softly, and tenderly

During the night, I had an attack of something — maybe it’s seasonal allergies (central Texas is certainly known for them) or maybe it’s a cold — but I woke up all night with my throat feeling sliced every time I swallowed, and my head ached, and my chest felt heavy. Just an ordinary bit of bad, nothing more, but kind of low-level misery, you know? My ears hurt. I sound like Edward G. Robinson after a week of heavier-than-usual cigar smoking and scotch drinking.

I’ve been taking care of other people a lot lately, and cooking for others, and my cupboard was bare. What I wanted more than anything was to be good to myself, to make some very good food for me, some food that would restore and be good for my body, and my tiny miseries. I wanted to make myself a cup of tea, tuck a little blanket around my feet, make my bedroom extra cozy and welcoming for when I’d go back to it tonight.

sea-changeThis is a sea change. I didn’t belittle myself, berate myself for “whining,” wag my inner finger at myself, call myself names. I also didn’t wish someone else were here to take care of me. This is such a wonder.

On my way to the very good market, I listened to an interview with Gloria Steinem. She said she did not know how to make a home for herself until she was 50. Without thinking too much about it, she’d kind of had a background assumption that homes are made for husbands and children, and she hadn’t seen many women (or any women, maybe) making permanent homes just for themselves. This resonated with me too.

So I bought fresh, organic vegetables of all the colors — ruby red beets, glowing yellow-orange butternut squash, deep green kale, okra, peas, rainbow colors of heirloom tomatoes, deep brown wild mushrooms. I bought whole grains, wheat berries and farro and wild rice and French lentils. I bought tea. I lingered in front of the small batches of store-made fresh soup — vegetable, lentil, tortilla, potato, split pea, so many delicious options — pondering whether to buy one or just make a batch for myself, trading off ease since I feel bad against the pleasure of making. While I shopped, my heart felt the same as if I were taking care of someone I loved.

When everything was stowed away in my refrigerator and pantry, I made my bed and folded back the sheet and comforter so it was ready for me later. I went ahead and moved an armload of candles into the bathroom, and got out the eucalyptus salts, so I could take a soaking bath later. I put on my most comfortable clothes, my softest socks. I made a big cup of tea. I brushed my hair, a comfort to my aching head, and took some medicine. I smiled at myself.

“As if I were taking care of someone I loved.”

My dearest wish is that every woman would feel this way about herself, as worthy of all these things as all the others she cares for. Even if it doesn’t start to become clear until you’re 50, even if it takes hard work, even if it feels selfish at first, no matter what or how long the path, I wish this for you, too.

we have to pack a lot in a day

gfIt’s very far from perfect, and I only enjoy about 1/3 of it, but the Netflix series Grace and Frankie is one of my favorite shows. With those qualifiers — very far from perfect, only enjoy about 1/3 of it — how can it possibly be a favorite, then? That’s pretty nonsensical.

But it is about women in my general age group, and they are not a joke. When the story line cuts to their ex-husbands, I could not possibly care less. It’s so easy to find stories about men, just try not to! When the story line cuts to their grown children, I could not possibly care less (ditto) except as it relates to the various ways they treat their mothers. I want to see these women and how they figure out and live their lives. Grace and Frankie, the title characters, not their gay husbands or their spoiled (or indulged) kids. Grace. Frankie. (Especially Frankie. Lily Tomlin is wonderful.)

dragonHave you noticed how rare it is to find mainstream entertainment that is not about raping and murdering women? Pay attention, you’ll see. Sometimes there’ll be a female detective, but before it’s all over she too will be raped. Just wait. You’ll see. I read an interview with Lidia Yuknavitch and in the midst of it, she commented on how exquisite and rare it was when Daenerys hopped on the back of her dragon and flew away, saving HERSELF. She left, gaping below, the men who were there to save her and she fucking saved herself.

And then older women, rare rare rare. Rarer than dragons. One reason I loved Lucia Berlin’s short story collection A Manual for Cleaning Women was that the main characters were all women, who were either saving themselves or fucking up their own damn lives. But very real, in every way, and often older.

