[Originally published April 2005]
I have never been concerned with my age, or aging in particular. Like my approach to race and sex, my approach to a person’s age—including my own—has always been: “You are what you are and you can’t (easily) change that”. Even so, as the silvery strands populate my crown more thickly, I can’t deny that I have been thinking more about the effects of the years—and miles—upon myself.
The impetus for this introspection has been the recurring topic of growing older in an email conversation with a very good friend. Being of like minds, it’s been mostly a positive exchange. I think we’ve helped each other with what might otherwise have been some rough spots, since it’s hard to completely ignore a culture that seems perpetually enamored with youth and firm, lithe bodies. When she mentioned that an acquaintance of hers recently celebrated her 50th birthday by throwing a “crone party”, the idea resonated with me very strongly. Why not celebrate an important, and potentially rich time of life—and the achievement of getting there?
I remember my grandmother calling the lines at the corners of her eyes “crow’s feet” when I was a youngster. The term horrified me, then and now. To me, the lines weren’t ugly; they were the sign of a face that had smiled and laughed much, enjoying the sun and wind and weather. I see the beginnings of them at the corners of my eyes, and instead of feeling a sinking dread, I welcome them. They’re reminders that I, too, have enjoyed much in my life thus far.
Similarly, my once-flat lower abdomen now curves a bit, a testament to my body's production of two children. As I enjoyed being pregnant very much, and enjoy my children, that new curve is a mostly pleasant reminder of two very special times in my life. To use a Heinleinian phrase, my baby-chewed breasts are softer now, but I wouldn’t trade their previous firmness for the many hours with a baby in my arms, gazing into his or her eyes as my body nourished theirs.
These days I’m moderately fit, instead of the very fit person I used to be—also something I refuse to feel guilty about (most of the time—again, those messages are hard to totally ignore). My life is so full that devoting the time it would take to maintain the body I once had is not a choice I want to make. I want to play with my children, who can’t hike, rock climb, or ski (yet); I want to savor the time spent reading a good book; I want to exercise because it feels good to feel my body stretching and moving, not because I have to maintain buns of steel.
I also refuse to count calories, or fat grams, or any such silliness, even though my body seems more likely to want to store excess than it has before. I’d much rather enjoy a decadent chocolate cake, a glass of red wine, and good conversation with beloved friends, and be a little wider in the behind for it, than be obsessed about thunder thighs and the Atkins diet, and be skinny and alone night after night.
I hope that I’ll be around to savor the intense spark of life in a grandchild. My mother railed against this sign of aging more than any other, and I’ve never understood that. What could be a more precious affirmation of life than creating new life—passing a bit of your spark into the future?
When I see a woman with stunning silver hair, I find myself hoping that when I’m completely grey, my hair is as gorgeous as hers. If not, I may just color it—something I’ve never even contemplated before—as a celebration of cronedom and the unique beauties it offers. I certainly will not cut it almost completely off, then curl, comb, tease, puff, or permanent the remnants, until I startle at my own appearance in the mirror every morning. My mane will remain long and flowing for as long as I’m able to care for it, or have someone willing to do so—and when someone isn’t, then it’s time for me to go.
My underwear—and nightwear, when I choose to wear it—will continue to come from Victoria’s Secret or similar place, even though I never have and never will look like their models. Must one be under 35 to appreciate the glissando of silk on one’s skin? Or even better, the caress of satin under an appreciative lover’s hand? Both feel better now for having slept in some of the interesting situations I’ve found myself in over the years.
In short, as I progress into another phase of life, I fully intend to drink fully of its offerings, learn as much as I can from both its pleasures and its pains, and do things the way I want, rather than the way “little old ladies” are expected to. That’s the way I have always been. Why should I stop when I become a crone?
It’s been said before that I’m a mutant. Maybe I am. But I see no value in denying what one is—who one is—for the sake of fitting in with a culture that is in many ways profoundly unhealthy. To me, becoming a crone is an important milestone, one well worth celebrating.
I think I’ll begin planning my crone party.