I read this Nora Ephron quote today: Age is an endless negotiation, and everybody deals with things their own way. The things you might have made judgments about when you were younger (and had no idea what aging was going to be like) just seem foolish to me.
I Googled Nora’s age, and learned that she’s 68. Wow, she’s thirteen years older than I am. I found this photo on the Internet and I think she looks good for 68, don’t you? I was in the midst of a hot flash earlier today and I thought to myself, Good Lord I had no idea. How could I? During my girlhood I’d heard some of my mother’s friends complain about hot flashes (oddly enough, my own mother didn’t have them) and whenever I heard them lamenting about menopausal symptoms I thought, well how bad can it be? Ha!
Another aspect about aging that I could have never understood? How beauty fades, and this vanishing beauty thing happens ever so slowly. One day you look in the mirror and you think, where’s that girl I used to be? She’s gone. Poof! You’d like to reach back through the years, grab her by those boney shoulders, give her a good shake and have a little talk with her. You’d like to explain a few things, maybe save her from heartache, and the bigger mistakes. Life would be different now (for you, the woman) if you could cheat and give that girl a warning or two.
You really do represent the sum total of what you’ve learned. Maybe that’s why older women seem to enjoy doling out sage advice. “Hey, I’ve learned a thing or two Missy,” they like to say, “you ought to listen to me.” But headstrong girls hardly ever heed their elder’s council. And so it goes, the same mistakes get made, over and over and over again.
I picture angels watching all this, and saying, “Tsk, tsk, tsk. Oh my, look at her go. Another unwanted pregnancy.” “Uh oh, and I thought that girl had a head on her shoulders. But that brute beat her to a pulp and she didn’t leave him.” “If only she’d gone and had that mammogram the doctor ordered, if only.” Frustrated angels, witnessing all those mistakes.
I used to say that I’d never consider having a facelift. Then, an aunt of mine came to visit and I was going on and on about how happy I was to share in her gene pool, that I hoped I looked as good as she did by the time I reached her age. Then she made me promise not to tell anyone, and confessed that she had a facelift. And the surgery left her in so much pain and she had to endure several weeks of slow recovery (that even though the procedure did the trick and took a good ten years off her appearance) she wouldn’t have gone through with it if she had known how painful it would have been. Maybe—maybe not. Because, we tend to ignore what we don't want to hear. My daughter had a baby 3 months ago. And she can’t believe how difficult motherhood is. Telling her didn’t convince her, she had to live it.
I’m afraid we’re doomed to learn as we go along.
How will I feel at 68? How will I handle the endless negotiation with aging that Norah mentioned? I think it's about time I focus those snippets of wisdom I come across now and then. Preparing myself for what I hope will be a long (less bumpy) road ahead.
All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.