And so along comes Grace and Frankie, 100% imperfect in every way, but when the story focuses on them, alone or together, I feel overwhelmed. There are women like me, look. (Well, not really, obviously, but they’re in my general age group.) Look! Look! Older women! When you’re younger, you hear about the way women become invisible as they age and even then it’s discussed in the context of men — as in, men no longer even notice you. For many that’s a relief, but even still it’s about men and that just pisses me off.

But the broader invisibility does matter to me, cultural invisibility. I want stories of real older women. Unfortunately, what seems to be interesting is what happens to older women when men no longer want them — oh no! Will they crumble? Will they find a way to survive anyway? I’ve loved watching Grace and Frankie figure out that it’s each other they need. That it’s themselves they need, and each other, and that’s rich and sometimes moving. They’ve got stuff going on — Frankie says, once, “We’re old, we have to pack a lot in a day.” At the end of season two,  they discover a business venture to do together that is specifically for older women (a line of vibrators that deals with arthritic hands, etc) and the response of people, a kind of disgust and abhorrence at the mere idea, just kills me. There was an actual bedroom scene with Grace and a man (Sam Elliott, luscious as always), and it wasn’t played for gags. It wasn’t about embarrassments of aging. It wasn’t about being dry. It wasn’t about anything except what it was about — an intense connection and fulfillment of long-held longing between two characters, one of whom was an older woman. And they showed her old-looking hands on his back, gasp! [It wasn’t odd at all to see an older man, of course…..though it was odd that he wasn’t with a 20-something woman.]

Almost all of my friends are women (Craig and Sherlock are the only exceptions), and most are roughly my age. I know for a fact that their lives are interesting, and rich, and not just about men or the tick-tock-tick-tock of life ending. But where are our stories? Where are the stories of grown-ass women whose lives aren’t just about their children, or their husbands? I am grappling with my own life as it exists beyond those aspects, with who I am beyond those aspects. I’d sure love to see and read stories of others like me. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.


a little tenderness

As we continue to wait for Marnie and Tom’s boy to arrive, I’ve been feeling cracked open with tenderness for her, and for Tom too. My primary focus is on my daughter, if only because of my own experiences of labor and knowing that she will be going through her own version of it and I can’t ease any of it for her.

Every time something generational happens — a birth into our family, obviously, but also celebrations of birthdays and anniversaries — I feel myself in the wheel of time. I experience where I am in that river, on that wheel, in that chain, whatever metaphor makes sense to you. For me, it’s always a wheel for some reason.

Lately, in witnessing the changes happening to my body, such as my hair getting grayer, the underlying muscles softening on my chin and jaw, and the subtler changes that show aging, like changes to teeth, skin, and fingernails, I’ve been seeing my grandmother in me. I’ve always favored her, my father’s mother; I’ve looked like her in the face, my hands are hers exactly, I was always told my legs are like hers. I don’t have pictures of her (but I remember her face and hands SO clearly), except for this one and unfortunately her face is turned away:

L to R: my dad, his mother holding me, and his stepfather
L to R: my dad, his mother holding me, and his stepfather

I love this picture so much because my dad looks uncharacteristically happy, and I feel like I see the person he might have been if his life had been otherwise. It’s no accident his mother was turned with her back to him, but rather a perfect representation of how she treated him, always. I called her Mamo (for non-US southerners, that’s pronounced Mah-maw), but her name was Delma Faye.  And that’s Papo there on the far right — even though he was my dad’s stepfather, I only knew him as my grandfather because he married my grandmother the very same day my parents got married, unbeknownst to either couple. I loved Papo so much; I really lucked out in the grandfather department. He adored me, and always brought me doughnuts, which he called “goldfish” for some unknown and never-asked reason. (Perhaps the origin of my childish passion for doughnuts. 🙂 )

Anyway. I can easily remember Mamo’s hands making biscuits, which were her specialty. Our fingers are long and thin, and our fingernail beds are very short, out on the tips of our fingers. My dad’s hands were the same, he had her hands too, but as I age, and my fingernails get thinner and develop ridges, they look SO much like hers it’s often shocking when I see them. I’ll be making something and my eyes fall on them and I literally feel a shock of both recognition and disbelief.

