...youth, that is.
I was thinking about a couple of things today, one of which was youth; the other was of death. We're always on that continuum, no? Bear with me. I think I'm onto something.
Sitting along the sidewalk seating of a restaurant with my husband, sipping on a margarita (had to allow myself just a tad), I was noticing the women around me. The ones like me, teetering on the middle between youth and the rest of it, were well-dressed, bejeweled, and dyed. One of the women directly in my line of sight had a gorgeous blond-streaked 'do that was what I wish my hair looked like. I'm not sure mine can look that way, but I admired hers. She sat there with her late-teens/early-20s son and her balding, gray-haired husband. She was beautiful and probably got many of the "you don't look old enough to have a son his age" comments. Her husband kept looking my way. Maybe my glasses make me look smart...
When Anne Kreamer set out on her experiment of going gray at age 49, she undertook it as a social experiment. She even (with her husband's blessing, I presume) set up two accounts on a dating site. One account had a picture of her with her au naturale hair, the other with her previous chestnut dye job. She got many more hits from hunks on her gray profile. Maybe it was because she looked so natural. or perhaps it was because she exuded that aura of self-acceptance. She wrote a book about the whole thing.
Inside myself, I find that I'm always fighting that image I have in my head of older women. Doesn't it seem that our mothers, aunts, grandmothers were so old? Doesn't it seem they got really frumpy once they settled into motherhood and all that came after? What's the alternative? Working hard to stay stylish and sexy while cleaning the tub? (Erase that. I don't clean my own tub. I have someone who does that for me). Certainly I have my days of sitting in my office in my jammies until noon or of throwing on a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt, something presentable enough to get me to the mailbox and to walk the dog but nothing I'd wear to the mall. Working from home has its privileges, after all, but one of them isn't that you get to try new styles all the time. I feel that at least part of my battle with the frumps is that I have no one to dress for other than the UPS driver - and we only have a passing acquaintance.
So why do I need to look like the forty- and fifty-somethings in Montgomery County who are decked out to look good on the arm of their more natural-looking husbands? I don't need to, but I do want to hang onto my youth for a little while longer. Wednesday's the day when I'll get the blond streaks. I'd love to do the red again, but the upkeep! Too much.
I didn't really mean to get into the whole gray/silver business again.
What I noticed as we walked away from that sidewalk cafe was that I was feeling this urge inside myself, this little identity meltdown in which I wanted people to see who I used to be...this rocker chick with the guitar player boyfriend who danced to Led Zeppelin while the disco dollies sat it out, who dressed in flashy clothes and wore stilettos with jeans before it was popular, who loved hanging out in smoky clubs and listening to music - the louder the better. I wanted to feel that long hair I used to have brushing my shoulders as I shimmied away, to feel the stares of every man (and some women) on me as I passed by. I didn't want the other people walking past me to see me as a middle-aged woman in sensible shoes, which is what I find most comfortable these days - or worse! I didn't want to fade into the background, invisible. Maybe the balding husband was looking at a woman behind me, someone younger than his wife.
There's a price that goes with not growing up, though, and I've seen it paid.
Without saying too much, there is a person in my extended family who is going to be paying a very large price because of the actions of one of his/her parents. I wish I could be more specific, but you never know. From what I know, said parent required some drugs and used the kid to get them. The kid got caught. The parent is older than me and should know better, should be mature enough at this point not to still be acting like a child, should step up and take the blame. Said parent is far more interested in maintaining that illusion of youth and the never-ending party to worry about taking the punishment. After all, the kid has been in trouble before, what's one more incarceration?
It's more than sad.
On top of all this introspection, hubby and I watched El Cantante tonight when we got home with our stuffed bellies. The movie, if you're not familiar with it, is a biopic of Salsa sensation Hector Lavoe, who helped originate the musical genre in the 60s/70s but ended up mired in drugs and eventually HIV. You may think it's a familiar story, but it's still a good one. It's a story about the redemption that may never come. His inability (and his wife's inability) to let go of the never-ending party that so many were caught up in during that era cost them first the life of their child, then Hector's life, then Puchi's (his wife).
At what cost, eternal youth? It's an illusion. We can paint, dye, party, what have you...but we still age, unless we're Dorian Gray. Would we be satisfied with letting a portrait of us age while we stay young and beautiful? I think it would be the biggest seller the world's ever seen.
The shock of all the death in the movie was made worse by how young these people were when they left. Frankly, knowing that Lavoe died at 46, the same age as me, was a bit of a shock. It's the same age at which hubby's dad died of a massive heart attack. Really, isn't it a privilege to get older? What is the alternative? So we get a little frumpy. So we wear sensible shoes. For me that isn't about age as much as it's about illness anyway. We play the hand we're dealt.
But hey, regardless of all this insight tonight, I'm still getting highlights on Wednesday. That young woman inside me screams that she wants a little more satisfaction out of this life before the heart stops beating. Might as well look hot while doing it.
Peace - D