The Change

I had a major insight last week. I’m in old lady puberty.

I imagine you don’t believe me. Just hear me out.

Once upon a time I was a child. Then puberty hit with acne, greasy hair and a sleep shift. Parts of my body got wider, others got smaller, but I didn’t get much taller. My little girl’s body was transformed into a functional woman. Maybe not mentally, but when it was over I was physically a grown-up. It took me awhile, but I was comfortable in my own skin.

This round is not so different. I’m ending that period (so to speak) of child-bearing womanhood and entering my advancing years. Again, my body is changing to fit the role. Besides the sagging even in places that never would have occurred to me, I have the classic tummy that every fiftyish woman I know complains about. Who knew fat could migrate? My genes are allowing my hair to gray very slowly and the wrinkles to show up mainly around my eyes. This time around, my skin and hair are dry, but sleep is again an issue.

If I could adjust to the changes of adolescence, I’m betting I can do it again. After all, I’m short. So that means I’ll be a little old lady. I’ll bet at some point you looked at a little old lady and thought she was adorable. Hopefully it was out of affection and not belittlement, but either way, I’m going to say cuteness is a plus.

Think of it as metamorphosis. Childhood is like the egg, making adulthood the caterpillar. Guess who gets to be the butterfly?

More evidence that this transformation is happening is that wherever I go, there is widespread chivalry. Men leap to open doors for me. And not just men my age. Young men too. So it’s not my sex appeal here. Apparently, I look like I need help.

I’m not really helpless. I plan to head into my “golden years” active and vibrant. There’s nothing that says old people can’t be in shape. I already eat well. I just need to up my activity. But then puberty didn’t make me into a completely different person the first time.

I’ve known elderly women who were cheerful do-gooders, organizers of the community. Others were bitter snipes or skittish mice, everybody’s grandma or the life of the party. Each of them was just a stronger version of their more youthful selves. My out-spoken self is becoming more assertive with the years. I doubt my little old lady persona will be quiet.

As I enter this last third of my life, I’m much more self-aware and much less self-conscious than I was during the first transition. It’s good to be at a point in my life where I am secure in love, friendship, and self-assurance. I like knowing what I enjoy and what I’m happy to leave behind. This round of puberty may slow me down, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I have enjoyed every phase of my life, each one bringing new adventures, joy and challenges. This most recent phase was a good one, but bring on the transformation. It’s time for another change.

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Reflection

A couple of weeks ago, I went swimsuit shopping. Aside from the horrible dressing room lighting, I wasn’t worried. I planned to get a similar one to my old suit, which looked like a tank top and shorts.

But somehow all the similar suits bared some parts and squeezed others, till all I saw were the faults in my body.

Around this time, my family sent each other photos from a recent family reunion. One picture showed me from the back, sitting on a bench looking over my shoulder. My eye was drawn to the gap between my shirt and shorts, my width on the bench, the odd way my shirt bunched under my arm. I sighed.

I have two lovely adult daughters. In photos, my visually artistic daughter insists on multiple takes, planning each beautiful picture’s composition, pose and background. On the other hand, my high-spirited extrovert wants photos that are authentic and spontaneous. Often her sense of humor comes through in the faces she makes and the poses she strikes.

What do I want photos to say about me?

I have an early memory of being a small child sitting on my grandmother’s lap. I played with the flap of wrinkled skin at the back of her upper arm. I traced the veins on her hands and wiggled her wedding ring, loose on her finger below her larger knuckle. I remember these “faults” with the memory of a child. There was no judgement. These were simply facets of my beloved grandmother.

What I want in photos is to smile like a woman satisfied with herself and life. I want to love my body like a future grandchild. I appreciate my brain that still holds memory, my legs that still propel me forward, my hands that hold the ones I love and record these thoughts. I looked back at the photo. What I missed the first time was my smile. I looked relaxed and happy to be with people I love.

Before I left the store, I took one more suit to the changing room. This one was a one-piece with a skirt. Putting it on, it looked almost like a short sundress, and, miracle of miracles, I still had a waist. I smiled at my reflection. Sold!

(slightly edited)