Age Sneaks Up…

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My daughter, Jen, took this photo when she was about ten years old.

That means I would have been about thirty years old, and that this was about thirty years ago.

I still fully expect this woman to be looking back at me when I look in the mirror. I am always surprised when she’s not. “Oh…”, I think. “It’s you.” I forgot.

Again.

Someone said, and I believe it to be true, that we are always the same age inside.

Inside, I’m about thirty-five.

Outside is a different story.

I’m a small person with a decent smile and big eyes. Those traits gave me two advantages for much of my life: I looked young for my age, and I was cute.

I didn’t appreciate either, for a long time. As a teenager, there is no advantage – at least none apparent to that teenager – to looking like a twelve-year-old. As a young mother in her twenties and thirties, no advantage to looking like a teenager. The cute factor kept me from being taken seriously, I thought. I was a serious thinker back then.

I didn’t realize I actually used these traits to my advantage, until they no longer worked.

It takes you by surprise, age.

I prepared to enter a bar, I.D. card out and ready, only to be waved past without a glance. Oh. When did that change?

I smiled nicely up at a police officer when he stopped me for a tail light out, and got only a gruff, “Get ‘er fixed Ma’am” in response. Oh.

The time when, as a waitress, I approached a table, smiled, and in a we’re-all-in-this-together tone said, “Okay, have you decided what you’d like to order?” The looks they exchanged as they scrambled to make choices told me clearly we were not “all in this together” but rather that they saw me as a parent or a teacher who was demanding a decision. Oh.

The time when a car full of young boys approached me as I was walking down the road: my hair was long and didn’t show the gray in back; I am small and narrow-hipped; their tone and comments told me they clearly thought I was their age. As they drove up and stopped, I set my face in a mild smile, prepared to  kindly say, “I’m old enough to be your mother.” They took a quick look. Their grins turned to looks of horror and disgust as they judged, I’m guessing, that I was old enough to be their grandmother. The boy in the center leaned toward the driver and said, “RUN!” The driver gave a little nod and floored it. The car zoomed away. Oh-oh.

I get it. I’m surprised, too.

Last week, a young waiter offered me the senior menu. I feigned shock and insult, but thought I was good-humored in letting him know I was not old enough for the senior menu. Two days later, trying to impress me with his memory, he said, “So, you prefer to not be offered the senior menu, right?”

Yesterday, a man came into the store where I work. He’s my age or a bit older. He doesn’t live here on Beaver Island year around, but has a cabin here, and spends a good deal of time here in warm weather. I’ve known him for thirty years. When I was the morning waitress at the Shamrock, he was a regular customer. I’ve run into him in the shops and stores, or at the beach. I’ve waited on him when he’s come into the hardware. It’s nice to see familiar faces, and I gave him a friendly greeting, which he returned, with a smile.

“How’s your daughter?”, he then asked.

I have two daughters.

“Which one?”

“Oh…you know, the one who used to work at the Shamrock…Cindy!

Cindy. That would be me.

Ooooh.

I’ve just aged into the mother of my younger self.

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20 responses »

  1. I feel for you Mom! The young guy at the party store a few years back asked me if my daughter had done my new tattoo. I inquired “you mean my sister?” He corrected me three times before I said, “Dude – she’s three years younger than me!” He and I were both horrified! What I wouldn’t give to look in the mirror and see my early thirties! Or better my twenties! ❤

  2. You were beautiful in your twenties and your thirties, but found plenty of things wrong with your appearance, as you still do (as most of us do). You are beautiful now. I think what we need to cultivate is an appreciation of ourselves as we are now. Believe me, when you look back on this age 10 or 20 years from now, you’ll wish for the strength and beauty you have right now. What we have mastered, though, is the ability to find the humor in it. That’s most important, I think. Thanks for your comment, Jen!

  3. It does sneak up, I remember noticing the change from Miss to Madam. That stopped me in my tracks! But most of all I loved your response to Jen, all so true ” we need to cultivate an appreciation of ourselves as we are now” The now is the best bit, but we are weak humans and forget it all too often.
    ps – and maybe the guy in the shop hasn’t looked in a mirror for a looooong time 😉

    • Yes, I thought about that, Claire! He is, in fact, close to my age, and not really aging any better than I am! Men tend to look at themselves with kindness and generosity in their judgments. Women tend to look at themselves – well, more honestly, yes, but also – with too much negativity. You’re right, “the now is the best bit”. It’s all we have, really. Thanks for reading, and for your comments!

