Bright Eyes

Female age 58 – (click on image to enlarge)

I’m too heavy and I wish my skin were clearer…I’m turned off by anti-aging ads. Anti aging advertisements show women who are in their 20s or 30s and we’re supposed to think, “Oh, those who are in their 50s and 60s will look just like that,” not. So I’m offended by that because whether it’s print or media on television, they show these beautiful, slim flawless faces that have been airbrushed and so on, and it’s not reality. You can see improvement in your skin in certain ways, but you’re never gonna look like a 25 or 30 year old when you’re 55 years old. Just isn’t going to happen.  I occasionally succumb though, to anti-aging regimens. Everyone should read Nora Ephron’s book, I Feel Bad About My Neck. I feel bad about my neck.

My mother is 81 and she is great looking. I mean she’s got this wonderful salt and pepper hair. Whenever she goes to get her facials done, which she does about every quarter, they say, “Oh your skin’s so nice.” She grew up in an orphanage and she had dreadful acne. So she has scaring on her face like I do. I came by it very naturally, but she has the most beautiful, moist skin. I am who I am and that’s who I am. She hasn’t dyed her hair, contrary to me, but then, she wasn’t 58 with an 18 year old son, OK. She was off doing marvelous things when she was 58. She was married and skiing and traveling and I’m not. Well I’m married, but I have an 18 year old. And you know what I’m finding? My hands are getting spots on them. Even when I was pregnant I didn’t get any spots on my face and all of a sudden, I have to say worse than my face is that I’m looking for – does anyone remember that product that you put it on your hands and it would take the dark spots off – and I thought, “Oh I’ll never be there.” And now I’m looking for this stuff. If I could just get them off my hands! I hate them. I remember looking at my mother’s hands and thinking, “Yeah, I know
I’m going to have them one day, oh God.”

When I was 35 I got my first tatoo and then I got a second one a year ago. One is my monogram, it’s my monogram, my initials, but before I was married and my other one is my son’s monogram with a red heart. They’re actually on my backside. When my son was a
little person, he walked in as I was getting out of the shower and he asked, “What’s that?” and I said, “It’s a bruise.”

Now that he’s 18, he said, “I know you been inked mom, I know you been inked.” And when he saw the one I did with his initials in
a heart he was mortified. So he says to me, “OK mom, you can’t object if I get inked,” and I said, “You’re over 18, you can do whatever you want to.” He thinks he wants to do that next, but I have to tell you, when I got my second one I was in Hawaii. It was so wonderful because I was with three other women, it was this 50th birthday party and we’re going by this place and I’m thinking, I
wanted it for years. So we went in and she drew it out and I looked at it and thought about it and my friends were like, “Yeah, go ahead.” I said, “Yeah, we’re gonna think about it.” I went back and did it just before I got on the plane because I could be in the sun, I couldn’t be in the water and I couldn’t be in a pool so I got it just before we got on the plane. So they’re all looking, I said, “You guys gonna do it?” No. See I have to buy someone a tattoo because the thing that happened when I got my first one was I was working at Nordstrom and this fellow said, “You know, there’s a tradition,”  I’d always wanted to get one and he said, “Go, I’ll buy you a tattoo.” It’s only about this big. It’s not across my back or anything. I don’t have mom on my arm or anything. So the deal was he said now he’s paying it forward. But I can’t find anybody I can pay it forward to. I know a wonderful place in San Mateo. Actually my neighbor who was 73 went and got one. Just a little tiny thing on her shoulder. Yeah, and then her friend who’s 83 went and got one with her. It was amazing.

In my 20s I was a free spirit. When I came into my 50s I became another free spirit. In my 20s I was single, living alone. I was in the
corporate world. So things have changed as I’ve become a wife, a mother and um, sort of the major bread winner. Now we are an empty nest. So my  40s and 50s have been vastly different from my 20s and 30s because I was single until I was 39 and then everything changed. I became a wife, a mother, a full time mother and then I went back to work. It’s changed a lot.

What I really wanted my whole life was to become a mom so I did. I think having worked in the corporate world, managed and all those kinds of things, they pale in comparison to motherhood. I think that my greatest joy of my life has been being a mom. He is, uh, I’m sure if he were here he would probably say to me, “Oh God mom, stop being so dramatic,” and I’ve tried very hard, but he is. The greatest joy of my life is being mom to my son. Not to negate my husband, I mean he’s fine. Occasionally, I’d like to kick him to the curb, but it’s ok, I’ve wanted to kick my son to the curb. Say, there’s the garbage son, stay with it. Go to the curb.

