For a long time I would be content at looking at my face and noting that I don’t look my age and then getting on with my day without mulling over the passage of time and its impact on my physical appearance. And since people would always tell me that as well, I succumbed to that illusion for quite a while. But lately I have been noticing how my skin is different than it used to be. I have a few brown spots on my hands, certainly not like anything those my Aunt Helen had that used to make me fear “old,” rather they make me realize that change has come. The skin of my hands looks like ripples on a lake on a fall morning rather than that same lake on a placid summer afternoon.
I look used.
Now that I’m not living in a little room with no shades and therefore changing quickly in the bathroom, I have a bit more time to contemplate the bigger developments that have occurred. While I was never thin, I was never flabby; since my pregnancies I have held my stomach in (supposedly strengthening the stomach muscles) which seemed to work well for quite a long time. But now there’s more stomach and there’s sag. When I put on a sweater for the first time in a long time the other day I noticed that I’m starting to look like those women who have lost their waists—I have become barrelish—and I don’t like it.
I bought a book recommended by a friend, Strong Women Stay Young, and I will start doing the exercises, so I have no intention of going silently into the night but it has certainly been an awakening, this whole body change thing.
Unlike quite a few friends, I have not yet been touched by menopause; on that account I am still young. But I wouldn’t mind the cessation in monthly action, I mean really, I’m not going to discover a need for a baby at 48 so the whole enterprise can just stop. And it’s not as if I need to make sure that I’m not pregnant, because, you know, I know how the baby-making enterprise happens and there’s no fear of a scare or need for a stick to pee on.
And my thighs, my my, I didn’t know that they could get softer than they had been. They have become real has-beens. Yes, all of me looks used.
Other than the body stuff, the word “retirement” has entered my mindset, as in this thought: I have to work at least another twenty years before I can retire. What’s more, the illusions of my twenties and thirties, and even my earlier forties have been exchanged for a look into the interior mirror. Not that that’s bad because as part of the process I have decided that realistic hopefulness is better for me than vague expectations. Maybe I will finally become the woman of action that I never became with those hopes of being discovered merely because of my being here or at least being supported by an accommodating man.
I’m not quite sure why I’m supposed to pretend that this process has not been noticed and try to make it go away, what could possibly be wrong with continuing a process? Maybe it is fall and the beauty of aging leaves captivates me. The budding leaves of spring and the fullness of summer leaves are surely things of beauty, but who would forfeit the confetti of autumn?