Extra friendly.

Dave and I like to tromp mountains. Lately the hikers we meet have seemed extra friendly. We happened on a young couple recently who were Pacific Crest through-hikers, and they couldn’t stop smiling at us. Later I realized why. Oh look, Jason! Old people! They’re adorable, and so ambulatory!

For years I’ve come upon those wonderful old ladies on the trail myself, with their sensible haircuts, sun hats, wrinkled brown knees, and walking-sticks, and I’ve thought: I hope I can be that cool some day. I hope I don’t spend too much time mourning my waning youth.

Thank you all very much for pointing it out, and right you are: my youth is all waned out already. So how pathetic is it to cling to advanced middle age? It’s not like I haven’t always known that I didn’t have it in me to forestall any of this. I haven’t even worn makeup since I was sixteen. I’d never be able to justify cosmetic surgery, with the world in the shape it’s in and so many in need. Beer, sure. Surgery, no.

Earlier Murr, with Linda

I suspected that the transition from reasonably presentable middle-age to saggy old batdom would be a painful replay of the anxiety of adolescence, when I allotted ungodly amounts of time to my hair and strove to come up with a passable wardrobe on a Lerner’s budget. As it turns out, time does not march in rhythm: it lurches and staggers. One day your face is baby-butt smooth, and the next morning you have sprouted an inch-long bristle borrowed from the snout of a boar. I was just forty when I first noticed my neck wobble. It was a Tuesday. I sturdied it up, jutting my chin toward the mirror, until the vision was forgotten, only to find my cat entertaining herself by sitting in my lap and batting my neck back and forth that very night. Most people get a little more time for their denial. Things really started to slide after that. I made my accommodations as I had to, but I didn’t feel gracious about it. Something, I felt, needed to be done, but old hippie girls don’t have a lot of tools in their kits. When our outside age doesn’t match our inside age, there’s nothing we can do. We’re not even allowed to mourn. We’ve got the baggy cotton dress and a well-rehearsed look of faux serenity, and that’s about it.

Then, quite recently, I turned my attention to other things for a couple weeks–weeding, writing, writhmetic–and then I glanced in the mirror as I was stepping into the shower and FWOMP: there it was. Certifiable, unmistakable, readily identifiable old-lady’s body, right there. Textbook case. Little draperies hanging off the armpits, muscle tone out the window, dimples in a doughy shoulder, and pleats of flesh dangling like flounders under the shoulder-blades. Meanwhile, around front, the balloons on the parade stand were now hanging off the platform like bunting. It was riveting. It was such a sudden and complete transition that I couldn’t even take it personally. I’d seen it before, on Senior Day in the shower at the Y, on old women who had already traveled beyond the trivial concerns of vanity. And there it was in my very own bathroom mirror. I was actually able to regard it with something like affection, mentally accessorizing with a sun hat and walking-stick.

Well, that’s over with, I thought, and was left with only a few questions: how much value should be given to physical beauty in our modern culture? How important is it to face one’s own mortality? And, where does the Michelin Man buy his pants?

When all else fails, keep your arms in the air.