Dreaming of La Sal

A serial novel by Michelle Curry Wright

Backstory 4

How and when I started getting older #hahahaha

One of the beauties of getting older is that you can actually begin a sentence with “one of the beauties of getting older ….” And then you can finish the sentence in a myriad of ways depending on what’s going on in your life, how grateful you are, how smart you’re being, how many good older role models you’ve had, and what your relationship to younger people is. Or you can not have it in you that day to utter the sentence at all.

Getting older is not for the faint of heart.  It takes endurance, wits, courage, a sense of humor; it take rules and breaking the rules, a sense of inquiry and a respect for wisdom. You have to be able to accept with grace, as well as forge new neural pathways; to assume the past as well as embrace the present, to be careful not to be “ageist” on yourself. All of these things are, of course, how we should live our lives no matter how old we are.

Why does it matter so much as you really get older? Because your life now depends on it.

You can either kick and scream and resist and pretend you’re younger than you are — or you can help redefine aging for our grossly misrepresented posse, our tribe of elders. Represent. Show up. You might be sheepish about the effects of gravity on the human body, but you can make that effort to fight gravity — at least with the corners of your mouth.

A couple of years ago, when I was working in a luxury clothing shop in Telluride, I made it my business (and pleasure, actually) to study the older women coming in. They had disposable income, they had time, they were my age – but they were retired or not working in the traditional sense. I studied them alongside their slightly younger counterparts and then alongside the 17-25 year olds the entire fashion industry is sadly leveraged on. I just … studied them. Sometimes, I’d have a lengthy conversation when I sensed an opening, usually about difficulties, what they’d been through, what they were going through now. It wasn’t hard to be sympathetic, it was the easiest thing in the world.

I also studied how there were not that many clothes that really fit them, were really made for them, clothes that would make them feel really good or look really good. And it made me wonder over and over again why some brilliant older woman had not revolutionized the industry and redirected the focus onto aging women, to empower them and make them look their best. To take their money and to leave them actually riding high. A win-win. Not as good on billboards — but a lot more noble–

During this time, actually, my daughter gave me a gift certificate to an online personal style service — which, essentially — after having you answer a few questions —  sends you a box of clothes that are going to take a weight off your shoulders and transform you all at the same time. “Finally,” you start thinking, “Someone’ll figure it out for me. Style me, fit me, know me.” Probably in that order.

Here’s what I have always known about myself and what I tried to say in the online questionnaire.  I’ve always loved faded jeans, boots, belts and a variety of white tee shirts and ruffled blouses. I like plain lines and nice fabrics. I might be willing to dip into patterns but not without convincing. My eyes are greenish. I’m shortish. My hair is no longer died brownish. I stopped dressing up when I stopped working in the art gallery business and kind of missed it.

I think I had real hope! Real hope that they would get it all and scribble this down as their tag line: Give this woman a poet’s shirt from J. Peterman and a pair of destroyed jeans and don’t tell her she’ll too old for them! She can probably get away with it, especially if she stands up straight, smiles a lot and pretends she knows exactly what she’d doing. Give her a nice, modernly cut sweater that’s a bit baggy and don’t go overboard, or even get on board with any bright colors. She’s a fall. Greens look good on her. 

They give you 25% off if you take all five pieces. When I got the box, I quickly ripped it open to see who I was, what was inside. And of course, what I saw confused me. A light, short, trench-y jacket that might have looked good in New York or Toronto or Paris, maybe. Some apricot zig-zag-patterned, bat-winged shirt. A pair of black jeans. A turquoise top and something else. Long story short, they made their money. I kept it all, never wore any of it (thinking I might), and then finally gave it away (most likely after writing to them I did not feel understood). Hilarious! Really, a middle-aged woman? You thought it might work out?

This is the truth about women my age — people my age, but really mostly women: We deserve the most adornment of all. We deserve to be acknowledged, smiled at, listened to, deferred to, and included. Most of us have been through a lot — and have a lot to offer. With us, a smile and a bit of appreciation goes a really really long way.

So, you, too, can help reinvent the last third of the human life, bring it back to its place of honor and beauty and strength and tenderness. Because one thing is certain: you, yourself, will be here one day!