Her cheekbones, for sure. Her mouth, her teeth, her jawline, her chin. And all mine, too.
Her high cheekbones, for sure. Her mouth, her teeth, her jawline, her chin. And all mine, too.

And as my face softens with age, I look so much more like her, especially in the mouth and jaw, and it frequently takes me back. I’m turning into her, physically, and it really does take me by surprise even though it shouldn’t, since I’ve always favored her.

But maybe it’s striking me harder because my role as a grandmother is becoming fuller, and a bigger part of my life. Soon another little boy will call me Pete, the name that links me back to my own grandfather Big Daddy, and I’m looking more and more like my grandmother. And so I feel the wheel turning, and I feel deep tenderness for myself. I hope when my grandsons remember my face and hands, they remember them with tenderness too.

I don’t care much

Before I get to the point of the post, the title reminds me so much of one of my favorite songs from Cabaret (maybe because it’s titled “I Don’t Care Much.”) This video shows Alan Cumming singing it from the pre-revival show — and I got to see him back then! The performance I saw had Natasha Richardson as Sally Bowles. He was so amazing. Here’s the beautiful, sad, wistful song.

[embedplusvideo height=”350″ width=”604″ editlink=”” standard=”″ vars=”ytid=FPLUSvbiSHo&width=604&height=350&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=0&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep4630″ /]

Sigh. I loved him in that show. I love him in anything. But back to my real point in this post, which is that I don’t care too much any more. WHAT A RELIEF! Of course I do care too much about so very many things, and in fact my caring-too-much (though I would argue with ‘too’) is one of my central tendencies. But mercifully there are things I just don’t give two anythings about anymore, and this is such a relief — such as:

  • Whether my house is perfect when friends come over. Floors? Stuff? Nah, I don’t care. I have beautiful dark espresso tile floors, and this means that dust is quite visible. When I come home from my 12-day NYC trip each month, the layer of dust everywhere is noticeable, and the cobwebs in the corners are noticeable too, and often dotted with dead pillbugs (I’m sorry, little pillbug subjects, your queen mourns you). Usually I dust and de-cobweb right away, but this time I didn’t. And a couple of days after my return I had some book club friends over for dinner. Dust and cobwebs and all. Didn’t care. Assumed they didn’t care either. Having a friend over for dinner tonight and guess what: still haven’t dusted, still don’t care. Assume she won’t care, either. And if she does (she won’t), I don’t even care about that. (But she won’t.)
  • Whether my appearance is as perfect as I can make it. You might not think it, since I usually wear jeans and Converse, but I used to do whatever it took to be as ‘perfect’ as I personally could be. Even if I’d only gotten an hour of sleep, for instance, I’d set the alarm early enough to wash my hair and blow dry it before going out, even though it would be absolutely fine as it was. So I’d be exhausted and internally cranky, but my hair would be right. And no one cared! Because of course I’m not talking about having greasy, nasty hair, or anything like that. No one noticed, or cared. Since I’m growing my hair out it’s frequently kind of awkward right now, and I have a couple of gigantic waves in spots that make for a goofy growing-out. Meh, who cares. I sure don’t. Now I brush my hair, brush my teeth, put on some moisturizer, and head out if it’s an ordinary day. I’m meeting a friend for lunch today and had I gotten up early enough to wash and dry my hair, I could’ve forced that giant wave on the left into submission, but whatever. Good enough. I really don’t care at all what anyone thinks about my appearance. Why should I?
  • Doing things alone that everyone else is doing with someone else. Actually, I had to reach for this one, because this has never bothered me. I may be the only person at the movies, or at a restaurant, who is there alone while everyone else is with someone else, or a group. I don’t care! Why should I! It isn’t that I don’t enjoy doing those things with someone else, I do, but it is that I don’t care what people think about me being there alone. It doesn’t even occur to me to wonder if anyone notices me.
straight out of the camera, because I don't care. :)
straight out of the camera, because I don’t care. 🙂

