I can wear those comfy Ecco shoes to the wedding and no one will ask me why. Oh, the sadness of it all
Deep inside, a majority of us in the seventh decade of our lives don’t feel emotionally or psychologically a day over 30. So it’s a rough awakening when we realize that the outside world generally doesn’t look beyond the wrapping.
That realization was slow in coming to me.
Take those times when you’re at a simchah, and you see women dancing in that little circle of three ladies on the periphery of the main circle of leibedig friends of the kallah. Well, my time has come.
Once upon a time, the girls let me squeeze in and join the fun. Now, as I near the inner circle with pleading eyes that say, “Give me a break, girls, let me join the circle and show you my fancy footwork, the result of hours of simchah dancing classes,” all I get in response is someone’s long ringlets whipping my face as the stomping crowd whirls past me.
But think positive! I can wear those comfy Ecco shoes to the wedding and no one will ask me why. Oh, the sadness of it all. My pairs of high heels are relegated to that remote high shelf in my closet waiting for better days. Maybe… techiyas hameisim?
I got an inkling of how I appear to the outside world when I surreptitiously snatched the sole seat left on a city bus, without even getting a dirty look from the straphanger swaying unsteadily over me. It dawned on me that even traveling on public transportation can be a humiliating experience.
I came to visit my out-of-town married children, and there’s a coterie of their grown childhood friends coming to pay their respects to me and my husband. I feel like mentioning to them that I’ve no intention of going anywhere; I’m certainly not Heaven-bound.
Another recent episode of harsh epiphany was when I took my daughter-in-law and three grandkids to the Jewish Museum. The ticket prices were posted behind the vendor. I perused the prices: kids are one price, adults another, and senior citizens… half price!
“Oh, heavens!” I say, panicked. “I didn’t bring any identification with me. How am I going to pull off proving I’m eligible for the senior discount?’
Before I have a real chance to despair…voila! Five tickets materialize through the ticket window, including one for a senior citizen! Okay, okay, you don’t have to rub it in, I’m thinking. Looks like they didn’t need much convincing.
I go for a carefree shopping spree with a slightly younger friend of mine, and the saleslady asks her if she can show her mother a great anti-ageing cream on offer, while looking straight at me.
My grandchildren want to immortalize us together with a selfie, but it takes six shots before I can camouflage my double chin enough not to worry about how I’ll look for posterity.
And then my husband and I decide to get away to a Catskills hotel for Shabbos this summer. I happen to love the “getting to know you” part when there are new faces among the guests to meet after candlelighting. Among a gaggle of women eager to find common ground, I pipe up, reminiscing about the summer camps I went to. When I say I went to Camp Naarah for years, the stylish lady in front of me shakes her head and says those ignoble words, “That was before my time!”
You know that sinking feeling you get in your stomach as you wait in line for the Apocalypse Roller Coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure? That’s nothing next to the blow I’ve just been delivered.
I work as a teacher, and not long ago, one of my students asked me during class, “Do you have a photo of yourself when you were young to show us?” I wanted to ask her, “Do you mean a snapshot of me as a toddler?”
But look at it this way. Would I trade one expression line on my face for all the money in the world, knowing that each wrinkle is evidence of a moment lived — the high moments and the hard moments? Each wrinkle tells of tears of joy as well as pain. They testify to the moments we beseeched Hashem for mercy or for a happy ending.
And what about those junctures in our past, when we were befuddled, puzzled, even as we knew full well that all that happens to us is for the good… gam zu le tovah? Those furrowed brows are there for a reason!
So you’re getting treated like a senior citizen, are you?
Bask in the attention (or inattention). You have so much to show for it!
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 652)