Terry Marotta: Aging my own way
Next door to me growing up lived a breathtakingly beautiful girl who, at age 20, sat for a formal portrait.
I can still picture the strapless gown she wore in that photo: how the light played on those lovely bare shoulders; how the dress billowed at those generous hips.
That same year she married and moved away, and the next time I saw her she was hatted and high-necked with a torso encased in the tight rubber hug of a corset.
It’s what was expected of women back then; they married and overnight they turned into matrons.
Expectations for women may be subtler today, but they’re still present.
Take hair color for example. Women are simply expected to color their hair at a certain point.
I always had black hair, but when some white began appearing, I thought, “OK fine.”
“But … you’re going to look old!” said my hair stylist in grave and disapproving tones.
So for a while there I had hair the color of cow’s liver – chicken gizzards maybe. My hair stylist thought it made me look young, but I hated it.
I mean you CARE about you appearance. You WANT to fit in, only … not that much, you know what I mean?
I think of something former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said once in an interview. She said sometimes she dresses up, sure. “But when I work, I really work: I rub my eyes and my makeup comes off and I stick pencils in my hair.”
I think that’s great.
Of course these days the pressure doesn’t stop with your hair. These days it’s not unusual for women to have the skin of their very faces sanded down, or injected with some fluffing-up drug or pried up like so much wall-to-wall carpeting and tacked down tighter.
“Stay attractive!” is the message the world sends women generally. “Slim, too! Buy great scarves if you can’t stay slim, but please: Go easy on our eyes!”
It’s what this youth-centered culture tells us.
And it’s making me feel a tad rebellious.
Example: I’ve always hated pocketbooks, and the sundress I had on the other day didn’t have a belt, so I had my phone sort of hooked to my left bra strap just under the fabric.
As I chatted with the proprietor of a shop I visit every day, the phone rang, causing me to glance down at the small boxy bulge it made under the cloth.
“Does this look like a pacemaker?” I asked, suddenly wondering.
“Yup,” said my friend.
So I quick undid a key button farther down, hooked it onto the waistband of my underpants and rebuttoned. “Better?”
“Now it looks like a colostomy bag,” he said dryly.
Pacemakers, colostomy bags: the parts of our little machines do wear down over time and we’re bound to age, sure enough. I guess I’d just like to do it my way.
Write Terry at email@example.com or care of Ravenscroft Press, P.O. Box 270, Winchester, MA 01890. Read her blog Exit Only for new stories and pictures every day at www.terrymarotta.wordpress.com.