Just as broadly as possible, I don’t care what people think about me any more. I used to, for sure. I used to assume I was being very harshly judged all the time — thanks, Mother, for setting that baseline by very harshly judging me and everyone else all the time — and it was horrible. It’s actually narcissistic, if you think about it, to assume that other people are focused on you. People are actually focused on themselves. 🙂  I mean, I don’t want to overstate this. It isn’t that I really don’t care, I care enough to do what I can, but if I miss some potentially-judging-me point I don’t care about that. I tend to my appearance. I clean my house. I don’t violate basic social norms. I just don’t care what others think about imperfections any more. Because actually, it’s almost all imperfection! And also, if you allow people to see yours, they are freer to show you theirs, too. See my cobwebs? Maybe you won’t stress out if your place isn’t perfectly perfect, and we’ll see each other more easily.

Maybe, too, it’s that I’ve let go of people who are cruel judges. And if anyone has come to my house and noticed the dusty floors and cobwebbed corners, they haven’t mentioned it to me. This is a fantastic, fantastic stage of life, and if you have a judgey little voice driving you to make everything perfect all the time, no matter what the expense, you might want to work on a little less caring, too. xoxoxo


Today’s word for the August Break 2015 dealie is skin. I imagine Instagram will be flooded with tagged images of suntans, sunburns, skin slathered with cream, or skin dripping with water. For the first time in my entire 56 years of life, I actually have a suntan, and it astonishes me every single time I see it. There’s a full-length mirror on the back of my bathroom door, and when I step out of the shower I don’t recognize that tanned person, especially since my stomach is also tanned. I almost flinch, like it’s someone else’s arm or leg or body, because I have historically been pale, pale, pale. Not exactly gray-white, but definitely pale.

But my skin has always been my very best feature, always. I never had acne, or even many pimples. Once in a while as a teen I’d get one on my chin before my period, but that was it. Rare as hen’s teeth, blemishes of any kind. I always knew I was lucky to have the skin I had. And it has always kind of glowed, like it’s lit up from the inside or something.

Ten years old -- really great skin
Ten years old — really great skin
16 years old -- life was pretty awful and you can see it in my eyes, but my skin was still lovely
16 years old — life was pretty awful and you can see it in my eyes, but my skin was still lovely
high school graduation. So many people helped me be able to look good enough. Life was hard hard hard, but still my skin glowed
high school graduation. So many people helped me be able to look good enough. Life was hard hard hard, but still my skin glowed

During periods of robust happiness and health, it sometimes looked like peaches and cream. Lucky, especially since I did nothing at all to help it along. I never used moisturizer (because I also didn’t have dry or oily skin, it was just kind of perfect), and no real washing except a quick rinse in the shower, as long as I was at it. I got short legs, buck teeth with a very narrow palate and big gums, but I got that skin, it was the best visible physical thing I got in the genetics lottery. (And I don’t know where it came from — my mother’s skin is ruddy, my father’s was very dark and oily, and none of the grandparents had my skin. Hmmm. Thanks, distant unknown ancestor.)

It still looks good — for 56, yes, but even if you don’t qualify it that way. Now, though, I have started moisturizing it, massaging luxurious cream into my face and throat. Since my skin has become dry, that’s a totally eyes-rolling-back-in-the-head pleasure. In the mornings and at bed time, a few moments of cream and that pleasure, and I appreciate my skin more personally than I ever did. You can look at my throat in the picture below and see how unretouched and unfiltered the photo is. 🙂

May, 2015, with Marnie, whose skin was also always peaches and cream. In fact, one of her tiny-girl nicknames was Peaches
May, 2015, with Marnie, whose skin has also been peaches and cream. In fact, one of her tiny-girl nicknames was Peaches
The red one at the bottom means 'hope'
Hope at the bottom

And there is the fact that my skin is decorated! My spine is tattooed, as you know if you’ve been around here for long; those tattoos tell a version of my life and who I am. Several years after I got all the tattoos, my husband told me how beautiful my back is. He tells me that all the time. One time when he was telling me that, I suddenly remembered that my mother always told me I had such an ugly back. (She was great at doing that — things you never even dreamed you might be evaluated on, you’d suddenly find out you were failing at it.) So without realizing it, I made my back beautiful. Take that, mother (the 8th tattoo from the top).

