Friday, June 6, 2014

on aging

Sometimes I can be somewhat shallow I suppose.  Clothes, losing weight, zumba dancing...

I've been reading various stories and books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  Just finished Love in the Time of Cholera.  Such a passionate, intense book.  I had a hard time putting it down each night and seriously considered taking it to work with me because it was so good.  Parts of it left me in tears, other parts caused a feeling of melancholy, and most left me feeling and thinking about how different my life is than that of so many other people in the world. 

The book follows the lives of several characters, and I was particularly interested in reading Marquez' descriptions of their thoughts as their bodies changed with age.  I remember years ago finding my first grey hair and for a time simply plucking them as they appeared.  Eventually I started coloring my hair--it was fun to be a redhead especially with a red-headed granddaughter, but at some point, I decided I didn't want to be bothered with it anymore.  I had blonde and brunette grandkids too, but mostly, there just came a time when I decided I kind of liked my grey hair.  There's a lot more of it now, but I'm really okay with it.  It is part of who I am.  It isn't like I think no one should color their hair.  It is just that I'm okay with my hair color.  Who knows, that could change, but for now, it's all good.

A few years ago, I was startled one morning while putting on my makeup, to discover that the shape of my cheeks had changed.  I no longer had those 'apples' for my blush to color.  They seemed to have dropped to my chin.  I couldn't figure it out, but then learned while reading a magazine at the hair salon that collagen disappears from your face as you age.  I wondered why no one had ever explained this to me and why I had never noticed it on anyone else's face.  It was so puzzling and yet so obvious then to me.  Sometimes I still miss my cheeks and certainly I took them for granted and never even considered they might change over time.

One of my friends has been telling me for years that eventually I'd get whiskers.  She was certain that all women grew them in time and I'd have to resort to plucking or shaving.  I was certain she was wrong about this.  I'd never seen hair on my face.  But then, a few months ago, I found a hair attached to my cheek, not just a little fuzz, but an inch-long wiry wildass hair.  And when I pulled on it, thinking it was a cat hair that had somehow become attached to me in a bit of some sticky food or drool on my cheek, I realized it was attached to me and my pulling on it just plucked it out. 

I was so irritated to see a whisker that it kind of spoiled my morning and I was pretty cranky that day.

I've pulled it out a couple of times since, or at least I assume it is from the same hair follicle, although as I type that I realize it is probably not the same hair at all but there have likely been three different hairs.  And more to come.

A few months ago I read another book about an older woman, someone in her 70's.  At one point in the book, her son asks her to come stay with his family for a visit and she says she will stay for three days but no longer because she will start to smell if she stays longer.  The idea that people smell different at different ages had never occurred to me, but yesterday as I finished the Love in the Time of Cholera book, it described a time when two older people--in their 70's--were falling in love and when the man tried to kiss the woman, she pushed him away, telling him she smelled like an old woman.  There is a lot more to the book than this scene, but reading it made me wonder what do old women smell like?  Will there come a time when daily showers with delightful products from Bath & Body Works will not be enough to keep me from smelling old--whatever that scent is? 

All of this has made me recognize that I too am aging.  The grey hair feels okay now, but the missing cheeks and the wild hairs on my face have been more difficult to accept.  And now, reading these books, I keep wondering what other changes in my body I should be prepared for and why hasn't anybody warned me about all of this? 

Does this make me shallow?  I don't think so.  More likely a bit clueless or non-observant.  It isn't like I'm freaking out about it, just puzzled and a little surprised that I never saw any of it coming.  I don't mean for this post to be a downer, it's just what I've been thinking about.

Mostly, lately, I think of my parents who are a couple of decades older than I am, and I feel like I'm starting to appreciate a little more how odd and surprising it must be to be unable to do all of the things you've always done, to lose the ability to talk to your lifelong partner because his mind is going, and mostly to realize that you're obviously getting so much closer to the end than ever before.  Bodies all fail eventually, or maybe bit by bit, and we really don't live forever.  That seems so obvious, yet it isn't something I'd really felt so personally until recently.

1 comment:

Johanna said...

I remember the time when I was in my early 40's and looked in the mirror and saw my mom's neck. What the ???

The hair on the face thing really bothers me. I asked my friend, Angie, why she had not told me I had a mustache. Now I see women in their 70's who don't even pluck and I wonder and fear that will be me. That makes me as sad as having to get rid of the one I had....the idea that sometime I won't even worry about getting rid of it.

It is such an interesting experience. I saw a clip from a movie where the character said that he realized that he was now closer to the end than he was the beginning. Since, I don't plan to live until I'm 112, I am too. I'm probably okay with that, considering the alternative of living forever.