Wisdom of the ages

Age 3: Looks at herself and sees a Queen!
Age 8: Looks at herself and sees Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty.
Age 15: Looks at herself and sees herself as Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty/Cheerleader or if she is PMS’ing: sees Fat/Pimples/UGLY (“Mom I can’t go to school looking like this!”)
Age 20: Looks at herself and sees “too fat/too thin, too short/too tall, too straight/too curly”- but decides she’s going anyway.
Age 30: Looks at herself and sees “too fat/too thin, too short/too tall, too straight/too curly”- but decides she doesn’t have time to fix it, she’s going anyway.
Age 40: Looks at herself and sees “too fat/too thin, too short/too tall, too straight/too curly”- but says, “At least, I’m clean” and goes anyway.
Age 50: Looks at herself and sees “I am” and goes wherever she wants to go.
Age 60: Looks at herself and reminds herself of all the people who can’t even see themselves in the mirror anymore. Goes out and conquers the world.
Age 70: Looks at herself & sees wisdom, laughter and ability, goes out and enjoys life.
Age 80: Doesn’t bother to look. Just puts on a purple hat and goes out to have fun with the world.

The above text was one of those “Words of Wisdom” kinds of things that were circulating around the internet a few years ago. Human beings are the ultimate pattern seeking creatures. We attempt to make sense of this time we spend on earth by looking for patterns. We seek the pattern and thus feel safer because the world becomes understandable. By dividing age up into decades and defining each decade we think we have defined a life.

I like finding patterns and at first I thought that I found the above text interesting because of its positive attitude towards women’s aging. But then I realized that the real reason it interested me were the descriptions of the various stages in a Girl/Woman’s life. Especially since those descriptions contained 3 issues that have engaged me through most of my life – too tall, too thin and too curly. Always in search of a pattern to my life, I found myself comparing who I was at those different stages with the descriptions in the text. And I didn’t recognize myself. If I wasn’t like that at those stages what was I like? And what will I be like when I get older?

I don’t remember who I thought I was when I was 3 but at 4 I loved my Tiny Tears doll so maybe I wanted to be a mother not a queen. At 8 I didn’t even want to be a human, all I wanted to be was a horse. The knees of my pants proved the many hours I spent running around on all fours pretending I was. No Cinderella or Sleeping beauties for me. Though I did wish I had a fairy like Tinkerbell all my own.

At 15 I still wasn’t seeing Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty and definitely not a Cheerleader! I was already too thin, too tall and too curly. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to compensate for those flaws. But if I slouched in public with my mom, she would slap me on the back and say very loudly, “Stand up straight!” I wanted to make myself into my idols: Mrs Peel from the Avengers for her self-confidence and great taste in clothes and furnishings, Marlene Dietrich for being independent and seductive without taking off any clothes, Veruschka for being tall and proud of it and Twiggy for her eye makeup.

By the time I was 20 I was a fairly full fledged hippie, in a place I loved being. I was still too tall, too skinny, and too curly but I was beginning to accept that guys were generally shorter than me, big hair was in and I didn’t look so skinny when I wore big bulky sweaters. I still took a lot of time to get ready to go out but I finally got out the door. And by the time I was 30 I what to do and had stopped worrying about it.

By my 40s I seem to finally be getting in sync with the words quoted above. I had my first and only child then and, surrounded by baby food, dirty diapers and spit up, I was glad to be able to leave home clean. By the time I reached 50, I had finally gotten used to me. I was still tall but living in a land with a lot of tall people and my husband was taller than me so I didnt feel particularly “tall”. I wasn’t quite so skinny any more but it had become very “in” to be thin and I still was. I had given up on my hair and just let it be as curly as it wanted to be.

Now, 60 is just around the corner and I’m almost looking forward to it. I’m still tall but now more concerned with this spare tire around my middle and the flab on the thighs and the jiggly upper arms though, somehow they don’t bother me the way they might have when I was younger. Now my hair color, or rather, lack of it, is more of a problem than the curls.

But now, I know so much more than I did when I was 20. And I no longer feel like I have to compare myself with 30-somethings. When I look at pictures of my grandmother at 6o she looks like a very old lady. Even at 50 she looked like that. 60 doesn’t look so old anymore. It’s maybe the new 40? So as long as I can still pull myself out of bed I’ll get up and face the world with my own face. It seems that all my life I’ve been working at shaping and forming myself into something and now its time to not be worried about using it and showing it off.

Hats don’t really go well with my hair so instead of that purple hat, I’m going to have bright red hair when I leave the house! Even at 80! And if people stop and stare at that tall crazy old lady with the red hair, so much the better!

One Response to “Wisdom of the ages”

  • Amy Brown Says:

    Great blog, Hilarie! I look forward to reading the new entries and revisiting the older ones. Keep ’em coming.

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