Do you remember what Snow White’s wicked stepmother considered most important? Right – that she be known as “the most beautiful of all.” And how was that kind of ‘beauty’ defined? Right again – looks. So how did the mirror answer the Queen’s question: “Magic Mirror on the wall / Who’s the Fairest of them all?
You, my Queen. You.
Queenie was insecure and needed validation. How little times have changed.
I thought the hard set of the Queen’s face and the sharp angles in the original animated version bespoke her evil nature. The ugliness underneath couldn’t be contained. No matter how often she asked, she could never achieve the beauty Snow White possessed without even trying.
Despite how we feel about it, we are all destined to age. When you’re young, “older” signals maturity, responsibility, privileges, the ability to drive, vote – the list goes on. We welcome those aspects of getting older – at least until we get that unsolicited mail that says we’re now eligible to join AARP. What? At 50? When did 50 become equated with “old Age,” turning us into “Senior Citizens”?
When I hit 50 and found an invitation to join AARP in my mailbox, I unceremoniously tossed it into the wastebasket. I wasn’t “old” – as in the traditional image of a senior citizen that came to mind, the one from my childhood that looked like my own beloved grandmother: shorter than she once was, with wrinkly skin, short graying hair, minus a well-defined lap, never without an apron and her arms up to her elbows in flour and dough, and always singing me lullabies and reading me stories. No, I was not about to “go there.” Not at 50. I was a grandmother, too, but went ice-skating and ballroom dancing with my granddaughter. I read and sang to her, and we did lots of mother-daughter kinds of things, too. There was no line between between Kearsti and me that said, Hey you’re a grandma; you can’t do these things anymore. No line that said “you’re old now, give it a rest.”
But the invites kept coming, and around 60 my husband, Bill, reconsidered that membership offer on my behalf, without my knowledge. Discovery that I had joined and was now a card-carrying member came with the arrival of my official AARP card in the mail. Was Bill trying to push me over that demarcation line because he wanted company on its other side?
Membership in AARP does have some advantages – saving money on all kinds of things from meals to hotels. And we do like to travel. The more we can save, the more we can go. But still – a card-carrying member of an organization of seniors – at 50? I recently refused an invitation for a potluck picnic at the lake because it was for “The Over 55s.” Frankly, I do not see the need for people to label themselves in this way. I might be there, chronologically, but I don’t feel any differently than when I was, say 40. And if you must know, yes, I am clinging to that. And I realize that AARP has no small measure of clout in the political arena either, though I don’t exercise my rights as a member. I’m still a busy person – still busy, like I was at 40.
I guess I still pretty much ignore the whole thing. Denial – pure and simple. Ok?
No one that I know really wants to “go gentle into that good night” and, in fact, Dylan Thomas tells us not to. It sounds good on paper, and it might be psychologically better for us to do so, but the fact is that many of us find ourselves kicking and screaming, fighting the inevitable changes that come with that long runway to the end of our days. And many of us fight them every single step of the way.
I never thought much about the changes that come with aging and even now, on the low end of my sixties, that hasn’t changed. But it doesn’t mean I’m blind to a few subtle changes when I look at my own reflection in the mirror – nor that I don’t wish I actually were 40 again.
But one thing is certain: if you’re constantly fighting the changes that come as you get older, acceptance of this stage of the lifecycle will elude you. And so will some of its benefits – hard to believe, but it does have benefits. Acceptance heralds peace of mind that allows you to appreciate not just what life offers at every age, but who you are, and what you have to offer others by virtue of the experience you’ve accumulated over the course of those years.
Of course we “rage against the dying of the light” – who wouldn’t want a few more minutes, more days, more years? Minutes, days, and years, that is, spent with beautiful faces and bodies to match. Minutes, days, and years that would still allow us to do what they did before – and still feel good afterward. It would be nice to have “the face that launched a thousand ships,” even after all this time, but to invoke an old cliché, time marches on.
Yeah, well, it takes prisoners, too, dragging new wrinkles, increased fatigue, and more aches and pains along with it with each new year that stampedes past us.
Acceptance is key – the fact that you are aging, and accommodating the changes in your body, finding a way to accept and work with “that which [we] can not change,” your life and the lives of those around you will be all the richer for it.
And when you ask that question the wicked Queen asked, in her search for reassurance –
Mirror, mirror on the wall
Who’s the fairest of them all?
You may find, in the end, that the fairest of all might just be – you.