as I try to slowly back away from the person so they won't begin studying my face looking for signs of age, because I guarantee you they will find it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

No Skirt, No Shoes, No Problem

That's me on the left, before I started wearing heels.

I am always caught a bit off guard when I go into someone's home and have to remove my shoes. I appreciate the rationale behind it - culture, cleanliness, keeping hardwood floors unscratched - but I need my shoes. My feet get cold.

One fine summer afternoon, many moons ago before I was married, I went to a dear friend's wedding with my young daughter as my date. Not being one gifted in the social graces and an introvert (not the same thing, mind you), I was nervous because most of the guests were people I'd never met. I find small talk difficult and exhausting, and I probably left the wedding knowing the same number of people as when I arrived. I prefer standing around mutely with my thumb hanging out of my ear.

The wedding was held at the home of the bride's brother, and he and his wife had just had their brand-spanking-new hardwood floors installed. I was all dressed up in a mid-calf length, silky, flowing skirt and electric blue silk blouse, with pantyhose and heels; a rare occasion indeed (the last time I wore a dress was when I got married 13 years ago). When I was told at the front door that I'd have to remove my shoes for the indoor ceremony in order to preserve the sheen on the floors, I panicked. On this warm summer day I wasn't going to get cold feet, but this was going to ruin the look of my ensemble. I needed those heels. If you're a woman, you know what I'm talking about. I'm only 5'4" and nobody has ever told me that my legs were my best feature. Sometimes heels are a girl's best friend.

So off go the shoes and, feeling awkward, I try to glide daintily into the living room in my stocking feet where people are mingling. Oh, how I hate to mingle! It requires too much of the dreaded small talk and I never know when or how to gracefully move from person to person. Anyway, I chit-chat with my daughter and a few of the people that I do know, the ceremony finally takes place, then it's off to the backyard, where I get to put my shoes back on, to do some more mingling and to wait for the reception to begin. My daughter and I have just so many things to talk about before it's obvious that we'd both prefer to go home and watch Beverly Hills 90210. But wait, here comes The Bride, all flushed with excitement and glowing. I tell her how happy I am for her (and truly, I was), but she wants me to have as good a time as she is having and proceeds to boldly point out a handsome man sitting at a nearby table. She informs me that he is single and came without a date and, come on, let me introduce you to him. Since the hole I wanted to drop into didn't appear, I had no choice but to go with her. After introductions are made and the effervescent bride has disappeared, it's apparent that Handsome Single Man is no better at small talk than I am. 

Somehow we disengage and I decide to go collect myself by finding the bathroom so I can powder my nose and so forth. As it turned out, the bathroom was in a part of the house without hardwood floors so my shoes stayed on my feet. As I waited outside the restroom for my turn, I was able to look out through the open door to the tables where everyone was finding their seats. Unaccompanied Single Man was facing my direction, but I don't know if he saw me standing there. If he did, then he might have noticed that as I raised my leg just slightly, shifting my weight from foot to foot, I somehow managed to catch the heel of my shoe on the hem of my silky flowing skirt. I didn't realize what I'd done until my foot was back on the ground and my skirt pulled down with it, showing parts of my support system that are usually left to the imagination. The biggest problem at that point was the fact that my heel was securely embedded in my hem which meant I couldn't pull my skirt back up, although I tried with enthusiasm. I squatted down to meet my skirt halfway and somehow got my heel disentangled, stood up, got my skirt back where it belonged, quickly surveyed the people outside to see if anybody noticed (if anyone did, they discreetly ignored me), then stood there trying to act as if nothing had happened. My sweaty, bright red face and drooping torn hem may have indicated otherwise, but I wasn't talking - small or otherwise. I was way past feeling ridiculous; I was feeling like a female version of Steve Martin or Dick Van Dyke.

My recollection of the rest of that evening is hazy. I believe I found a place to sit and tried not to move a muscle. I know that my daughter and I stayed just long enough so that we could leave without being rude. It was still light outside when we got home. We may have even made it in time to watch Beverly Hills 90210. Apparently, Single Man Without a Date didn't ask my friend for my phone number. He probably had serious reservations about my choice of undergarments... more of a Victoria's Secret man than JC Penney. Well. It's best to find these things out right off the bat.
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