Confessions of a Vintage Bus

'Bathing' by Nurit Yardeni

Aging is a strange and fascinating process. We all deal with it in different ways but I am sure most find the changes a challenge at times, regardless of gender. Being a woman of a certain age, this topic gets brought up frequently amongst my friends; we all, to one degree or another, feel the pressure to live up to the deification of youth and perfection that dominates the landscape of popular culture at present.

I have all sorts of mixed feelings about this issue. Sometimes I feel defiantly that I will embrace my aging joyfully, celebrating the creeping grey, deepening lines and widening waistline; feeling grateful for the gathered experiences that have enriched my life; opening to a new phase with optimism about its potential gifts. There is no doubt in my mind that aging brings with it its own special blessings but in order to live a new day, we have to let go of yesterday. As we bear witness to the physical changes, it can feel as if we are letting go of a self and body that is more ‘us’ than the one we currently inhabit. Not only this, just as we start to get to grips with this new body, it changes all over again!

While the emotional and psychological benefits of aging might be easier to accept, the physical process can be a little trickier to manage. I have begun to notice that my hair, skin and nails are becoming so much drier as I age; I seem to spend countless moments oiling and moisturising myself. I am starting to feel like an old vintage bus! There are folks here on the Island that fix these beautiful old vehicles up and then spend hour upon hour maintaining them. All my body maintenance feels exactly like I too am trying to fight off becoming a rusting wreck! And yet, there is something distinctively pleasurable about these private little moments of self-care.

Today I am wrestling with whether I should embrace my greying hair or dye it. On some level, every time I colour it, I feel I am letting the side down; that there is something vaguely shameful about wanting to hide those greys; that I am buying in to the notion that youth is more valid than age. I go through the same process again and again, vowing to let the colour fade and accept myself as I truly am at this point in my life. I am at that stage now but the same thing always happens: this morning I woke up to discover that some evil pixie had scalped me in the night and in place of my hair had sewn coconut matting! Grey hairs have a life and buoyancy all their own because they are so much drier and wiry in texture; they stand up from the head as if deliberately trying to announce themselves. No amount of conditioning seems to subdue them; they are irrepressible. Grey hair can be very beautiful; I know many people of both sexes who look fantastic. However, I shamefacedly confess that my salt and pepper, neither one thing nor the other, in-between hair, tends to have me reaching for that bottle of colour.

The art of pampering self-care and adornment can help in adjusting to the changes. Many might think these to be rather shallow and surface practices to deal with something whose roots lie deeper in our emotional selves. However, I think this underestimates the power of the process; when we engage lovingly with our bodies, we effect change throughout our being.

Some might argue that it isn’t very loving to reject who you are by trying to change and alter yourself but humans have historically always tampered with their appearance, using pigments and dyes on skin or hair or with piercing and jewellery. There is something deeply joyful about this practice. Currently, some take this to the extremes of cosmetic surgery – not sure I would ever fancy that – but a bit of gentle tinkering can be fun.

I have several tattoos and have had various conversations with people about them, many saying that they like them but wonder how I will feel about them as an old lady, as if body adornment and age don’t mix. This makes me angry. Like so many things that seem to be currently reserved only for the young, why should the pleasure of adornment be lost to us as our bodies change?

I recently saw a wonderful photo exhibition by Nurit Yardeni called ‘Dream of Fair Women’. It is a series of fantastic portraits of women of all ages from a number of cultures. The portraits are massive and so their impact is powerfully felt. Check them out here http://www.nurityardeni.com . One I particularly liked was the above photo entitled ‘Bathing’. This private moment of a woman of age washing is wonderful; the line and curve of her back is beautiful; she is naked and adorned, her hair wrapped in that gorgeous scarf, her large silver earrings…

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4 Comments

  1. Tattooed Witch said,

    January 14, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Beautiful photo and thoughtful post. I agree – adornment is for everyone and a celebration of life not a negation. It is an embracing of creativity to treat yourself as art… even the bower bird creates something “artificial” as part of its natural mating process. As humans we are part of nature so whatever we do is therefore “natural” … both the good and the bad.

    I too am humming and ha-ing about whether to go grey gracefully or not … When I was a child I saw an old frail woman who always wore purple flares, green checkered 1960s coats, a big hat and she had dyed her hair orange. She was the most amazing creature and I always hoped to be old like her …

  2. luckyloom1 said,

    January 14, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Beautifully put Tattoed Witch! I totally agree! We can all become so boxed in by the expectations of our culture regarding how we should or shouldn’t look. I really admire folks like your old lady who challenge the stereotype and express themselves in their own unique way. It is what we do without thinking as children and it’s so sad that we are not encouraged to stay that way as adults.

    Going grey gracefully has been put on hold yet again! I confess that the colouring bottle got the better of me! :0)

    Thanks so much for your lovely comment!

  3. Dominique said,

    November 24, 2010 at 5:48 am

    makes me sad that we choose youth over wisdom that as we age we feel we are no longer useful and that we must close our selfs off to the world becasue no one will accept us any more in our decaying dieing state which is a part of life

  4. luckyloom1 said,

    November 24, 2010 at 11:22 am

    I agree Dominique. Although I think that there are many of retirement age who are challenging the stereotypes. I think as the folks that were young during the teenage revolution (post world war two) reach old age, they are beginning to redefine what it means to be older -which is encouraging. But I think we often lose focusing on the good stuff because we fear the not so good stuff that age brings -illness can be such a challenge. My dad is 88 and he recognises that his body, although incredible fit and able for his age -has changed and that death is closer but he seems so unphased by it all; happy and settled. If we gave people in their later years more of a public voice, we would be less afraid of reaching old age ourselves and learn to value its blessings.


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