And then a couple of summers ago, I got a large tattoo on my right outer calf. When I was in college, I’d gotten a barbed wire tattoo of a heart on my right ankle. It felt true of me (and the barbed wire connected me to Texas); but mostly, it was about keeping my heart safe. I came to hate it, because it didn’t feel true any more, but there it was — a barbed wire heart, glaring at me with its wrongness. I wanted exuberant growth to come out of it, a representation of the beauty of the family I made, and all the love we share for each other. A very dear relative once told me that when she was pregnant, she always wanted to paint a giant hibiscus on her belly, and that image stuck as one of life and love and children, so there are two very large red hibiscus to represent my daughters, and one very large sunflower which I chose for my son. Then there are little buds of both flowers scattered throughout, representing the next generation of my family to come.

there's the sunflower
there’s the sunflower; I don’t have a great photo of the whole calf, and it’s hard to take one myself

I want to get a spray of flowers on my right upper arm, starting at my shoulder and spilling down my arm toward my elbow. Working on that. My only hurdle is that my husband really really really doesn’t want me to do it. But: my skin. And I have become very, very comfortable in it, a blessing of aging.

It’s odd to see all the ways my skin is changing — the fans of soft wrinkles on my face, the crepey skin on my arms, the way my skin on my thighs is connected differently, more loosely, to the muscle underneath. I don’t yet have age spots, and my hands don’t look that different, but those things will come. I don’t mind any of it at all, and have even become fond of it. My skin is the outer wrapper of what’s inside me, and it shows my life. Scars, stretch marks, and now age, there it all is. I look at the odd little scar inside my left knee and remember the childhood accident that caused it. I search my left forearm for the very long, thin, now-ghostly scar I got from my little brother’s diaper pin when I was 6. The large scars on my right arm and hand from the external fixator when I broke my wrist in Boston. Round 1 of stretch marks, Katie. Round 2, slipping in between the ones from Round 1, Marnie. And Round 3, Will, found whatever little bits of unbroken skin were left. Surgery scar, hip bone to hip bone. Stories, my experiences, my life on my skin. I kind of love that now.

full disclosure

My last posts have focused on the biggest part of my life — the way it’s so happy right now, the way I am so happy right now, and the fact that my life has been peaceful for almost a year and I am eating it right up — and that’s all true.

And just like every other person in the world, my life is complex, filled with sometimes-contradictory experiences and feelings. As I have said before, my own happiness is characterized by a range of different feelings and memories and tendencies, including the ability to hold sadness.  Marnie once said that I feel all the emotions every day and think hard about what they mean, and I think she’s right. (But not all every day, because that would be exhausting.)

dancing with Will at Katie's wedding, a moment I didn't want intruded upon
dancing with Will at Katie’s wedding, a moment I didn’t want intruded upon

Even in the midst of my happiness, sometimes I wake up already crying and missing my son, and I just cry throughout the day. Sometimes it goes on like that for a few days. I’ll be cleaning the kitchen and tears are just seeping out of my eyes. My heart aches, my chest literally hurts. Sunday was one of those days, and when I was driving up to Katie’s house to stay with Oliver while the kids celebrated their anniversary, I found myself wondering how much longer I can bear this pain . . . and feeling like I surely can’t bear it for much longer. I very sadly have a couple of dear friends who are grappling with their kids’ absence from their lives. We talk about this a lot, because it’s a big comfort to share this pain with someone who understands. All my friends are compassionate and kind and loving when I talk about it, but these two friends get it because we’re all members of a club we never dreamed we’d join. A club no one would ever want to be in. (But how wonderful to have that darling little Oliver to spend time with — balm for an aching heart, to be sure.)

