There is nothing like widowhood to make you feel your age.
But I am determined to “defy it,” as that make-up ad with Melanie Griffith from a few decades ago – “don’t lie about your age, DEFY IT!”
I noticed that ad a few DECADES ago. So much for lying about my age!
But the “defying” thing suddenly became important to me when Mike got sick.
I wanted him to see me at my best, or at least the best I could be, before he went. So I started the “defying” thing. And it amused him, and we laughed about it before he died, and I like to think that he did see in me again the younger woman he had pursued years before, when all he had to do was hug me and I would glow – “I’m all shiny!” I would say – and though he didn’t have the strength to hug me anymore, I wanted him to see he could still make me shine.
After he died, after all the widow duties were done, after the stone was finally laid and the cold empty absence of him became so present all the time, I panicked, and then I got mad, and then I got determined.
I don’t have very many good woman years left, I thought, and dammit I refuse to believe that they are all already gone. Mike wouldn’t want me to mope around alone, I’m sure. (Although when one of the last two of our wedding-present stemware broke, flew out of the cupboard as if someone had grabbed it and flung it down, he did observe, “that means there’s only one left now,” as if he thought that was right – there will be only you to use those glasses now. But I still don’t think he’d want me to be alone. He fell in love with me, he said, partly because he could see how badly I needed to be loved, and how easily my heart could sing, or cry.)
So I am going to make the most what I have left. Life is short. Love matters.
And so does lipstick.
Allow me to explain.
The Middle Aged Woman Rules began before Mike died, but intensified after. I took a good look in the mirror, began the heavy use of skin products, and established these Rules, which are as follows, in reverse order of importance (and I reserve the right to add to this list, ad infinitum if necessary!:
- dress like you are expecting someone and waft perfume lightly
- manage hair wherever it occurs
- smile, and
- NEVER BE SEEN WITHOUT LIPSTICK
Because the first thing I noticed when I looked in that mirror was how washed out and ghastly I look without lipstick.
So I wear lipstick even when the only person who is going to see me is me. (See, “dress like you’re expecting someone, etc., above.)
Now, on the “dress like you’re expecting someone” rule?
Did I buy nice middle-aged lady clothes, with high shawl collars to cover my neck? And below-the-knee middle-aged librarian looking wool skirts?
The first thing I did (ridiculous woman, remember?) was buy a black peignoir set. Yep, sexy nightie. As if I was expecting someone. Ha!
Then I bought tight jeans, v-neck t-shirts and sweaters and five or six really cute 1950’s style dresses with tight bodices and flared skirts that you wear a crinoline under.
And related infrastructure of naughty underwear.
And I started going out, on a sort of “memory tour” of things Mike and I would have done together if he was still here.
And the first time I wore one of those crinoline dresses out? Several burly, very short-haired women remarked on how attractive it was, that I wore it well.
Oh well. Sorry, ladies, I play for the other team, but I appreciate the compliment, I really do!
And when I took adult child downtown for our annual holiday excursion, I didn’t notice until I headed to the ladies’ that the lipstick I required myself to wear had formed two little “Chuckie” lines (you know, Chuckie? That creepy horror movie doll?) on either side of my mouth, probably as a result of residue on a glass from a too-hasty pre-game snootful of something because I had splurged on a limo and wouldn’t be driving. Uncharacteristically I didn’t check my look in the car, so I was “Chuckie” all the way to the table in the restaurant.
But the kicker was when I went out to an event, smiling!! really trying to smile! and noticed a very tall, nice looking man staring at me, near the bar. I mean staring.
So I’m thinking, this pencil skirt and silk blouse are really working for me! OK!
And he kept staring so I just said, hello, I’m Anne. And he told me his name but I forgot. If adult child was with me I would never forget names, or birthdays, for that matter.
So I went and sat next to someone I knew and tall guy comes and sits on the other side of the someone I knew, and I hear him saying to his wife, “Doesn’t she remind you of Jill?”
And I’m curious so I say, “is Jill a good thing to be reminded of?”
And he turns to me and says, “Oh, yes! Jill was…Jill was brilliant! She was my best friend from high school’s mother! She passed away….”
So after all the skin products, hair management and the accurate application of lipstick, I end up being compared to a middle-aged man’s best friend’s dead mother.
So much for defying my age.
But I still do not intend to act it. My age, I mean. Not until I have squeezed everything out of what’s left of this life that I can and have done my best to put as much love as I can back into it.
Ha! Just call me Mame. Or Vera Simpson.
Or defiantly ridiculous woman.