It is the strangest thing to be 52. Having never been this age, I'm not sure how 52-year-old women are supposed to look, dress or act.
I know mini-skirts are out (I can still hear Mother's voice: “Just because you CAN wear it doesn't mean you SHOULD wear it.”) In fact, I try to avoid any garment that shows my knees, which look like large, dehydrated clams. But since we live in a semi-tropical climate and I'm not trying to die of heatstroke, there are times when only shorts will suffice.
But, at this age, what kind of shorts?
I couldn't get away with booty shorts even when I had a booty (what little I possessed vanished sometime around 40, if memory serves). Bermuda shorts are definitely more dignified, but they end just above the aforementioned unfortunate kneecaps—not flattering.
I also have an odd, unexplained divot on the front of my right thigh that requires covering. (It looks like I ran into a piece of rebar at 20 mph. Since that never happened, and the dent only appeared after I married Widdle, who complains bitterly about my snoring… I think we all see where I'm going with this.)
Basically I need my shorts custom made, which isn't an option. Neither are capris, because when you're as short as I am, capris make you look like you're standing in a madras-patterned hole in the ground.
I prefer skirts to shorts and own a few lovely Old Navy tropical-print skirts, but… am I too old for Old Navy? Do I look like I'm trying to hang onto a youth that's far behind me?
I got the memo about too-bright lipstick and heavy black eyeliner, but nobody told me my eyebrows would disappear. They didn't fall out, they faded. They are now an odd shade of beige, and eyebrows aren't supposed to be lighter than your hair. So I use eyebrow pencil, which is terribly old-fashioned. And then there's God's special joke on my face, crows' feet and acne within inches of each other.
I already know my hair's too long. But if it's cut I'll have to actually style it every day, and that's never going to happen, not when I can twist it up or yank it back in a ponytail. I haven't seen my true hair color in 30 years, but I can tell the grays are winning. (They are coarse, wiry and coil impishly in the air like bedsprings.) I've thought about dyeing my whole head silver, but with beige eyebrows? Really?
As far as acting my age… I try to be kinder than I was, which seems to be working well. But with no children or grandchildren to remind me of my age, I veer wildly between the latest pop culture and my deep-seated, Episcopalian sense of propriety.
This manifests in things like my handwritten thank-you notes on personalized stationery: “Yo! Your kind gift of the latest Pink CD was so thoughtful and is truly appreciated. The next time you're in the hood, please holla!!! Affectionately, Mrs. Widdle.”
I understand more than I did at 30, but don't we all? I love Jesus and ice-cold Michelob Ultra. I used to be afraid of dying; now I'm afraid of outliving my mind. Last week I asked Widdle, “Will you still love me when I'm putting down food for a cat that's been dead 10 years?”
He replied, “No cat's ever coming in this house.”
I'm not quite sure he gets it.
Julie R. Smith, the poster child for “not aging gracefully,” can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.