My husband’s been out of work for more than ten years and um, that’s why I went back to work. That’s been hard for me. I’ve had to learn how to let go of the resentment that I feel for him not working. And I mean he’s 63 years old and it doesn’t look real…I mean the light at the end of the tunnel is getting real narrow. Gratefully, before we married he was able to save and invest so we’ve been able to stay in our home. We certainly don’t have many luxuries, but we haven’t had to move out of our house which I’m eternally
grateful for. So I had to learn how to get rid of that sense of resentment that I’d come home every day and he’d say, well this may happen and this may happen and then after years, I just stopped asking. I don’t want to hear about it because when it happens let me know. I was able to be home for ten years with my son. So I felt I was very lucky. It was a privilege for me to be able to do that. I have to flip the coin over and think, “This is what I was able to do for 10 years and it’s what I always wanted.” I’d worked from the time I was 15 until the time I was 39. I could have gone many places, in many different arenas, but I waited so long to have child that to have that ten years at home with him was such a blessing.

So for me now, I’ve blazed any trail I’m going to blaze and I love my job. I love the people I work with. This community is incredible, absolutely incredible. But it’s been a challenge for me, to not look at my husband and feel that anger and resentment that he is either unable or unwilling to extend himself out and find something, even if it were to go to work for a big box hardware store. Just to do something outside the house because he is so sequestered in his office on a regular basis. He does many things in our community. He works with the church community and an outreach program. He does things in other ways, but it’s just put a cap on some of the things we’ve been able to do as a family.

It’s interesting, when I first had my child, I remember I had waited so long. I had this perfect pregnancy and I was elated to have this child. I remember him at six weeks old or thereabouts and I’m nursing him at two in the morning and I’m thinking, “God, this motherhood thing is really overrated.” I moved from the city, I was on the peninsula, I didn’t know anybody, I had a child attached to my tit all the time. So I’m thinking,  “Ok, this has gotta get better.” And sure enough it did.

But, it’s interesting how people, when my husband and I would go places, and I would say, “Well, I’m a stay at home mom.” The unimpressed response would be, “Oh,” and then dead silence. So I changed it. I said, “I’m a domestic goddess.” Then everywhere I went…I remember going to the dentist and they said, “What’s your occupation?” “ I am a domestic goddess.” The dentist just
looked at me and said, “Well done.” So I’m going to be a domestic goddess for as long as I can be one. Other women talk about how they’ve been made to feel like they should be home with their children instead of out working. But I was made to feel like, “Well, why aren’t you out working? Why are you wasting your time raising your child?” For women it’s always about justifying your decisions. It’s sort of that push pull where you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Either way.

I think I would have to say if I could change anything it would be that my son was closer to home because I’m feeling real painful about that. It’s abundantly clear when you come into my office and my screensaver is this big and there’s pictures on it. Not only is he away at school but he will – because of the path he has chosen to take –  he will never again live at home, never. I mean it will be the summer that he comes home after he graduates college. He’ll come home while he looks for a job, but it will never be the same. That’s very hard for me because he and I are quite close and uh, that’s painful for me. To think about him being that far away…I didn’t get to see him at Thanksgiving…he’s an only child and I know he’s a brat on occasion. But his path…I think because he’s in the military, um, I think it’s hard for me not to think about him being deployed to a war zone. I try so hard to push it out of my brain because he has four more years or three and a half years of college left and then he’s…he’ll make a career, but he has a five year commitment afterwards. Um, I think that it’s not just his distance now, but the distance where he will be when he gets deployed and the angst that I will feel about his safety on a daily basis. That’s very hard for me.

My biggest fear of course is that because we are so entrenched in the Middle East and we’ve been there for eight years…I remember my mother, ironically enough with my brother –  I have a twin brother who had to at 18 register with selective service. We prayed for a high number, but I remember my mother saying in the late 50s, “Well by the time Eric is 18 and he has to register with the selective service, we won’t be in Vietnam anymore.” So as I look at four years down the road, I wonder, will we still be in the Middle East? Then I’m reminded of my mother saying, “Well we won’t be in Vietnam in the 70’s.”

But time moves on…I see aging as inevitable. Where else are you going to go?

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