Ever wonder, as another year positively zips by, reminding you that somehow every other day is Thursday, the week is just two days long, the month a week, and a year? Well, a year can now be measured in the 12 or so national holidays; the distance between Thanksgiving and Christmas barely long enough to wash and dry the Tupperware between one set of left-overs and the next. (Though it has to be said: you can never make too much stuffing.)
Monday was the day it picked up speed: the arrival down at the communal condo mailbox of the Sears Christmas Wish Book. So it’s not just me blinking uncomprehendingly at the swift passage of time, the media (which includes advertising, marketing and the selling of Santa-related goods during an August humidity alert) is taking an increasingly withered and demonic hand in the phenomenon as well.
It’s the kind of whack upside the head by a thousand or so pages in glistening, gleaming colour that snaps you out of your comfortable torpor and into wondering with this light-speed movement of time, just who or what you’re going to turn into when you reach an age-related outpost previously identified as laughably inconceivable
Take your pick: 40, 50, 60 (not the 30’s, they’re just the slightly dog-eared 20’s, evinced by the inability to party so long or so enthusiastically, and a newfound interest in moisturizer) and see if you don’t experience one of those involuntary shudders as the unthinkable date shows every sign of drawing inexorably nearer, proving you wrong, or at least as human as the rest of us.
I am still more than a few seasons removed from the age I could never quite wrap my head around, but much as I acknowledge its future calendar reality, the actual reality just does not compute.
Until I saw a woman yesterday – and I don’t know what it was, but I felt a genuine ping (or a pang or a twitch or a twinge, you know – one of those) thinking: “I recognize you – you’re the future me.” And my fears became palpable… or at least visible.
I think she was somewhere around 50, taking what looked to me like a brave – though misguided – crack at her mid-40’s; very attractive, but missing the mark by several years and just a soupcon of dignity.
She wore a conservative beige skirt, yes, but she had matched it with a camisole and blouse in acid green and chromium yellow respectively, a combo that made one wince at the colours whilst simultaneously stifling an indrawn hiss at the fit and fashion. Mutton dressed as lamb, cow as calf, desperate aging dame as fresh-faced hopeful.
It’s a thin line…
But it wasn’t just the clothes and the colours, or the kitten heels or the pale pink lipstick; it was the attitude – attempting hipness with a gang of individuals several decades to the south.
We weren't really at all alike - I'm younger, shorter, blonder, weirder - so what was so familiar? What clinched it?
More like what cinched it...
It was the scarf.
A scarf I recognized – a scarf she had tied jauntily around her waist – a scarf similar to the one I had also been toying with tying around MY waist that very morning, wanting to spice up an otherwise insipid outfit of conservative black on black.
That damn scarf! Why didn’t I see it before? It’s the total dead give-away of the incipient senior citizen. I have a drawer-full. Some older than me – the last silky vestiges of my mother – some are vintage, faux Hermes and the like, but some fellow fashionistas, some are new. And in their newness, telling a tale so worrisome I’m just surprised I didn’t see it coming a mile away - or at least a decade ago.
Though I haven’t worn any of the patterned squares as yet (I keep my pants up with old ties or – such ingenuity! – a belt) I keep hauling them out and trying them on, waiting for the moment when one of them fits naturally with what I’m wearing.
What I didn’t know – didn’t realize – was that what I’d actually been doing was trying on my old lady self to see if it fit each and every time.
I comforted my self then – I comfort myself now – with the knowledge that I’ve always unconsciously and naturally placed the scarf back in the drawer and stepped away from the implications, the truth being that I am still just grasping gently (never clinging!) to an ageless youthiness that I plan to maintain for another decade or so. Damn the calendar, full speed backwards.
But I notice small changes – and they’re not in my body or wrinkle count – but in my choices; a little backpedaling perhaps, a little downplaying, a little less va-voom, a little more… well, yes, dignity; the word heavily laden with intimations of maturity and, yes, (ack) age.
For one thing, my necklines are going up.
Never one to hide any asset under a bushel or a turtleneck when given the plunging opportunity, I’ve begun thinking about – if not always completely acting upon – adding a little subtlety to my fashion mix. Ditto shorter skirts going a little longer, crop tops disappearing virtually altogether and less eye makeup during daylight hours.
There’s something sort of sexily compelling about a fresh-faced youngster flirting with smokey dark eyes and lashes as thick and bristly as tarantula legs, that sends a different message altogether if the possessor of said kohl-rimmed peepers is somewhere in the neighbourhood of ‘that certain age’.
It’s not the horror of the arrival of ‘that certain age’, just the dawning realization that I’m not going to be able to side-step it as I so naively and originally (and confidently) assumed.
There is a bright spot. One I initially overlooked as I plunged into horrified recognition of the scarf-lady; in retrospect I could see she really didn’t give a crap what anyone else thought of her look.
(She honestly couldn’t have and still left the house looking like that…)
But she had a style which she chose to exhibit without any noticeable shame at her temerity in having one. She laughed and talked with the 20-something’s and they laughed and talked right back to her without any discernable eye-rolling or outward disgust.
I think she was happy – and comfortable – with herself. It was what was so attractive about her.
Perhaps she’s simply in a self-accepting, fully conscious transition: from regular, common or garden typical tax payer, to crazy old broad with a wardrobe full of anachronisms and kitten heels in every colour.
And scarves; scarves to add whatever personal statement or flash of personality might be missing from her particular get-up on any given day.
As long as she refrains from giving a crap I suspect she really will maintain that ageless youthiness I’m also hoping for. And with her in mind if I hang onto just a soupcon of dignity – and my scarves – I may be able to achieve it too.