So I didn’t write about that when it was happening; I kept it close to myself and wrote about my happiness, which is also true. “Secret” #2 is that I’m drawing, and feeling a story pulling at me that I am nowhere near skilled enough to illustrate. I won’t be showing you any of it because it’s just for me.

And “secret” #3 is that I have a big and wonderful thing in the background (it’s about me, it’s not secret news of a daughter’s pregnancy or anything like that), and I won’t be sharing that until the time is right.

whose heart wouldn't be nurtured by Oliver?
whose heart wouldn’t be nurtured by Oliver?

Three little things to keep to myself, kind of, and this marks another shift in my life. I’ve never really understood privacy where my own self is concerned. I definitely understand others’ privacy, and find it easy to hold others’ secrets — or even just their ordinary stuff, because it’s theirs and not mine. I always wanted to say whatever was true for me, after a childhood of lies. It was almost a philosophical mission of mine, a militant mission, to get to be the one who says who I am and what I’m thinking and doing. Of course, I do write about my son and his absence and how much I miss him, so that’s not private in the same way as the other two things; I just ride those waves of sorrow when they come and don’t write about them every time. That’s not about hiding them and presenting a false story (“Look how happy I am!”), but rather a tender holding of something so personal, a desire to take care of myself as best I can, and it happens in the context of my greater happiness. So within my deeply happy day taking care of my sweet little grandson, and being available to my darling daughter so she had the ability to go out alone with her husband, within that I was also crying and nursing my slashed heart. (That picture of Oliver cracks me up; he’d just gotten up from a nap (nap hair!) and was watching that Disney movie Cars. The hair, the focus, the little hand on his hip….. )

As I told Marnie yesterday, shame is a big enough reason to keep my drawings private — I’m grinning, and wish I could put that word in a smaller sized font — but not too long ago I would’ve shown them and made great fun of myself: look at how badly I draw! I’m glad I don’t want to do that now.

And the big and wonderful thing in the background, oh I look forward to telling you about that one. I know you will be happy for me. I could tell, there’s nothing stopping me, no requirement that I keep it quiet, but I am relishing holding onto it and waiting until it’s ready to tell.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, and again, and again — for 56 more years, I hope — getting older is so magnificent. If you’re already magnificent at 30, that’s incredible and I’m so happy for you and can only close my eyes and try to imagine how amazing you’ll be in your 50s. Earlier this week my incredible friend Nancy and I were talking about aging, and I said, “There are two kinds of people — one kind who thinks there are two kinds of people……[joke]…..–one kind who becomes more and more certain the older they get, and another who becomes less and less certain.” I think that’s true, and I think becoming less certain about things allows new things to happen, new thoughts to emerge, and new ways of being to come forth. It’s not just about aching joints and failing memory; it’s about letting go of things that don’t fit any more. Maybe they never really did, and you just get old enough to finally notice.

Right on.

the great inside

Not surprising, since he was a drink-himself-to-death alcoholic, my poor old dad had a lot of stomach trouble. During one brief period it was hurting him so much I finally suggested that he see a doctor. He scowled and told me he’d never go, because they’d just cut him open, see that everything was black inside, and then sew him up and send him home to die.

Wow. Poor guy. He did mean it literally, of course, and I’m slightly confident that he meant it metaphorically too — he was black and dead inside, filled with rot. Hence his suicide at age 44. He looked like he was 70.