    • I think a sense of humor is the saving grace! I believe that as my memory has become less reliable and my body has softened, sagged and lost strength, my wit has only become sharper. Thanks for reading, and for your comment.

  4. What a cutie you were, indeed! Great picture! But I’ve seen a picture of how you are now too, and believe me when I say your cuteness has not diminished a bit.

    My perception of myself is probably even younger than yours, as I’ve never had kids. I’ve never had to be responsible or set an example. I’ve never had to be the mature one. Sometimes when I look at myself in the mirror I think “oh my God, I look old enough to be someone’s mother!” Fact is, I’m old enough to be a grandmother.

    We’re all in this together. Let’s vow to be cute old ladies if we can’t be cute teenagers anymore!

    • Oh, absolutely, let’s! Cute old ladies it is! Thank you for the compliments…very much appreciated after a couple rough encounters in the “aging” department. Most times I can see the humor in it…that’s so necessary, I think. We can’t stop the process. My standard line regarding my looks is “what looks “cute” at twenty, at fifty begins to look strangely like a garden gnome.” Thanks for reading, Sara, and for your kind words.

  5. Great, funny (sort of) post:) I’ve always been the cute, looks-younger-than-I-am sort of gal, too. It is sneaking up on me, though…I refuse to color my gray hair for one thing. What I like to do is notice how chic “older” women still manage to look a little glamorous…and then store the ideas away for when I need them. Sooner than I think, probably.

    • It IS funny, Shelley, and I’m glad I can most times see the humor in it. I still chuckle whenever I think of the look of absolute horror in those poor boys faces before they tore away! It is brilliant to store away images of chic, glamorous and interesting-looking older women. What I find is that real role models (I’m talking JUST looks here; there are plenty of strong, intelligent women I’d love to aspire to be like)are hard to find. I know I’m not who my mother was at sixty, but…who exactly am I? Thanks for reading, and for your thoughtful – and thought-provoking – comments!

  6. Oh, Cindy, I loved, loved, oh so loved, this post! (I suppose all of us who are growing up love it when someone captures our feelings so well.) I was a person who always looked so much younger than my years. In fact, from age 30-50, I probably was a bit vain about it, delighted because no one could ascertain my age. Something has happened in the interim, though, darn it. No one comments about youngness or cuteness anymore. And these aches and pains! What? Why? Smiling… I am coming downstate next week. Will wave to the west from Mackinac City and shout out the window, “HI CINDY!” P.S. My dad is turning 78 this week and says inside he’s still about 45. I believe him.

    • I was hoping I was not alone in this slap-stick comical farce of aging. I mean I knew I wasn’t the only one getting older…but I’m glad you and others are puzzling over it(and finding humor in it!) just as I am. Have a wonderful visit with your Dad! Thanks so much, Kathy, for your kindness and enthusiasm!

  7. We are lucky, those of us who fall into the “baby-boomer” generation, in that there are an awful lot of us going through the same experience. We can find strength and support in our numbers. Thanks for reading, and for your comment!

  8. Oh, Cindy, as I was reading this, I couldn’t wait to get the part where I would leave my comment, telling you how much I loved it, and how I could totally relate to each one of your experiences! Then, I read all the other comments and discovered that I have a lot of company. And that is the best part of being this age, I think — There’s so much to laugh about, as long as you have friends to laugh with!

    And, you will always be adorable!

    Sort of on the same subject, have you seen “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Aging?” I loved everything about it…it gave me a hopefulness about aging!

    • I have not yet seen that movie, but I am looking forward to it as one of those wonderful life-altering experiences that are all too rare. So often they remind us of what we already know, but don’t know that we know. A book I read recently was like that: “Plenty of Candles, Lots of Cake” by Anna Quindlan. Hopefulness is what I want. That, and a sense of direction. Thanks for your always thoughtful comments!

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