Ages of a Woman

At age fifty, I decided it was time to stop buying the same drugstore perfume I’d first received from a high school boyfriend whose brother worked for the company. I must have mentioned this to my daughter who took it upon herself to find me a more grown-up scent. A New York performing artist then going through her counter-culture stage in life, she went to a big department store and spent a considerable time sniffing first one perfume and then another until making her decision. My mental picture of this young woman in her torn jeans, paint-spattered shirt and combat boots, rubbing elbows with the fashionably dressed and perfectly coifed, makes me smile. I continued to use the perfume she selected for many years.

At age sixty, I decided it was time to stop buying my makeup in the drug store, so I underwent a “makeover” from the staff of a famous makeup artist. I bought everything they recommended that day and for many years replaced items as they were depleted. Also in my sixties, an opportunity to travel to some remote parts of Africa convinced me it was time to give up the electric hair rollers and the hairstyle I’d worn since college. “A person should change her hairstyle at least every fifty years,” I said.

It was also around that time that I discovered three gray hairs and my hairdresser suggested I camouflage them with highlights. Very subtle highlights framing my face. Somehow, as the years progressed, the highlights became less subtle and I became more blond. Publications were writing about “the graying of America.” My friends and I joked that in our case, it was more like “the blonding of America.” A man told me about serving as an escort for a woman attending her fiftieth high school reunion. “Funny,” she said as she surveyed the room. “I don’t remember there being so many blonds in my class.”

At age seventy, I despaired of ever seeing Italy before I died. So, in spite of suffering with sore feet, I persuaded my husband and a cousin to go for two weeks. We hit eight cities and untold museums and sights. My feet hurt every step of the way. And a great many of my photos show my poor cousin up ahead waiting for her hobbling relation to catch up. I vowed that my seventies would be the time to finally get my feet fixed.

It’s also the time when I began to wonder how much gray there was under all that blond. I look at women with gorgeous heads of gray or even snow white hair and I think, That’s truly beautiful! “The way to do it is to first cut your hair very very short,” a woman recommended. It may also be, I tell myself, a time to hide indoors. Perhaps while my feet heal. But in truth the gray is showing up haphazardly. Salt and pepper, they call it. I’m thinking of it as Nature’s highlights.

So here I am with graying hair and sore feet. I hardly ever remember to wear perfume and at this rate, I have enough to last the rest of my life. Increasingly, I skip making up my face and find myself replenishing my supplies with products from the drug store.

So much for age-related pronouncements. On toward the eighties.

2 comments on “Ages of a Woman

  1. Lewis Dana says:

    Wunnerful piece.

    I heard Stephen Kinzer talk about his new book on the brothers Dulles the other day.

    As the Marcos’s final moments in office wound down, he recalled finding the back door of the Manila palace open as a riot went on out front. He and a colleague crept in, past the machine gun mounted under the grand piano, and made their way to the private apartments. In Imelda’s bedroom he said they found oversize carafes of perfume.

    Nothing wrong with stockpiling.

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