When your inside is like that, of course it shows through. The smell of all that blackness seeped out of his pores, literally, but he also wore it in his posture, on his face, in his expressions. He wasn’t at all good about hiding it, disguising it with clothing and fancy psychological tricks. (Though he was one of those 70s guys who got perms and carried a “man purse.” )

I’ve been thinking a lot about the hiding we do, the disguising. We walk around with a sense of who we are, inside and on the surface, and a good bit of effort is directed toward hiding some of those aspects. Well, of course! We want people to think well of us, to see the best of us, to see us the way we wish to be seen and that’s rarely perfectly aligned with the fullness of who we are. We’re aggregates — plenty of good and shiny bits, plenty of solid stuff holding it all together, and some measure of grit and weird and unpleasant stuff. So many people, including me for almost all my life but mercifully no more, have a deep well of self-loathing, impossibly sad self-esteem. For some that oozes out wearing its true color, but some slap a thick coat of defense on top of it. Sometimes it’s the ones who are shouting the loudest about how great they are, or the ones who are constantly finding fault with others. It’s always hard for me to remember that their super loud self-esteem might be a mask.

Lately I’ve been thinking about hiding and masks in terms of aging (obviously, given the previous post too!), and how I want to proceed in the next decades of my life. Many women my age are undergoing a wide range of treatments to lift and tighten this part or that, and coloring their hair, and they should definitely do what makes them feel good! More power to them, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. We all should help ourselves any way we need and want. Life is hard enough.

For me, though, it would feel like who I really am is just hiding underneath that mask. Some kind of Dorian Gray, perhaps. This isn’t about throwing up my hands and giving up and letting time and gravity have its way! I eat very well (except for the donut yesterday morning, ugh please never again, Lori, please), I do yoga almost every single day, I walk a lot, I do some strength training, I meditate, I moisturize my skin. But I’m not coloring my gray hair, and I’m not lifting my face and I’m not doing any of those kinds of treatments. My face is developing fans of wrinkles, the skin and muscles of my throat have been changing for a while, the pads of skin along my jawline are changing, and my hair is going gray. This is who I am out of the shower and with nothing on but moisturizer and damp hair:

straight out of the camera

I’m 56. This is how 56 looks on my face. It’s not bad at all! I almost feel political about it; I want the actual appearance of women to be in our culture. I wear mascara and lipstick, and enjoy dressing to look the way I want to look, and finding jewelry I like. I enjoy playing with my glasses, having a bunch of different colored frames. I’m growing my hair out again because when it’s long it’s very nice hair and I can do a lot with it (and it’s easier to travel with it).

My eyelids are starting to hang so heavily there’s no point in wearing eyeliner, because they droop all the way against the eyelash line. They may eventually droop so much they interfere with being able to see, but that is certainly at least a decade away.

For me, if I were to color away my gray hair (which I actually love), I’d know it was simply getting grayer and grayer underneath the color, and the day would come when I’d stop and it would be a dramatic shock. It had been doing its thing underneath the color all along, and I was busy hiding it from myself. If/when I color my hair it’s to play with a wild and fun color, not to hide away the grays. In fact, when I colored my hair magenta a couple of years ago, the main reason I hesitated was that I’d lose my grays.

For me, having the fans of soft wrinkles around my eyes, the changing skin on my face and jaw and throat, it all feels like it’s exactly where I am, and what should be happening, and it’s just so fine! I don’t look like I’m 20, or 30, or 40. Because I’m not.

Whatever my face and hair are doing, the age I look and seem has much more to do with the great inside — right? You and I have both seen people who are dancing as fast as they can, more and more and more and more plastic surgery, hair color that is so fakely not-gray it never appears in the real world, and they do not look young. When I think of the oldest people I know, not a one seems his or her age. . . and that has zero to do with the color of their hair or the tightness of their skin. They look and seem young because they are engaged with the world, they’re interested in the world and other people, they are curious, they read and think, they are [at least mostly!] very glad to be alive.

Inside me are several worlds. Inside me are deep pools of quiet. Inside me are moods and emotions. Inside me are hundreds of stories, good and happy and sorrowful and painful, and an eagerness to collect more stories. Inside me are lists of hopes and dreams and plans. Inside me is a yearning to connect with other people about things I care about. Inside me is a powerful longing to know and be known. Inside me is a restless, unquenched need to see more and more of the world. Inside me is a very alive spirit that hopes to see decades of tomorrows.

So my hair is getting gray? The skin on my face is changing? So? And?